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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

Here's a glimpse: a medical breakthrough that allows your body to stay alive without breathing -- and proof your dog copies you when you yawn.

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“Paradigms are like glue, they constrain what you can see,” Gowaty said. “It’s like being stuck in sludge -- it’s hard to lift your foot out and take a step in a new direction.”

8. The buzz on reverse aging

If only we could turn back time, as Cher before us wished, and know whether things would have been different had that study been repeated earlier.  

But we can’t really go back in time. Only bees can do that. 

For now.

Science Daily reports that s cientists at Arizona State University have found that older honey bees who do the work of younger honey bees reverse the aging process in their brains. The younger bees, who usually take care of the babies, were taken out of the nest so that when the older, foraging bees returned there was no one watching the kids. After a quiet period some of the older bees went back to foraging while others stayed to care for larvae. Older, foraging bees “age very quickly” when they begin that activity and especially lose brain function -- “the ability to learn new things.”

After only 10 days about half the babysitting bees had “significantly improved their ability to learn new things.” Also, a protein, Prx6, and a “chaperone” protein had changed in the bees who improved their learning ability as opposed to those who did not. The Prx6 protein is also found in humans.

My favorite part is that, the way SD puts it, the study by ASU and the Norwegian University of Life Science worked by “tricking” older bees into doing those domestic, social tasks. Seriously, when was the last time you punked a bee? Scientists have the coolest jobs.

More studies will follow, but in the meantime, this study points out avenues other than drug treatment to deal with age-related dementia in humans. Gro Amdan of ASU, who led the study, says, “Maybe social interventions -- changing how you deal with your surroundings -- is something we can do today to help our brains stay younger.”  

I vote cartoons.

9. From “yea” to zzzzzzz

We should all try to keep our minds sharp and not do things like poor Becky Carney did. Carney is a North Carolina state rep who mistakenly cast the deciding vote in favor of allowing fracking in her state. A bill requiring rules for fracking had passed, but the governor vetoed it. Carney meant to vote against the veto -- instead she accidentally voted “Yea.” Molly Oswaks of Gizmodo reports that Carney was exhausted and in her fatigue she hit the wrong button.

I certainly see how that could happen. But if a new study is correct, that excuse might not cut much ice anymore (which sucks because I use it every day). 

Morgen E. Peck from Scientific American reports that researchers have found that the sleep-deprived brain, when prodded, actually spikes in activity, more so than the wide-awake brain.

Marcello Massimini, a neurophysiologist at the University of Milan in Italy, found that the brain becomes more sensitive as the day wears on,” Peck writes. A noninvasive jolt of electricity was applied to the prefrontal cortex of test subjects who had been awake for two, eight, 12  or 32 hours (one wonders if they were tricked into doing this, like the bees). 

“I'm sure if you bump your friend when he's sleep-deprived, he's going to jump higher,” Massimini says and Peck writes that, in observing how the brain responded, Massimini saw that, “The sleep-deprived brain, it turns out, also gets jumpy, responding to the electrical jolt with stronger, more immediate spikes of activity.”

 
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