Designer potatoes on the menu to boost consumption

A decline in overall potato consumption has Texas A&M AgriLife Research breeders working on “designer” spuds that meet the time constraints and unique tastes of a younger generation.Dr. Creighton Miller, AgriLife Research potato breeder from College Station, recently conducted the Texas A&M Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program field day at the farm of cooperator Bruce Barrett south of Springlake.”Potatoes are an important delivery system for nutrients to humans,” Miller said. “The average consumption in the U.S. is 113 pounds per year per person. But overall potato consumption in the U.S. has generally declined somewhat.”So what we are doing now is developing unique varieties that have a tendency to appeal to the younger set with high income who are willing to try something different,” he said. “This has contributed to an increase in consumption of these types over the russets, which are still the standard.”Miller said the objective of the Texas A&M potato breeding program is to develop improved varieties adapted specifically to Texas environmental conditions.”However, some of our varieties are widely adapted across the U.S.,” he said. “Three of them collectively represent the fifth-largest number of acres certified for seed production in the U.S., so we’ve released some successful varieties,and we are developing more all the time.”The Texas Potato Variety Development Program currently has 412 entries at the Springlake trials and 927 entries at the Dalhart trials. Additionally, the 2014 seedling selection trials at both Springlake and Dalhart include 115,408 seedlings from 634 families or crosses.One selected Best of Trial at Springlake this year is BTX2332-IR, which is a round red potato. And, he said, the traditional russet potatoes will always be a mainstay, as they are used primarily for baking and French fries. …

Read more

Breakthrough harnesses light for controlled chemical reaction

When chemist Tehshik Yoon looks out his office window, he sees a source of energy to drive chemical reactions. Plants “learned” to synthesize chemicals with sunlight eons ago; Yoon came to the field a bit more recently.But this week, in the journal Science, he and three collaborators detail a way to use sunlight and two catalysts to create molecules that are difficult to make with conventional techniques.In chemistry, heat and ultraviolet (UV) light are commonly used to drive reactions. Although light can power reactions that heat cannot, UV has disadvantages, says Yoon, a chemistry professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison. The UV often used in industry carries so much energy that “it’s dangerous to use, unselective, and prone to making unwanted by-products.”Many chemicals exist in two forms that are mirror images of each other, and Yoon is interested in reactions that make only one of those images.”It’s like your hands,” Yoon says. “They are similar, but not identical; a left-hand glove does not fit the right hand. It’s the same way with molecules in biology; many fail unless they have the correct ‘handedness,’ or ‘chirality.'”The pharmaceutical industry, in particular, is concerned about controlling chirality in drugs, but making those shapes is a hit-or-miss proposition with UV light, Yoon says.He says the new technique answers a question posed by a French chemist in 1874, who suggested using light to make products with controlled chirality. “Chemists could never do that efficiently, and so the prejudice was that it was too difficult to do.”When a graduate student asked for a challenging project seven years ago, Yoon asked him to explore powering reactions compounds with metals that are used to capture the sun’s energy in solar cells. In a solar cell, these metals release electrons to make electricity.”We are taking the electrons that these metals spin out and using their energy to promote a chemical reaction,” Yoon says.Plants do the same thing during photosynthesis, he says: absorb light, release high-energy electrons, and use those electrons to bond water and carbon dioxide into sugars. That reaction is the basis of essentially all of agriculture and all food chains.Once the solar-cell metal supplied electrons, Yoon thought about using a second catalyst to control chirality. He passed the project to Juana Du, another graduate student.”She must have synthesized 70 different catalysts,” says Yoon. …

