Rat memory implants, vaccines, and uncontacted Amazonians
Our favorites from the week
From Douglas Main:
We have explored most every nook and cranny of the earth, but hidden in a remote part of the Amazon jungle, there are still some people who haven’t had contact with the rest of humanity.
Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Texas Republican Ron Paul have introduced the first bill to remove marijuana from the list of federally prohibited substances and cede control to the states. Although it has almost no hope of passing, we can hope.
Carl Zimmer describes the most poisonous animal in the United States, the rough-skinned newt, and how it got to be that way: run-away evolutionary competition with resistant foes.
From Katie Palmer:
Statistics can be awesome, but they can also be used in duplicitous ways. Case in point: this data wrangling by a physician/epidemiologist team, showing a 35 percent increase in infant mortality on the West coast of the U.S. after the nuclear disaster in Japan. Michael Moyer at Scientific American takes them down a few notches.
In a remarkable study, neuroscientists recorded the brain signals involved in encoding a task memory in rats–and then, having given the rats a memory-blocking drug, were able to make them “remember” the task by stimulating their hippocampus with that same sequence of signals. Though a long way from consolidating and enhancing human memories, it’s a fascinating first step toward “memory prostheses.”
An interesting tangent in the ongoing saga surrounding low vaccination rates: Seth Mnookin, while at the Pacific Health Summit, blogs that while France is undergoing a major measles epidemic, Ghana hasn’t seen a single case since 2002.
From Sabrina Richards:
Research on rats is providing clues at how we might “implant” procedural memories into the brain. A little space-agey, to be sure.
Scratch & Sniff Silly Putty? Not quite, but scientists have figured out how to employ Silly Putty’s unique chemical structure to sidle toward the next step in the virtual reality experience: changing scents.
Humanity 1, HIV 0? Not Rocket Science has a lovely post explaining how scientists might be able to make an end-run around HIV’s devious ways.