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Feb 22, 2017

Researchers uncover brain circuitry central to reward-seeking behavior

Posted by in category: neuroscience

Green: NAc-projecting prefrontal cortex neurons become active during the presentation of a reward-predictive cue, and this activity drives reward-seeking behavior. Purple: PVT-projecting prefrontal cortex neurons inhibited during reward-predictive cue. Credit: The Stuber Lab (UNC School of Medicine)

The prefrontal cortex, a large and recently evolved structure that wraps the front of the brain, has powerful “executive” control over behavior, particularly in humans. The details of how it exerts that control have been elusive, but UNC School of Medicine scientists, publishing today in Nature, have now uncovered some of those details, using sophisticated techniques for recording and controlling the activity of neurons in live mice.

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Feb 22, 2017

OCD-like behavior linked to genetic mutation, study finds

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, neuroscience

Got OCD; check your genes for a mutation.

A new Northwestern Medicine study found evidence suggesting how neural dysfunction in a certain region of the brain can lead to obsessive and repetitive behaviors much like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Both in humans and in mice, there is a circuit in the brain called the corticostriatal connection that regulates habitual and repetitive actions. The study found certain synaptic receptors are important for the development of this brain circuit. If these receptors are eliminated in mice, they exhibit obsessive behavior, such as over-grooming.

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Feb 22, 2017

From Fractured Genomes to Broken Minds

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

View article as PDF

In recent years, we have dramatically changed our view of human genome, from a collection of DNA base pairs that was largely quite stable to one whose very structure can change. We’ve learned that higher-order structural features, such as specific configurations of repeated base pair sequences, can predispose for DNA rearrangements.

One of the most intriguing types of DNA rearrangements is copy-number variants (CNVs), deletions or duplications of parts of the genome. While CNVs range in size from a few hundred base pairs to several mega-bases affecting the copy number of one to dozens of juxtaposed genes, they are not identifiable by conventional light microscopy. It was not until a few years ago that improved technology enabled us to perform high-resolution genome-wide surveys of CNVs in individual genomes. These surveys revealed a large amount of copy number variation (at least 12,000 CNVs overlapping more than 1,000 genes), most of which represent benign polymorphic changes. CNVs are classified as rare (occurring at a frequency of 1 percent in the population) or common; collectively they cover at least 12–13 percent of the genome in the general population.

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Feb 22, 2017

Scientists create a nano-trampoline to probe quantum behavior

Posted by in categories: nanotechnology, quantum physics

Very cool.

A research group from Bar-Ilan University, in collaboration with French colleagues at CNRS Grenoble, has developed a unique experiment to detect quantum events in ultra-thin films. This novel research, to be published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, enhances the understanding of basic phenomena that occur in nano-sized systems close to absolute zero temperature.

Transitions, Phases and Critical Points

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Feb 22, 2017

Solar photovoltaic windows rely on inexpensive silicon quantum dots

Posted by in categories: nanotechnology, quantum physics, solar power, sustainability

Luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs), which are flat panes of mostly transparent material that take sunlight (both diffuse and directed) and concentrate it at the panes’ edges, can be used as “photovoltaic windows,” which, as the name makes clear, collect solar energy while serving as ordinary windows. Now, researchers at the Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca and Glass to Power Srl (both of Milano, Italy) and the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN) are lowering the potential cost of such windows by using silicon nanoparticles as the fluorescent absorber/emitter in the LSC windows.

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Feb 22, 2017

My libertarian novel “The Transhumanist Wager” in this Yahoo! News story being compared to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”

Posted by in category: transhumanism

Transhumanism also covered, albeit not in the best light.

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Feb 22, 2017

Soon, Medication Will be Custom Tailored to Your Specific Genetics

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

Mapping of the human genome has gone from costing billions to merely thousands. As this trend continues we will be able to tailor drugs to individuals.

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Feb 22, 2017

Astronomers excited by bonanza of Earth-sized planets nearby

Posted by in category: alien life

Three of the planets fall within a temperature range that should allow water to exist on their surfaces – a placement that is sometimes referred to as “the Goldilocks zone” because it is neither too hot nor too cold. Given the right sort of atmosphere, water could also be present on three of the others.

Astronomers say a solar system 39 light-years from Earth’s harbours seven Earth-sized planets, at least three of which are in the temperature sweet spot where water (and potentially life) is possible.

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Feb 22, 2017

Only 6% of space enthusiasts would like to live in the first low-Earth orbit settlements

Posted by in category: space travel

Well I for one would be in the 6%.

A new survey has found that only 6% of respondents would be happy to live in a proposed Equatorial Low Earth Orbit (ELEO) settlement, where humans live in a small cruise ship-like space station at a similar orbit to the ISS.

Four conditions were set for respondents to assess and while at least 30% said they agree with at least one of them, the number shrank significantly when it came to those who could accept all the conditions.

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Feb 22, 2017

Astronomers discover 7 Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby star

Posted by in category: alien life

It’s a trap(PIST-1)! 😉

“The seven exoplanets were all found in tight formation around an ultracool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1.”

Astronomers have found at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the same star 40 light-years away, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The findings were also announced at a news conference at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

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