Read more

Increasing longevity of seeds with genetic engineering

A study developed by researchers of the Institute for Plant Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMCP), a joint center of the Universitat Politcnica de Valncia and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in collaboration with the Unit for Plant Genomics Research of Evry, France (URGV, in French) has discovered a new way of improving the longevity of plant seeds using genetic engineering. Plant Physiology magazine has published the research results.The key is the overexpression of the ATHB25 gene. This gene encodes a protein that regulates gene expression, producing a new mutant that gives the seed new properties. Researchers have proven that this mutant has more gibberellin -the hormone that promotes plant growth-, which means the seed coat is reinforced as well. “The seed coat is responsible for preventing oxygen from entering the seed; the increase in gibberellin strengthens it and this leads to a more durable and longer lasting seed,” explains Eduardo Bueso, researcher at the IBMCP (UPV-CSIC).This mechanism is new, as tolerance to stresses such as aging has always been associated with another hormone, abscisic acid, which regulates defenses based on proteins and small protective molecules, instead of producing the growth of structures like gibberellin does.The study has been made on the experimental model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a species that presents great advantages for molecular biology research. Researchers of the IBMCP traced half a million seeds, related to one hundred thousand lines of Arabidopsis mutated by T-DNA insertion, using the natural system of Agrobacterium tumefaciens. “Finally, we analyzed four mutants in the study and we proved the impact on the seed longevity when the overexpression of the ATHB25 gene is introduced,” states Ramn Serrano, researcher at the IBMCP.Researchers compared the longevity of genetically modified Arabidopsis seeds and seeds which were not modified. In order to do this, they preserved them for thirty months under specific conditions of room temperature and humidity. After thirty months, only 20% of the control plants germinated again, whereas almost the all of the modified plants (90%) began the germination process again.Researchers of the IBMCP are now trying to improve the longevity of different species that are of agronomical interest, such as tomatoes or wheat.Biodiversity and benefits for farmersThis discovery is particularly significant for the conservation of biodiversity, preserving seed species and, especially, for farmers.”In the past, a lot of different plant species were cultivated, but many of them are dissapearing because high performance crops have now become a priority. Seed banks were created in order to guarantee the conservation of species, but they require a periodical regeneration of the seeds. …

Read more

Controlling zebra chip disease from the inside out

Zebra chip disease in potatoes is currently being managed by controlling the potato psyllid with insecticides. But one Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist is trying to manage the disease symptoms with alternative methods and chemistries.The disease is caused by a bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which is transmitted by the psyllid, said Dr. Ron French, AgriLife Extension plant pathologist in Amarillo.”Biological control methods can target psyllid populations in a field, but it takes a while for them to be effective, and by then the insect has already transmitted the bacterium into the plant, especially if that psyllid flew into the field. It only takes a few hours for a psyllid to acquire and transmit the bacterium from plant to plant,” French said.French is conducting his studies using alternative controls as a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture-sponsored Zebra Chip Specialty Crop Research Initiative.”We are looking at three different approaches: bactericides, plant defense response and plant nutrients,” he said. “We are trying to alleviate the disease symptoms on tubers and throughout the plant, and improve plant health so that any negative impacts the psyllid, bacterium, disease or pesticide use are having on the plant can translate into improved yields.”His efforts to control the pathogen using foliar applications of a bactericide has had good results for two years when psyllid populations in the field and the instances of zebra chip were significant, French said. A significant increase in yield, 30 percent, was recorded in potato yields.But French said the problem is the next step — getting them labeled for use on potatoes.”Bactericides for potatoes are labeled only for seed treatments, although foliar applications in the field are allowed on some tree fruits crops. If we can include bactericides in a program that can minimize insecticide use, then this could be part of an integrated disease management approach,” he said.In his approach to the plant defense response, French said he is trying to produce something like a systemic acquired resistance or induced systemic resistance response from the potato against the pathogen.”To do that, we hope to use several compounds to see if the plant can actually trigger a mechanism to defend itself from the pathogen and the psyllid as well,” he said.”We hope to be able to do laboratory studies to determine if these systemic acquired resistance compounds work, and if so, why are they working?” French said. “Year after year there are differences in the field as far as climate, disease pressure, insect pressure — so sometimes we have to go to the lab to figure out why it works one time and not another.”The third and last approach he is studying is using plant nutrients to offset the damage caused by the psyllid or the pathogen and any nutrient imbalances that result, or any phytotoxicity that might occur after applying pesticides, French said.”We are adding micro- and macro-nutrients and other fertilizers,” he said. A macro-nutrient is something the plant readily needs like nitrogen and phosphorus, and a micro-nutrient is something the plant needs in small amounts, like zinc or boron, for plant functions.”In the past two years we actually had very good results with a combination of micro- and macro-nutrients that were applied bi-weekly after flowering on the potato,” French said. …

