neurosciencestuff
neurosciencestuff:

How gut bacteria ensure a healthy brain – and could play a role in treating depression
One of medicine’s greatest innovations in the 20th century was the development of antibiotics. It transformed our ability to combat disease. But medicine in the 21st century is rethinking its relationship with bacteria and concluding that, far from being uniformly bad for us, many of these organisms are actually essential for our health.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the human gut, where the microbiome – the collection of bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract – plays a complex and critical role in the health of its host. The microbiome interacts with and influences organ systems throughout the body, including, as research is revealing, the brain. This discovery has led to a surge of interest in potential gut-based treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders and a new class of studies investigating how the gut and its microbiome affect both healthy and diseased brains.
The microbiome consists of a startlingly massive number of organisms. Nobody knows exactly how many or what type of microbes there might be in and on our bodies, but estimates suggest there may be anywhere from three to 100 times more bacteria in the gut than cells in the human body. The Human Microbiome Project, co-ordinated by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), seeks to create a comprehensive database of the bacteria residing throughout the gastrointestinal tract and to catalogue their properties.
The lives of the bacteria in our gut are intimately entwined with our immune, endocrine and nervous systems. The relationship goes both ways: the microbiome influences the function of these systems, which in turn alter the activity and composition of the bacterial community. We are starting to unravel this complexity and gain insight into how gut bacteria interface with the rest of the body and, in particular, how they affect the brain.
Read more

neurosciencestuff:

How gut bacteria ensure a healthy brain – and could play a role in treating depression

One of medicine’s greatest innovations in the 20th century was the development of antibiotics. It transformed our ability to combat disease. But medicine in the 21st century is rethinking its relationship with bacteria and concluding that, far from being uniformly bad for us, many of these organisms are actually essential for our health.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the human gut, where the microbiome – the collection of bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract – plays a complex and critical role in the health of its host. The microbiome interacts with and influences organ systems throughout the body, including, as research is revealing, the brain. This discovery has led to a surge of interest in potential gut-based treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders and a new class of studies investigating how the gut and its microbiome affect both healthy and diseased brains.

The microbiome consists of a startlingly massive number of organisms. Nobody knows exactly how many or what type of microbes there might be in and on our bodies, but estimates suggest there may be anywhere from three to 100 times more bacteria in the gut than cells in the human body. The Human Microbiome Project, co-ordinated by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), seeks to create a comprehensive database of the bacteria residing throughout the gastrointestinal tract and to catalogue their properties.

The lives of the bacteria in our gut are intimately entwined with our immune, endocrine and nervous systems. The relationship goes both ways: the microbiome influences the function of these systems, which in turn alter the activity and composition of the bacterial community. We are starting to unravel this complexity and gain insight into how gut bacteria interface with the rest of the body and, in particular, how they affect the brain.

Read more

brains-and-bodies
scinote:

Tusk, Tusk: New Study Sheds Light on the Purpose of The Narwhal’s Horn

The purpose of a narwhal’s tusk has vexed scientists for centuries. The tusk, which is actually an elongated canine tooth, has had many hypothesized purposes, ranging from use as a weapon against rival males to being used to poke air holes in ice when the sea freezes over.
While both of these behaviors have been observed by narwhals in the wild, these are not necessarily the only purposes for narwhals’ tusks. In a paper published recently in the journal Marine Mammal Science, University of Manitoba researcher Trish C. Kelley provided evidence towards a different purpose for the horny appendage.
Using anatomical data collected from hundreds of narwhals harvested in Inuit subsistence hunts, Kelley and her team were able to find a positive correlation between the mass of a male narwhal’s testes and the size of his horn. Basically, this suggests that if you’re a male narwhal, having a bigger horn means you’re more virile and therefore more attractive to female narwhals. The male narwhals want to be you, and the female narwhals want to be with you*.
While ideas of the horn being used as a sexual signal had been suggested previously, the team’s study was the first to provide solid proof towards this idea, finally placing the narwhal’s horn next to deer antlers and the peacock’s tail as sexually selected status signals that make the girls go crazy.
If you’re interested in reading the original paper: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12165/abstract
http://animals.io9.com/size-matters-narwhals-with-longer-tusks-have-bigger-te-1637869535
 *As a side note, this research does not suggest that male humans with elongated, sharpened canine teeth are any more attractive to female humans than those without. However, a certain series of books by Stephenie Meyer may suggest otherwise. More research is needed to fully understand this phenomenon.

