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While you sleep, specialized neurons in your brain help you forget

While you sleep, specialized neurons in your brain help you forget

While you sleep, the brain forgets. But, until recently it was not clear how the brain decides to forget.Scientists by measuring the electrical activity of neurons near the outer layer of the brain. By quantifying brainwave changes, scientists have already determined sleep is not just one process. There are two basic of sleep: REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM, or NREM. In , your heartbeat slows, your muscles relax, and your brainwaves fall into a constant rhythm producing slow sleep . In REM, voluntary body motion is and the brain's activity suddenly . We don't remember every detail of...

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Kamila Kourbanova
April 15, 2020
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It will take over one billion dollars to protect one small Louisiana town from climate change

It will take over one billion dollars to protect one small Louisiana town from climate change

One rainy August, Jordan Stadler spent all night ferrying friends and strangers around his neighborhood in his granddad's canoe. Rising water in the streets had been stranding people at their cars and doorsteps. And wasn’t even due to a storm or high river levels. Sometimes in New Orleans there’s just so much water it .Stadler, a lifelong resident of southeastern Louisiana in his late 20s, has since had second thoughts about investing in property in New Orleans. He's been flooded out of various homes at least five times since he was a kid. Buying here just doesn't make sense to him...

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Joan Meiners
April 26, 2020
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The brain's imprint on the skull shows what separates humans from other primates

The brain's imprint on the skull shows what separates humans from other primates

What makes us uniquely human? In recent decades, evidence for many supposedly uniquely human traits – such as , , and – has been observed in non-human animals. Still, many believe there must be something unique about the human brain.is that the human brain is unique in its "lateralization," the asymmetric specialization of functions on one side of the brain or the other. Previous have suggested that their brains do not exhibit the same degree of lateralization as the human brain.But evidence for this view was limited, primate brains being rather hard to come by. To test the hypothesis,...

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Hayden Kee
April 26, 2020
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Scientists have revised the recipe for the first gene and the origin of life

Scientists have revised the recipe for the first gene and the origin of life

How did life on Earth begin?One theory biochemists like is called the "." It focuses on how the first gene made of RNA – DNA's cousin – originated from individual molecules. If Earth spontaneously generated life, then the first biomolecule must have arisen, well, spontaneously, meaning from chemical activity. This differs from other biological processes, which function with an assist from enzymes. are catalysts that speed up chemical reactions. Without enzymes, we would not be able to produce energy, fight off bacterial invaders, or create new genes.Recently, Nobel laureate made serious...

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Lauren Gandy
April 27, 2020
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Tinkering with brain proteins may add insulation back to damaged nerve cells

Tinkering with brain proteins may add insulation back to damaged nerve cells

Under a microscope, the brain looks like a cutdown forest of many tree stumps with dark tree rings. The "rings" are , an insulation made of fat that wraps around nerves to help send faster electrical signals.Unfortunately, myelin is also the target of many diseases like (MS), which . In this disease, the immune system inexplicably attacks the body’s own myelin and the cells that produce it. As the now bare nerves die, cells can no longer reach the injured area to wrap new myelin around the damaged nerves., but the real question is how to insulate the nerves again? , scientists found that a...

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Kara Leasure Shanley
April 30, 2020
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Hurricanes are shaping lizard feet all over the world

Hurricanes are shaping lizard feet all over the world

Two and a half years ago, when biologist Colin Donihue meandered through Turks and Caicos lassoing lizards with dental floss, he couldn’t have predicted how his project would eventually evolve.His team traveled to the islands to catch and measure lizards. “Lo and behold, three days after we left, the islands were hit by Hurricane Irma, and then Hurricane Maria a couple weeks later,” says , a postdoctoral researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. His team returned to the island a few weeks later for a rare opportunity.Climate change is constantly testing the animal kingdom. Sea level...

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Max Levy
April 30, 2020
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One person's trash is a scientist's rhizotron

One person's trash is a scientist's rhizotron

Plant roots are complex and delicate structures that provide the aboveground stem and leaves with nutrients and water. Studying them can tell us a lot about a plant's survival strategy and its associations with soil fungi and bacteria. There's a lot going on beneath our feet that we just can't see.And that's part of the problem: roots are very difficult to study because they are hidden below layers of soil. To , plant biologists must either dig up the plant, an approach aptly referred to as "destructive sampling," or install a see-through chamber called a rhizotron. A rhizotron is kind of...

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Cassie Freund
May 2, 2020
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Parasitic wasps murder insects with a smallpox-like virus

Parasitic wasps murder insects with a smallpox-like virus

In the virus world, smallpox and are horrifying. Despite the fact that smallpox was in the 1970s, the entire family of poxviruses into the heart of scientists.But if you're a , poxviruses are essential. Parasitoid wasps are no stranger to being outcasts. These  wasps make their living by laying their eggs inside other insects so their larvae can slowly eat away the host and release the mature insects fully fed and ready to reproduce. Frightened yet? It gets worse. These wasps carry a type of poxvirus, Diachasmimorpha longicaudata entomopoxvirus (DIEPV) in their venom glands. This virus has...

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Marnie Willman
May 7, 2020
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We can measure coronavirus's spread by looking at people's poop

We can measure coronavirus's spread by looking at people's poop

Many scientists are following the same rules of social isolation as everyone else. University labs around the world have closed, and we are pivoting to working from home, delivering lectures, supervising students online, and putting our research on ice for now.Other scientists have completely turned their research programs around to start contributing to the fight against COVID-19. This includes heroic efforts to develop new screens for infection, new antibody assays, and rapid new blood tests. A very different kind of project has been started in many cities, including my adopted home of...

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Lauren Sara McKee
May 4, 2020
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A new machine can translate brain activity directly into written sentences

A new machine can translate brain activity directly into written sentences

You've probably been there: wanting to text someone quickly, but your hands are busy, maybe holding the groceries or cooking.Siri, Alexa, and other virtual assistants have provided one new layer of interaction between us and our devices, but what if we could move beyond even that? This is the premise of some brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). We covered these at Massive before, and some of the and surrounding them.Using BMIs, people are able to , and control without moving a muscle. This is usually done by accessing the region of the brain responsible for a specific movement and then decoding...

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Thiago Arzua
April 15, 2020
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