Read more

Fossilized human feces from 14th century contain antibiotic resistance genes

A team of French investigators has discovered viruses containing genes for antibiotic resistance in a fossilized fecal sample from 14th century Belgium, long before antibiotics were used in medicine. They publish their findings ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.”This is the first paper to analyze an ancient DNA viral metagenome,” says Rebecca Vega Thurber of Oregon State University, Corvallis, who was not involved in the research.The viruses in the fecal sample are phages, which are viruses that infect bacteria, rather than infecting eukaryotic organisms such as animals, plants, and fungi. Most of the viral sequences the researchers found in the ancient coprolite (fossil fecal sample) were related to viruses currently known to infect bacteria commonly found in stools (and hence, in the human gastrointestinal tract), including both bacteria that live harmlessly, and even helpfully in the human gut, and human pathogens, says corresponding author Christelle Desnues of Aix Marseille Universit.The communities of phage within the coprolite were different, taxonomically, from communities seen within modern human fecal samples, but the functions they carry out appear to be conserved, says Desnues. That reinforces the hypothesis that the viral community plays a fundamental role within the human gastrointestinal tract, and one which remains unchanged after centuries, even while the human diet and other human conditions have been changing.Over the last five years, considerable evidence has emerged that bacteria inhabiting the gut play an important role in maintaining human health, for example, as part of the human metabolic system, says Desnues. Her own research suggests that the bacteriophage infecting the gut bacteria may help maintain these bacteria. Among the genes found in the phage are antibiotic resistance genes and genes for resistance to toxic compounds. Both toxins and antibiotics are common in nature, and Desnues suggests that the resistance genes may simply be protecting the gut bacteria from them.”Our evidence demonstrates that bacteriophages represent an ancient reservoir of resistance genes and that this dates at least as far back as the Middle Ages,” says Desnues.”We were interested in viruses because these are 100 times more abundant than human cells in our bodies, but their diversity is still largely unexplored,” says Desnues. “In the present study, we thus focused on the viral fraction of the coprolite by using, for the first time, a combination of electron microscopy, high-throughput sequencing and suicide PCR approaches.”Desnues and her collaborators are currently conducting further studies on the fungi and parasites in the coprolites, which she says will be of interest not only to microbiologists, but to historians, anthropologists, and evolutionists.The genesis of the research was an urban renewal project in the city of Namur, Belgium, in which latrines dating back to the 1300s were discovered beneath a square.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Microbiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Why does the brain remember dreams?

The reason for dreaming is still a mystery for the researchers who study the difference between “high dream recallers,” who recall dreams regularly, and “low dream recallers,” who recall dreams rarely. In January 2013 (work published in the journal Cerebral Cortex), the team led by Perrine Ruby, Inserm researcher at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, made the following two observations: “high dream recallers” have twice as many time of wakefulness during sleep as “low dream recallers” and their brains are more reactive to auditory stimuli during sleep and wakefulness. This increased brain reactivity may promote awakenings during the night, and may thus facilitate memorization of dreams during brief periods of wakefulness.In this new study, the research team sought to identify which areas of the brain differentiate high and low dream recallers. They used Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to measure the spontaneous brain activity of 41 volunteers during wakefulness and sleep. The volunteers were classified into 2 groups: 21 “high dream recallers” who recalled dreams 5.2 mornings per week in average, and 20 “low dream recallers,” who reported 2 dreams per month in average. High dream recallers, both while awake and while asleep, showed stronger spontaneous brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and in the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), an area of the brain involved in attention orienting toward external stimuli.”This may explain why high dream recallers are more reactive to environmental stimuli, awaken more during sleep, and thus better encode dreams in memory than low dream recallers. Indeed the sleeping brain is not capable of memorizing new information; it needs to awaken to be able to do that,” explains Perrine Ruby, Inserm Research Fellow.The South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms had observed in earlier studies that lesions in these two brain areas led to a cessation of dream recall. The originality of the French team’s results is to show brain activity differences between high and low dream recallers during sleep and also during wakefulness.”Our results suggest that high and low dream recallers differ in dream memorization, but do not exclude that they also differ in dream production. Indeed, it is possible that high dream recallers produce a larger amount of dreaming than low dream recallers” concludes the research team.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by INSERM (Institut national de la sant et de la recherche mdicale). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Nanomotors are controlled, for the first time, inside living cells

