Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Intelligence and Neuroscience

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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Drosophila help researchers understand rare genetic disorder

Barth Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects mainly males. It is characterized by impaired lipid metabolism, muscle weakness, growth delays, cardiomyopathy, and low numbers of neutrophils in the blood, which renders patients with the condition more susceptible to infections. There is no known cure for Barth Syndrome. In the past, patients with Barth syndrome often died by the age of three from infections or heart failure (Barth Syndrome […]

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Could research on fruit flies improve human sleep?

A new study conducted by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s in collaboration with Kyoto University has provided evidence that drosophila and mammals have similar proteins in their brain that help regulate the rhythm of body temperatures that are important in normal metabolism as well as sleep. According to a quote from Dr. Fumika Hamada, a lead study author, “We’re looking for a mechanistic understanding of how body temperature rhythms are regulated. […]

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Sheep can recognize human faces

New research published in Royal Society: Open Science shows that it is possible to train sheep to distinguish between different human faces shown in photos.  In fact, 8 out of 10 times, the sheep were able to choose the image they had been trained to recognize. According to study author Dr. Jenny Morton, “…sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys.” Because these animals are rather […]

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