Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Intelligence and Neuroscience

Ceramides cause rainbow trout to eat less

Ceramides are a type of sphingolipid composed of both fatty acids and sphingosine that are important in maintaining the structure of cell membranes and cell signaling pathways. Given their structure, it is perhaps not surprising that levels of ceramide are increased in the brains of mammals after eating a diet high in fats as well as in individuals who are obese.  In mammals, ceramides are also known to help regulate food intake. Since rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus […]

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Physiology 2016

I am very excited to report that the American Physiological Society in partnership with The Physiological Society held a joint meeting from July 29-31 in Dublin, Ireland. The keynote lectures were given by Dr. Jerry Friedman from Rockefeller University and Dr. W Jon Lederer from the University of Maryland.   Dr. Friedman spoke about his research on obesity and how genetic factors might play a role. In fact, his team was […]

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The trouble with lights

A new study published in Current Biology presents data showing that persistent exposure to artificial lights causes mice to age prematurely. Not only did exposure to bright light alter circadian rhythm, mice living in 24 hour light lost bone density and developed inflammation and weakness in their muscles. Humans are not immune to the effects of disrupted circadian rhythms. In fact, people who work the night shift are reportedly more likely […]

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Study suggests ducklings understand same vs different

Ducklings are rather well-known for their ability to imprint on someone (usually their mother) or something shortly after hatching. Researchers at the University of Oxford were interested in understanding more about learning and memory in ducklings. Specifically, they wanted to know if a duckling simply remembered what they saw or if they were capable of more complex cognition involving determining whether objects had the same or different qualities. After hatching, they placed ducklings […]

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Big-brained birds

Birds get such a bad rap when it comes to intelligence. Sure they have relatively small brains, but scientists have known they are similar to primates with respect to their cognitive abilities. New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presents data showing how this apparent dichotomy is possible. They found that the brains of songbirds and parrots pack two times the number of neurons as a primate […]

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Recap of 2016 Michigan Physiological Society

The Michigan Physiological Society, a chapter of the American Physiological Society, held their 3rd annual meeting last week. As mentioned in a prior post, the keynote address was given by Comparative Physiologist Dr. Hannah Carey (University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine). You can read about her research in the prior post. Here are other highlights from the meeting: Seminars: or as I prefer to view them… Kelsy Kusch (Undergraduate Student, […]

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Experimental Biology 2016 – Day 4

Still going strong…here are the highlights from several sessions held on Day 4: John Eme (California State University, San Marcos) presented data testing the effects of varying temperatures mimicking overwintering conditions on embryonic development of Lake whitefish. He found that indeed exposure to variable incubation temperatures between 2-8 deg C resulted in increased mortality. Moreover, the embryos hatched earlier and were smaller than animals exposed to constant temperatures. Nariman Hossein-Javaheri et al., (University […]

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Pesticide confuses bees

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph found that the use of certain pesticides impacts wildflower pollination by bees. According to a quote by study author Nigel Raine, published in CBCNews, the use of neonicotinoid-type pesticides “modify the way in which information flows through the nervous system.” The research team found that bees gather pollen more frequently, but less efficiently, when exposed to the pesticide compared to […]

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Why so many of us sleep

A special thank you to reader Dr. Barbara Goodman, Professor of Physiology at Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota who sent me a story from The Scientist about sleep in animals complete with footage of a dolphin that was seen apparently “sleeping” (video posted on YouTube): Why do animals sleep? This is a question with many potential answers. It is known that birds and mammals experience slow-wave and rapid eye movement (REM) […]

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