For the first time, a team of chemists and engineers at Penn State University have placed tiny synthetic motors inside live human cells, propelled them with ultrasonic waves and steered them magnetically. It’s not exactly “Fantastic Voyage,” but it’s close. The nanomotors, which are rocket-shaped metal particles, move around inside the cells, spinning and battering against the cell membrane.”As these nanomotors move around and bump into structures inside the cells, the live cells show internal mechanical responses that no one has seen before,” said Tom Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics at Penn State. “This research is a vivid demonstration that it may be possible to use synthetic nanomotors to study cell biology in new ways. We might be able to use nanomotors to treat cancer and other diseases by mechanically manipulating cells from the inside. Nanomotors could perform intracellular surgery and deliver drugs noninvasively to living tissues.”The researchers’ findings will be published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition on 10 February 2014. In addition to Mallouk, co-authors include Penn State researchers Wei Wang, Sixing Li, Suzanne Ahmed, and Tony Jun Huang, as well as Lamar Mair of Weinberg Medical Physics in Maryland U.S.A.Up until now, Mallouk said, nanomotors have been studied only “in vitro” in a laboratory apparatus, not in living human cells. Chemically powered nanomotors first were developed ten years ago at Penn State by a team that included chemist Ayusman Sen and physicist Vincent Crespi, in addition to Mallouk. “Our first-generation motors required toxic fuels and they would not move in biological fluid, so we couldn’t study them in human cells,” Mallouk said. “That limitation was a serious problem.” When Mallouk and French physicist Mauricio Hoyos discovered that nanomotors could be powered by ultrasonic waves, the door was open to studying the motors in living systems.For their experiments, the team uses HeLa cells, an immortal line of human cervical cancer cells that typically is used in research studies. …

Read more

Wish I could be… part of that world!

~I received product to facilitate this review of The Little Mermaid on Blu-ray/DVD. All opinions are my own!I want allllllll the Disney movies. I remember going over to my 2nd grade teacher’s house when I was a little kid (why? I have no idea), but I DO remember that she had a bookshelf FULL of Disney movies. I mean, like every one ever. And I.was.jealous. It instantly became my life goal, haha. Now with the new releases on Blu-ray and DVD (and, oh yea, it’s FOR THE KIDS, I swear), I’m starting my collection! We have a few Disney classics and some of the newer ones, too. I’m THRILLED to be reviewing the new Blu-ray The Little Mermaid!Ryan doesn’t …

Read more

Private tutoring provides little help

Sep. 12, 2013 — Around one sixth of school children in German-speaking Switzerland receive private tutoring. Mostly they seek assistance with mathematics. In contrast to the perceptions of those tutored, tutoring rarely results in any improvement in their marks. This has been demonstrated by a representative study funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).How widespread is private tuition, and does it improve marks? To answer this question, a team led by educational scientist Hans-Ulrich Grunder from the University of Basel and the School for Teacher Education FHNW conducted a survey of more than 10,000 pupils in classes 5 to 9 at schools in German-speaking Switzerland. Their marks and abilities were compared at three-month intervals.Of those surveyed, 17% received private tuition. This figure is slightly below that of other European countries. Girls were more likely to receive tutoring than boys (19% compared to 16%, with the most marked difference at the primary school level (21% compared to 17%)). The reason is that most assistance is sought for mathematics (69%). …

Read more

Brown algae reveal antioxidant production secrets

Sep. 5, 2013 — Brown algae contain phlorotannins, aromatic (phenolic) compounds that are unique in the plant kingdom. As natural antioxidants, phlorotannins are of great interest for the treatment and prevention of cancer and inflammatory, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.Researchers at the Végétaux marins et biomolécules (CNRS/UPMC) laboratory at the Station biologique de Roscoff, in collaboration with two colleagues at the Laboratoire des sciences de l’Environnement MARin (Laboratory of Marine Environment Sciences) in Brest (CNRS/UBO/IFREMER/IRD) have recently elucidated the key step in the production of these compounds in Ectocarpus siliculosus, a small brown alga model species. The study also revealed the specific mechanism of an enzyme that synthesizes phenolic compounds with commercial applications. These findings have been patented and should make it easier to produce the phlorotannins presently used as natural extracts in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. The results have also been published online on the site of the journal The Plant Cell.Until now, extracting phlorotannins from brown algae for use in industry was a complex process, and the biosynthesis pathways of these compounds were unknown. By studying the first genome sequenced from a brown alga, the team in Roscoff identified several genes homologous to those involved in phenolic compound biosynthesis in terrestrial plants (1). Among these genes, the researchers found that at least one was directly involved in the synthesis of phlorotannins in brown algae. They then inserted these genes into a bacterium, which thus produced a large quantity of the enzymes that could synthesize the desired phenolic compounds. One of these enzymes, a type III polyketide synthase (PKS III), was studied in detail and revealed how it produces phenolic compounds. …

