Scientists propose 10 policies to protect vital pollinators

Pesticide regulation, diversified farming systems and long-term monitoring are all ways governments can help to secure the future of pollinators such as bees, flies and wasps, according to scientists.

In an article published today in the journal Science, a team of researchers has suggested ten clear ways in which governments can protect and secure pollination services – vital to the production of fruits, vegetables and oils.

A recent global assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) confirmed that large-scale declines in wild pollinators are happening in north Europe and North America.

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Young toddlers can tell when others hold false beliefs, study finds

University of Illinois professor Renée Baillargeon and her colleagues found that young children know when others hold false beliefs.  CREDIT:Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

University of Illinois professor Renée Baillargeon and her colleagues found that young children know when others hold false beliefs. CREDIT:Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

A new study finds that, under the right conditions, 2 1/2-year-old children can answer questions about people acting on false beliefs, an ability that most researchers believe does not develop until age 4.

The results are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Having the ability to represent false beliefs means recognizing that others can have different thoughts from us,” said Peipei Setoh, who, as a graduate student, conducted the study with University of Illinois psychology professor Renée Baillargeon and fellow graduate student Rose Scott. Setoh is now a professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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Study reveals lack of supporting evidence for claims about fertility treatments

Many claims made by UK fertility clinics about the benefits of treatments beyond standard IVF procedures are not backed up by evidence, finds a study published in the online journal BMJ Open.

These can range from £50 for a single screening blood test to as much as £8000 for egg freezing packages.

The researchers, led by Professor Carl Heneghan at Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM), say “there is a need for more information on interventions to be made available by fertility centres, to support well informed treatment decisions.”

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Your dog remembers what you did

People have a remarkable ability to remember and recall events from the past, even when those events didn’t hold any particular importance at the time they occurred. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on November 23 have evidence that dogs have that kind of “episodic memory” too.

This video shows episodic-like memory in dogs (Canis familiaris): Recall of others’ actions afterincidental encoding revealed by the do as I do method. Credit: Claudia Fugazza, Ákos Pogány, and Ádám Miklós / Current Biology 2016

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It’s all in the eyes: Women and men really do see things differently

Women and men look at faces and absorb visual information in different ways, which suggests there is a gender difference in understanding visual cues, according to a team of scientists that included psychologists from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

The researchers used an eye tracking device on almost 500 participants at the Science Museum over a five-week period to monitor and judge how much eye contact they felt comfortable with while looking at a face on a computer screen.

They found that women looked more at the left-hand side of faces and had a strong left eye bias, but that they also explored the face much more than men. The team observed that it was possible to tell the gender of the participant based on the scanning pattern of how they looked at the face with nearly 80 per cent accuracy. Given the very large sample size the researchers suggest this is not due to chance.

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Maximum Human Lifespan Has Already Been Reached, Einstein Researchers Conclude

Jan Vijg, Ph.D.

Jan Vijg, Ph.D.

A study published online today in Nature by Albert Einstein College of Medicine scientists suggests that it may not be possible to extend the human life span beyond the ages already attained by the oldest people on record.