Submitted by Nick V, Discoverer.
Edited by Carrie K.

scinote:

Tusk, Tusk: New Study Sheds Light on the Purpose of The Narwhal’s Horn

The purpose of a narwhal’s tusk has vexed scientists for centuries. The tusk, which is actually an elongated canine tooth, has had many hypothesized purposes, ranging from use as a weapon against rival males to being used to poke air holes in ice when the sea freezes over.

While both of these behaviors have been observed by narwhals in the wild, these are not necessarily the only purposes for narwhals’ tusks. In a paper published recently in the journal Marine Mammal Science, University of Manitoba researcher Trish C. Kelley provided evidence towards a different purpose for the horny appendage.

Using anatomical data collected from hundreds of narwhals harvested in Inuit subsistence hunts, Kelley and her team were able to find a positive correlation between the mass of a male narwhal’s testes and the size of his horn. Basically, this suggests that if you’re a male narwhal, having a bigger horn means you’re more virile and therefore more attractive to female narwhals. The male narwhals want to be you, and the female narwhals want to be with you*.

While ideas of the horn being used as a sexual signal had been suggested previously, the team’s study was the first to provide solid proof towards this idea, finally placing the narwhal’s horn next to deer antlers and the peacock’s tail as sexually selected status signals that make the girls go crazy.

If you’re interested in reading the original paper: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12165/abstract

http://animals.io9.com/size-matters-narwhals-with-longer-tusks-have-bigger-te-1637869535


*As a side note, this research does not suggest that male humans with elongated, sharpened canine teeth are any more attractive to female humans than those without. However, a certain series of books by Stephenie Meyer may suggest otherwise. More research is needed to fully understand this phenomenon.

Submitted by Nick V, Discoverer.

Edited by Carrie K.

brains-and-bodies
scinote:

Some Like It Hot: A Look at Capsaiscin

If you’ve ever eaten a chili pepper— either because of a dare or by your own volition— you have no doubt come across the painful burning sensation that comes soon after. But what causes this pain? And why does it exist in the first place? Before we look at chemistry, we have to look at biology— specifically, evolution.
Capsaicin is found naturally in chili peppers, in varying quantities. To truly understand its purpose, we have to look at where it’s located. The amounts of capsaicin vary throughout the plant, but the highest concentrations are found in the placental tissues surrounding the seeds of the plant. This makes sense evolutionarily, as the seeds are the future generations of  these peppers. It makes sense that the plant would use whatever means are most effective to protect its progeny. Capsaicin, with its burning, itching, stinging side effects, acts as a perfect deterrent to possible predators looking for a tasty meal.
Now that we know why capsaicin exists - why does it burn? This is where the chemistry comes in. The burning, painful sensation attributed to capsaicin results from chemical interactions with sensory neurons. When introduced to the body, capsaicin binds to a specific receptor called the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TrpV1) or, more simply, the vanilloid receptor subtype 1. This receptor is a subtype of receptors that are present in peripheral sensory neurons. The vanilloid receptor 1 is usually reserved for detecting heat or physical abrasion. When heat is applied to the surface of the skin this TRPV1 ion channel opens, allowing cations (positively charged ions) into the cell. This inflow of cations activates the sensory neuron, which sends signals to the brain that there is a painful stimulus present. Capsaicin has a binding site on the receptor, and opens the cation channel just like if heat were applied. This results in a signal to be brain to alert you of a potential threat and produces a burning sensation where the capsaicin was introduced, but without an actual burn.
Interestingly, while the receptor works this way in most mammals, it is not activated by capsaicin in birds; therefore, birds are the largest distributors of capsaicin seeds in the natural environment.
This has just been a brief overview of some of the chemistry of capsaicin, but hopefully next time you bite into a jalapeno, you’ll take a moment to appreciate the science that’s occurring before you gulp down your milk!
References:
Pingle SC, et al. Capsaicin receptor: TRPV1 a promuscious TRP channel. Handbook of experimental pharmacology. 2007.(179):155-71.
Tewksbury JJ. et al. Ecology of a spice: Capsaicin in wild chilies mediates seed retention, dispersal and germination. Ecology. 2008. (89):107-117.