Read more

Micro-machines for the human body: Researchers adapt microscopic technology for bionic body parts and other medical devices

Aug. 7, 2013 — Tiny sensors and motors are everywhere, telling your smartphone screen to rotate and your camera to focus. Now, a team of researchers at Tel Aviv University has found a way to print biocompatible components for these micro-machines, making them ideal for use in medical devices, like bionic arms.Microelectromechanical systems, better known as MEMS, are usually produced from silicon. The innovation of the TAU researchers — engineering doctoral candidates Leeya Engel and Jenny Shklovsky under the supervision of Prof. Yosi Shacham-Diamand of the School of Electrical Engineering and Slava Krylov of the School of Mechanical Engineering — is creating a novel micro-printing process that works a highly flexible and non-toxic organic polymer. The resulting MEMS components can be more comfortably and safely used in the human body and they expend less energy.A two-way streetAs their name suggests, MEMS bridge the worlds of electricity and mechanics. They have a variety of applications in consumer electronics, automobiles, and medicine. MEMS sensors, like the accelerometer that orients your smartphone screen vertically or horizontally, gather information from their surroundings by converting movement or chemical signals into electrical signals. MEMS actuators, which may focus your next smartphone’s camera, work in the other direction, executing commands by converting electrical signals into movement.Both types of MEMS depend on micro- and nano-sized components, such as membranes, either to measure or produce the necessary movement.For years, MEMS membranes, like other MEMS components, were primarily fabricated from silicon using a set of processes borrowed from the semiconductor industry. TAU’s new printing process, published in Microelectronic Engineering and presented at the AVS 59th International Symposium in Tampa, FL, yields rubbery, paper-thin membranes made of a particular kind of organic polymer. …

Read more

Reprogramming patients’ cells offers powerful new tool for studying, treating blood diseases

July 30, 2013 — First produced only in the past decade, human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are capable of developing into many or even all human cell types. In new research, scientists reprogrammed skin cells from patients with rare blood disorders into iPSCs, highlighting the great promise of these cells in advancing understanding of those challenging diseases — and eventually in treating them.”The technology for generating these cells has been moving very quickly,” said hematologist Mitchell J. Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., corresponding author of two recent studies led by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “These investigations can allow us to better understand at a molecular level how blood cells go wrong in individual patients — and to test and generate innovative treatments for the patients’ diseases.”Weiss, with Monica Bessler, M.D., Philip Mason, Ph.D., and Deborah L. French, Ph.D., all of CHOP, led a study on iPSCs and Diamond Blackfan anemia (DBA) published online June 6 in Blood. Another study by Weiss, French and colleagues in the same journal on April 25 focused on iPSCs in juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML).In DBA, a mutation prevents a patient’s bone marrow from producing normal quantities of red blood cells, resulting in severe, sometimes life-threatening anemia. This basic fact makes it difficult for researchers to discern the underlying mechanism of the disease: “It’s very difficult to figure out what’s wrong, because the bone marrow is nearly empty of these cells,” said Bessler, the director of CHOP’s Pediatric and Adult Comprehensive Bone Marrow Failure Center.The study team removed fibroblasts (skin cells) from DBA patients, and in cell cultures, using proteins called transcription factors, reprogrammed the cells into iPSCs. As those iPSCs were stimulated to form blood tissues, like the patient’s original mutated cells, they were deficient in producing red blood cells.However, when the researchers corrected the genetic defect that causes DBA, the iPSCs developed into red blood cells in normal quantities. “This showed that in principle, it’s possible to repair a patient’s defective cells,” said Weiss.Weiss cautioned that this proof-of-principle finding is an early step, with many further studies to be done to verify if this approach will be safe and effective in clinical use.However, he added, the patient-derived iPSCs are highly useful as a model cell system for investigating blood disorders. For instance, DBA is often puzzling, because two family members may have the same mutation, but only one may be affected by the disease. …

