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10 Interesting Things the World Learned This Week

Cool discoveries about music, Leonardo da Vinci and America's wolf population.

Here is a list of ten amazing things the world learned this week:

1. Alive with the Sound of Music

Sometimes the synchronicity with which stories emerge is practically musical. 

Even as t he AFP reported  that the number of dementia cases could more than triple by the year 2050,  a Time magazine story by Aylin Zafar featured an astonishing video  from the new documentary  Alive Inside, showing a man named Henry, a ten-year nursing home resident who seems to "wake up" when he hears his favorite music on a tiny iPod shuffle. If watching Henry go from near-zombification to singing a sweet rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, your ducts are clogged (the video is a must-see).

Famous neurologist and author  Oliver Sacks,  who is part of the documentary says “Music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can,” something to remember even if we’re just gloomy. Seriously,  click this  and see if you don’t feel just a little happier. 

Alive Inside  documents that when patients with “memory loss and Alzheimer’s are given music, they have a strong emotional connection to — often music they grew up with.”  Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, the AFP says.

Henry, who, remember, barely spoke before the music, says, “It gives me the feeling of love, romance. I figure right now the world needs to come into music, singing,” and then he goes on to talk about the beauty of music and about God. In fact, he’s right: A study from  McGill University in Montreal in 2011  showed that listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the grand pleasures of love, sex, food and drugs. “These findings provide neurochemical evidence that intense emotional responses to music involve ancient reward circuitry in the brain,” said neuroscientist Dr. Robert Zatorre of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. 

2. The da Vinci Post-It

None of our memories are so great, so we all make to-do lists. Even Leonardo da Vinci.  Caroline Davis of the Guardian reports  on an 86-page exhibition of the great inventor/artist’s anatomical notebooks, due to go on display May 4 at  Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace and of all those pages da Vinci’s packing and ‘things to do today’ lists seem to have gotten the most attention. Fair enough. It’s nice to know that one of the world’s greatest geniuses wrote notes to himself just like we do.

Only his notes aren’t quite like ours. Consider his packing list for a trip he was taking 1510, a list which including comb, glasses, towel (Leo was a surely guy who always knew  where his towel was ) ... plus a fine-tooth bonesaw, a scalpel and a surgical knife. 

No wonder he was trying to make a  one-man aircraft . Leo never would have made it through the TSA.

The trip, Davies reports was “to dissect corpses.”  

Then there’s the to-do list. Our favorite: “Get human skull. Nutmeg.” Only one of those might turn up on your shopping list and then probably on a holiday. 

Can’t help imagine the to-do lists of other scientists. Tesla: “Invent remote. Find remote.” Newton: “Buy helmet; harvest apples.”  Sagan “Make record for Martians.  Buy weed .” 

3. Quicker autism diagnosis?

Harvard researcher Dennis P. Wall is hoping leaders in the field of autism will be open-minded about a speedier method he’s developed for diagnosing autism. Wall’s method, described by  Bonnie Rochman in Time magazine , “combines computer algorithms along with a seven-point parent questionnaire and a home video clip to make a speedy online assessment of whether a child has autism.” Traditional diagnostic tests can take four hours or longer and require that the child be seen by a professional, which can mean a long wait. The wait means that children are diagnosed at an average age of 5.7, which is later than early intervention should begin, Wall says. He compared his test results to 2,700 results from people who had taken one of the longer tests, and his results compared favorably. 

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