Submitted by thatoneguywithoutamustache
Edited by Ashlee R.

scinote:

Some Like It Hot: A Look at Capsaiscin

If you’ve ever eaten a chili pepper— either because of a dare or by your own volition— you have no doubt come across the painful burning sensation that comes soon after. But what causes this pain? And why does it exist in the first place? Before we look at chemistry, we have to look at biology— specifically, evolution.

Capsaicin is found naturally in chili peppers, in varying quantities. To truly understand its purpose, we have to look at where it’s located. The amounts of capsaicin vary throughout the plant, but the highest concentrations are found in the placental tissues surrounding the seeds of the plant. This makes sense evolutionarily, as the seeds are the future generations of  these peppers. It makes sense that the plant would use whatever means are most effective to protect its progeny. Capsaicin, with its burning, itching, stinging side effects, acts as a perfect deterrent to possible predators looking for a tasty meal.

Now that we know why capsaicin exists - why does it burn? This is where the chemistry comes in. The burning, painful sensation attributed to capsaicin results from chemical interactions with sensory neurons. When introduced to the body, capsaicin binds to a specific receptor called the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TrpV1) or, more simply, the vanilloid receptor subtype 1. This receptor is a subtype of receptors that are present in peripheral sensory neurons. The vanilloid receptor 1 is usually reserved for detecting heat or physical abrasion. When heat is applied to the surface of the skin this TRPV1 ion channel opens, allowing cations (positively charged ions) into the cell. This inflow of cations activates the sensory neuron, which sends signals to the brain that there is a painful stimulus present. Capsaicin has a binding site on the receptor, and opens the cation channel just like if heat were applied. This results in a signal to be brain to alert you of a potential threat and produces a burning sensation where the capsaicin was introduced, but without an actual burn.

Interestingly, while the receptor works this way in most mammals, it is not activated by capsaicin in birds; therefore, birds are the largest distributors of capsaicin seeds in the natural environment.

This has just been a brief overview of some of the chemistry of capsaicin, but hopefully next time you bite into a jalapeno, you’ll take a moment to appreciate the science that’s occurring before you gulp down your milk!

References:

Pingle SC, et al. Capsaicin receptor: TRPV1 a promuscious TRP channel. Handbook of experimental pharmacology. 2007.(179):155-71.

Tewksbury JJ. et al. Ecology of a spice: Capsaicin in wild chilies mediates seed retention, dispersal and germination. Ecology. 2008. (89):107-117.

Submitted by thatoneguywithoutamustache

Edited by Ashlee R.

nybg
nybg:

botaniverse:

Toxic, psychoactive Jimsonweed grows in Downtown NYC

"Beyond the innocuously descriptive "moonflower" (the tubular flowers open by night) and "thorn apple," various sources identify it as "devil’s apple," "devil’s snare," "devil’s weed," "devil’s trumpet" (and "angel’s trumpet"), "mad apple," and "locoweed," among many others."
See? A bit of plant knowledge makes the world a more interesting place. After all, you never know what might be growing right next to you. ~LM

nybg:

botaniverse:

Toxic, psychoactive Jimsonweed grows in Downtown NYC

"Beyond the innocuously descriptive "moonflower" (the tubular flowers open by night) and "thorn apple," various sources identify it as "devil’s apple," "devil’s snare," "devil’s weed," "devil’s trumpet" (and "angel’s trumpet"), "mad apple," and "locoweed," among many others."

See? A bit of plant knowledge makes the world a more interesting place. After all, you never know what might be growing right next to you. ~LM