Read more

Antibiotic reduction campaigns do not necessarily reduce resistance

July 29, 2013 — Antibiotic use — and misuse — is the main driver for selection of antibiotic resistant bacteria. This has led many countries to implement interventions designed to reduce overall antibiotic consumption. Now, using methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as an example, Laura Temime of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris, and collaborators warn that simply reducing antibiotics consumption does not necessarily reduce resistance.The research is published online ahead of print in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.The success of antibiotic reduction programs depends on which antibiotics are reduced, because some select more strongly for resistance than others. For instance, in the case of S. aureus, reducing use of clindamycin and methicillin lead to decreased resistance, while reducing use of penicillins does not, since most S. aureus, including MRSA, are already resistant to penicillin, explains Temime.Additionally, efforts to reduce antibiotic use must be coordinated between hospitals and the community, since either can feed resistant bacteria into the other, undermining reduction efforts, says Temime.In 2002-2003, a national program reduced antibiotic use in France by 10 percent. However, it fell short of the full potential for reducing resistance because it failed to target those antibiotics that generate the most resistance, says Temime. She and her collaborators developed a mathematical model of MRSA circulation, which correctly simulated that reduction, post-facto. They then performed a number of simulations of reductions in antibiotic use, which demonstrated the complexities of reduction efforts.”We found that the reduction in MRSA hospital rates could have been much larger than it actually was following the 2002 antibiotic reduction campaign,” says Temime. “Our results also suggest that changes in the distribution of antibiotics prescribed for non-hospitalized patients actually limited the impact of the antibiotic reduction campaign in French hospitals.”Their research shows that class-specific changes in antibiotic use, rather than overall reductions, need to be considered in order to achieve the greatest benefit from antibiotic reduction campaigns, says Temime. …

Read more

Climate threatens food security of Pacific islands

July 22, 2013 — Isolated in the middle of the ocean, Pacific islands rely closely on fishing for their economy and food security. But global warming could considerably reduce their accessible fish resources over the coming decades. This is what has been revealed in the journal Nature Climate Change, a study by the IRD, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and their French, Australian and American partners. According to IPCC climate forecasts, the quantity of coral reef fish, essential for the inhabitants’ food, could drop by 20% by 2050.Tuna fleeing eastwardsThe scientists studied the response of the fish biomass to climate change in the Pacific, according to the forecasts of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC). Fishing for skipjack in particular, a fish in the tuna family making up 90% of catches, will be seriously affected. According to the models, the rise in surface water temperature, greater in the western ocean, will lead to the migration of tuna towards eastern Polynesia. Thus, catchment areas will move away from the Melanesian coast, the Salomon islands or Papua New Guinea. The exodus of tuna from the territorial waters of these countries will be a significant economic loss. Fishing rights paid by major international fisheries are an important source of revenue for these small insular Nations.Coral ecosystems threatenedAlong the coasts, the availability of coral fish is also under threat. Forecast ocean warming will increase coral bleaching leading to the death of numerous reefs. …

Read more

Singing helps students tune into a foreign language

July 18, 2013 — Singing in a foreign language can significantly improve learning how to speak it, according to a new study published in Springer’s journal Memory & Cognition. Adults who listened to short Hungarian phrases and then sang them back performed better than those who spoke the phrases, researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music found. People who sang the phrases back also fared better than those who repeated the phrases by speaking them rhythmically.Share This:Three randomly assigned groups of twenty adults took part in a series of five tests. The singing group performed the best in four of the five tests.In one test, participants who learned through singing performed twice as well as participants who learned by speaking the phrases. Those who learned by singing were also able to recall the Hungarian phrases with greater accuracy in the longer term.Hungarian was chosen because it is unfamiliar to most English speakers and a difficult language to master, with a completely different structure and sound system to the Germanic or Romance languages, such as Spanish and French.Dr Karen M. Ludke, who conducted the research as part of her PhD at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, said: “This study provides the first experimental evidence that a listen-and-repeat singing method can support foreign language learning, and opens the door for future research in this area. One question is whether melody could provide an extra cue to jog people’s memory, helping them recall foreign words and phrases more easily.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media, via AlphaGalileo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Journal Reference:Karen M. …

