Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Intelligence and Neuroscience

Ammonia tolerance of goldfish

Liver failure or congenital defects can lead to a build-up of ammonia in the brain of mammals resulting in life-threatening swelling, convulsions and comas. For goldfish (Carassius auratus), environmental exposure to ammonia causes reversible swelling of the brain. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers wanted to explore how the fish were able to accomplish this. They exposed goldfish to high […]

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Pigeons can identify words

A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides evidence that pigeons can learn to recognize words. That is after the birds were trained over a period of 8 months. According to the study authors “The pigeons’ performance is actually more comparable to that of literate humans than baboons’ performance.” To read, we must be about to decode letters and the sounds they make as […]

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Why monkeys don’t speak English

… or any other human language for that matter. Even though both monkeys and humans have the anatomical tools for speech, only humans communicate in this manner. Researchers had assumed, incorrectly, that the anatomy of the vocal tract (lips, tongue, larynx) of monkeys was not capable of producing speech. A new study published in Science Advances shows instead that it is all in our heads. The researchers came to this conclusion after creating x-ray videos […]

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Eating saturated fat is bad for the brain

I know this is not a comparative physiology topic, but this article caught my attention as I know I just ate a rather high fat meal last week for Thanksgiving and I plan to do the same throughout the holiday season. Insulin does more than just lowering blood sugar by increasing its uptake into tissues. It can also increase blood flow to the hippocampal region of the brain to help […]

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The Integrative Biology of Exercise VII – Day 2

Mitochondria produce more than just ATP Pinchas Cohen from the University of California – Davis presented data showing that mitochondria produce more than just ATP. They also make several peptides that can each affect our physiology. Some help cells respond to insulin better, some help with weight, some regulate cell metabolism. What is even more impressive is that some of these peptides have been shown to slow down the development […]

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In the meantime, I think I’ll hibernate

I just read an interesting blog from the I Spy Physiology website sponsored by the American Physiological Society which described results from a recent study suggesting that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) might be a human equivalent to hibernation. Chronic fatigue syndrome reportedly affects over 2.5 million people in the United States alone. People with this condition have the type of fatigue that does not seem to improve, even with adequate sleep. By examining the blood […]

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Fevers impair brain activity

You probably already knew that fevers can cause some people to develop seizures. According to the National Institutes of Health, these so-called ‘febrile seizures’ can happen at temperatures of 102.2 degrees F and above and are most-often seen in children. The good news is that this type of seizure is usually short and does not often cause any long-term damage to the brain. In a new study published in Physiological Reports, […]

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Genetically-modified virus stops Alzheimer’s disease

Check out this video from Reuters (via YouTube). It summarizes an exciting study from researchers at Imperial College London who were able to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice by administering a modified virus to the animals. The virus worked by preventing the formation of the characteristic amyloid plaques that are responsible for causing damage to neurons in the brain. Importantly, the virus did not result in loss […]

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Can bees experience positive emotions?

A new study was designed to test whether bees can experience some kind of primordial “emotions”. In the study bees were trained to associate a tunnel marked with a blue flower with a sugar water treat at its end. In contrast, a green flower meant no reward at the end of the tunnel. However, when bees were exposed to flowers with both hues, they either chose not to enter the tunnel or […]

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