Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Intelligence and Neuroscience

Physiology in Arizona – Part 2

Now for highlights from the Arizona Physiological Society poster session that took place on October 5th. Alex Mohr (Graduate Student, Arizona State University – Phoenix) presented his research on dietary carotenoids, which are yellow, orange and red pigments synthesized by plants. Birds are known for using these dietary carotenoids for coloration (see the male mallard in the photo above). While some research suggests that carotenoids may also act as antioxidants in […]

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Physiology in Arizona – Part 1

This past weekend the Arizona Physiological Society held their 11th annual conference on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University. There were so many oral and poster presentations on comparative physiology that I will spend this entry focusing on the oral sessions. The Keynote address was given by Dr. Michael Joyner (Mayo Clinic, Rochester) who spoke about the importance of not just focusing research efforts on reductionist approaches, including many […]

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Personal space neurons

Do you ever get an annoying feeling when people invade your personal space? Or move without even thinking about it when something is suddenly coming at you? Turns out, we really do live in our own bubbles and we have special neurons, called peripersonal neurons, that are responsible for sensing that space and sending feedback to our brains. It is thought that these neurons are important for sensing approaching dangers […]

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Human Echolocation

Bats and dolphins are famous for using echolocation to help navigate their surroundings. In contrast, humans normally rely on vision to navigate. When vision is impaired, however, we can learn to rely on echolocation. Although it is rare to find people who rely solely on hearing:

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Intelligence: Dogs vs Cats

A new study seems to have provided an answer to the age-old question of who is smarter: dogs or cats? The speculation before the study was conducted was that hunting may require extra brain cells (neurons). If true, that would mean that cats would have more neurons than dogs. My apologies to all of the cat lovers out there. The findings from the study suggest that dogs may actually be […]

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Could circadian rhythms negatively impact research?

Our lives are regulated by a complex biological clock that controls our circadian rhythms. The master clock is located in our hypothalamus and functions to ensure that specific proteins are turned on or off at the right times. These functions are important not only for cell function, but also for proliferation and survival of species. Of concern to our health is the notion that changes in our exposure to environmental […]

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The ultimate fathers

On this Father’s Day, I would like to pay tribute to a few of nature’s most ‘devoted’ fathers. Take the emperor penguin for example. If you have ever watched the movie March of the Penguins, or even Happy Feet, then you know these avian fathers are rock stars of parenting. Males are responsible for keeping the eggs warm for two months while the females go away to feed. They do […]

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Caffeine and memory…wait what was I saying?

Personally, I would have a hard time functioning in the morning without coffee. I think many people might agree as caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive stimulant worldwide.  The stimulant effects of caffeine are attributed to its ability to bind to and inhibit adenosine receptors in the body, resulting in increased excitation of neurons: Long term potentiation (LTP) refers to an increase in the strength of connections formed between […]

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Individuality in woodpeckers

Animals, like people, have unique sounds that allow them to recognize individuals. For example, you can hear a great spotted woodpecker calling in the first portion of this YouTube video below. In another YouTube video, we see a great spotted woodpecker doing what woodpeckers do best…pecking at wood. Woodpeckers peck (i.e. drum) to ward off rivals as well as attract mates. In a new study published in PLoS ONE, researchers examined […]

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