Since the 19th century, average life expectancy has risen almost continuously thanks to improvements in public health, diet, the environment and other areas. On average, for example, U.S. babies born today can expect to live nearly until age 79 compared with an average life expectancy of only 47 for Americans born in 1900. Since the 1970s, the maximum duration of life—the age to which the oldest people live—has also risen. But according to the Einstein researchers, this upward arc for maximal lifespan has a ceiling—and we’ve already touched it.
“Demographers as well as biologists have contended there is no reason to think that the ongoing increase in maximum lifespan will end soon,” said senior author Jan Vijg, Ph.D., professor and chair of genetics, the Lola and Saul Kramer Chair in Molecular Genetics, and professor of ophthalmology & visual sciences at Einstein. “But our data strongly suggest that it has already been attained and that this happened in the 1990s.”
Dr. Vijg and his colleagues analyzed data from the Human Mortality Database, which compiles mortality and population data from more than 40 countries. Since 1900, those countries generally show a decline in late-life mortality: The fraction of each birth cohort (i.e., people born in a particular year) who survive to old age (defined as 70 and up) increased with their calendar year of birth, pointing toward a continuing increase in average life expectancy.
But when the researchers looked at survival improvements since 1900 for people aged 100 and above, they found that gains in survival peaked at around 100 and then declined rapidly, regardless of the year people were born. “This finding indicates diminishing gains in reducing late-life mortality and a possible limit to human lifespan,” said Dr. Vijg.
He and his colleagues then looked at “maximum reported age at death” data from the International Database on Longevity. They focused on people verified as living to age 110 or older between 1968 and 2006 in the four countries (the U.S., France, Japan and the U.K.) with the largest number of long-lived individuals. Age at death for these supercentenarians increased rapidly between the 1970s and early 1990s but reached a plateau around 1995—further evidence for a lifespan limit. This plateau, the researchers note, occurred close to 1997—the year of death of 122-year-old French woman Jeanne Calment, who achieved the maximum documented lifespan of any person in history.
Using maximum-reported-age-at-death data, the Einstein researchers put the average maximum human life span at 115 years—a calculation allowing for record-oldest individuals occasionally living longer or shorter than 115 years. (Jeanne Calment, they concluded, was a statistical outlier.) Finally, the researchers calculated that the probability in a given year of seeing one person live to 125 anywhere in the world is less than 1 in 10,000.
“Further progress against infectious and chronic diseases may continue boosting average life expectancy, but not maximum lifespan,” said Dr. Vijg. “While it’s conceivable that therapeutic breakthroughs might extend human longevity beyond the limits we’ve calculated, such advances would need to overwhelm the many genetic variants that appear to collectively determine the human lifespan. Perhaps resources now being spent to increase lifespan should instead go to lengthening healthspan—the duration of old age spent in good health.”
The Nature paper is titled “Evidence for a Limit to Human Lifespan.” The co-lead authors of the paper are Xiao Dong, Ph.D., and Brandon Milholland, Ph.D., both at Einstein. The study was supported by National Institutes of Health grants AG017242 and AG047200, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Institute for Aging Research/Nathan Shock Center and the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Human Aging at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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8 glasses of water a day? Maybe not.

A multi-institute study led by Monash University has revealed for the first time the mechanism that regulates fluid intake in the human body and stops us from over-drinking, which can cause potentially fatal water intoxication. The study challenges the popular idea that we should drink eight glasses of water a day for health.

The study showed that a ‘swallowing inhibition’ is activated by the brain after excess liquid is consumed, helping maintain tightly calibrated volumes of water in the body.

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Mars-bound astronauts face chronic dementia risk from galactic cosmic ray exposure

“The space environment poses unique hazards to astronauts,” says study leader Charles Limoli, UCI professor of radiation oncology. “Exposure to these [highly energetic charged] particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel.” Steve Zylius / UCI

“The space environment poses unique hazards to astronauts,” says study leader Charles Limoli, UCI professor of radiation oncology. “Exposure to these [highly energetic charged] particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel.” Steve Zylius / UCI

Will astronauts traveling to Mars remember much of it? That’s the question concerning University of California, Irvine scientists probing a phenomenon called “space brain.”

UCI’s Charles Limoli and colleagues found that exposure to highly energetic charged particles – much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that will bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights – causes significant long-term brain damage in test rodents, resulting in cognitive impairments and dementia.

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Yours or Mine? How We Handle Objects Depends on Who Owns Them

Handing over wrenchFrom scissors and staplers to car keys and cell phones, we pass objects to other people every day. We often try to pass the objects so that the handle or other useful feature is facing the appropriate direction for the person receiving the item, but new research shows that we’re less accommodating when it comes to handing over our own belongings.

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“The associations or attachments that we have with an object leak into our movements in unintended ways when we interact with them,” says psychology researcher and study author Merryn Constable of the University of Toronto. “The act of facilitating another person’s action is somewhat inhibited when the object that we’re passing is something that we own, but the effects are so subtle that they are likely to go unnoticed.”

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Multifaceted genetic impact of training

Triathlete cycling on a bicycleEndurance training changes the activity of thousands of genes and give rise to a multitude of altered DNA-copies, RNA, researchers from Karolinska Institutet report. The study, which also nuances the concept of muscle memory, is published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Regular endurance training is very beneficial to health and wellbeing, and can be used to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and other such conditions. However, just how this works on a molecular level is not fully known.

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