Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Intelligence and Neuroscience

Seagulls pick up on human cues to find food

Have you ever experienced seagulls seemingly begging for food from you? It is not your imagination. A new study finds that seagulls really do prefer foods that have been handled by humans. The study conducted Madeleine Goumas (University of Exeter, UK) examined whether seagulls picked up on cues from humans or were simply looking for food. While standing about 8 meters away from herring gulls, the team placed two plastic-wrapped […]

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Misery loves company

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that ravens appear to share negative emotions. The researchers started with offering birds two boxes placed on the left and right sides of the animals. While one box was empty, the other contained a piece of cheese (yum!). They then placed a box in a new location and examined how the birds responded. If a bird acted […]

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Dogs can sniff out epileptic seizures

A new study published by researchers at the University of Rennes in France shows that epileptic seizures produce a distinct body odor profile that can be detected by dogs, opening up the possibility of training the animals to predict (and warn their owners about) these types of seizures. Sources: Video: YouTube Catala A, Grandgeorge M, Schaff J-L, Cousillas H, Hausberger M, Cattet J. Dogs demonstrate the existence of an epileptic […]

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Do octopuses (and other animals) dream?

Video captured by Rebecca Otey (via YouTube) at the Butterfly Pavilion in Colorado seems to suggest that perhaps octopuses dream in their sleep: Although it is not clear whether octopuses really are dreaming when they change colors in their sleep, researchers at the World Science Festival in 2011 discussed work studying changes in brain activity of animals during sleep compared to wakefulness to gauge whether they may be dreaming:

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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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