Science News Update: July 29, 2013

In this update of science news, we picked a few of the more popular articles from our Facebook page, then added a selection chosen by our interns. This week’s update has a strong focus on behavior, but also some interesting articles that challenge of views of evolution and developmental biology.

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Flavor of Beer is Linked to Reward/Pleasure Center of Male Brains

Lager beer in glass
The pleasure/reward response in the brain is linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine. New research shows that the flavor of beer, even without alcohol, causes the release of dopamine in men (the response has not been studied in women yet).

Source (Science 2.0, July 27th): goo.gl/n9IeYZ

The Benefits of Drinking Coffee

A small cup of coffee
Coffee is known to have a number of benefits, but new research shows that it can also up-regulate levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, effectively reducing the risk of depression and suicide. A great article linking daily dietary choices to brain chemistry and behavior.

Link (Time, July 26th): goo.gl/dXIEaY

How do Octopus and Squid Change Color?

An octopus is the master of camouflage – it can easily change colors to match its surroundings. By how does this happen? Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have discovered that squid and octopus contain special cells that basically act as reflectors to detect wavelengths of light. This, in turn, activates a chemical pathway that uses neurotransmitters to alter pigmentation pathways in the cell. Someday, similar processes may be used to produce camouflage that adapts to changes in the environment.

Source (Phys.org, July 25th):  goo.gl/pIDx0z

The Good and Bad of Oxytocin

The hormone oxytocin was once known as the “love hormone” because of the fuzzy warm feelings it gave off. However, this is no longer the case. Researchers found that this hormone actually intensifies memory during stressful or painful situations and makes the bad memories stronger causing emotional pain. It also triggers anxious and fearful feelings.

Source (Science Daily, July 22nd): goo.gl/Z0wIsx

RicochetScience Editor’s Choices

Planarians Regrow Their Heads, and Keep their Memories, After Decapitation

Often used in high school and first year college laboratories, the planarian worm is a natural phenomenon remarkable for its incredible regenerative abilities. Previous tests have shown that a single worm cut into pieces as small as 1/279th of its original size will develop into 279 individual organisms- but now, a new study has shown that a decapitated worm can not only regrow its brain but retain most of its memories.

Source (The Verge, July 10th): http://goo.gl/TOZnf

Is Evolution Predictable? – A Study with Lizards Suggests Yes

Most evolutionists contest that if life were reset, the resulting organisms would be very different than what we have today due to chance, random events. However, a study with Anole lizards in the Caribbean suggests that this may not always be the case.  Lizards on four islands, each with similar climate and geography, demonstrates that the it may be

Source (Science Daily, July 19th): goo.gl/xexfEI

Picture of the Week

monarch butterfly

photograph by 5 Blue Media

Monarchs are one of the most easily recognizable butterfly species and are regularly found throughout the United State. They are also migration experts – but what is amazing is the no single butterfly ever makes the migration twice! Researchers have enlisted the help of citizen-scientists to help track these migrations. For more information on how you can participate, visit  www.monarchwatch.org

Video Choices

For our choice of videos, this SciShow YouTube video from July 27th talks about a new form of tick-borne virus in Missouri and a new species of shrew discovered in the Congo.

 

contributions by: Theresa Koos, Devin Windelspecht and 5BlueMedia

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