Read more

Taste rules for kids and healthy food choices

July 16, 2013 — Sweet and salty flavors, repeat exposure, serving size and parental behavior are the key drivers in children’s food choices, according to a July 15 panel discussion at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo® held at McCormick Place.A standing-room only crowd of more than 200 conference attendees heard new insights into how children choose the foods they eat, what their eating behaviors are and how the industry and parents can give children access to healthy food environments that shape those food choices.”Children’s decision making has few dimensions,” explained Dr. Adam Drewnowski (CQ), director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition and professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle. Not surprisingly, children lean toward sweets like cookies, chocolate, fruits and juices as well as salty foods that make them feel full like French fries and pizza. But environment, peer groups, family, and exposure to a variety of menu items play a key role in children’s food choices.”Kids are not as complicated as adults and are not making food choices based on health,” said Dr. Jennifer Orlet Fisher, an associate professor of public health at Temple University, Philadelphia. “Preference trumps all. Children eat what they like and leave the rest.”In her studies, she found children like fat and sugar and somewhat surprisingly, fruit is at the top of the list of food choices, followed by starches, meat and eggs, dairy and vegetables. She said it’s not surprising kids like candy and cake over peas and carrots.”Children do not naturally like healthy foods. They need to learn to like those healthy foods,” Fisher said. “They also like what they know.”Repeat exposure creates a food familiarity that also drives food choices for children, which explains why many children repeatedly choose chicken nuggets and cheese, as she found in a study of preschoolers. …

Read more

Cloud brightening to cool seas can protect coral reefs: Targeted cooling could offer a 50-year ‘breathing space’ for coral protection

July 10, 2013 — The seeding of marine clouds to cool sea surface temperatures could protect threatened coral reefs from being bleached by warming oceans. Research, published in Atmospheric Science Letters, proposes that a targeted version of the geo-engineering technique could give coral a fifty year ‘breathing space’ to recover from acidification and warming.”Coral bleaching over the last few decades has been caused by rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification,” said Dr Alan Gadian, from Leeds University. “Our research focuses on how Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) could quickly lower sea temperatures in targeted areas.”There is a strong association between warmer-than-normal sea conditions and cases of coral bleaching. Bleaching is most likely to occur when a 1˚C temperature rise over a prolonged period, typically a 12-week period.To brighten clouds unmanned vehicles are used to spray tiny seawater droplets, which rise into the cloud, thereby increasing their reflectivity and duration. In this way, more sunlight is bounced back into space, resulting in a cooling sea surface temperature.While MCB was originally envisaged to be a global counter measure against warming, in principle the technique could be more targeted. In 2012 Dr. Gadian wrote how the use of MCB in the Atlantic could tame hurricanes.The new modeling study focuses the impact of seeding marine stratocumulus clouds over the Caribbean, French Polynesia, and the Great Barrier Reef. The study shows how the projected increases in coral bleaching, caused by rising CO2 levels, were eliminated while sea surface temperature cooled to pre-warming levels.Mild and severe coral bleaching events were projected over a 20-year period for the three target regions. Without MCB the amount of coral bleaching was seen to be severe; however, simultaneous deployment of MCB eliminated the risk of extra bleaching.”We estimate that MCB would have an annual cost of $400 million, however political, social and ethical costs make a true figure difficult to estimate, said Gadian. “Whatever the final figure, it will be less expensive than the damage the destruction of coral would wreck on neighboring countries, the local food chain and global biodiversity.”Public and political skepticism of geo-engineering projects remains a hurdle to their development; however, as the least disruptive form of Solar Radiation Management, the authors believe small-scale use of MCB for conservation would be unlikely to generate public opposition.The authors propose field-testing of MCB on a scale of 100 square metres, which could demonstrate its use, without producing significant climate effects. …

Read more

Finding Murray’s magic: Ability to manage goals makes an athlete successful

June 24, 2013 — Research suggests that it is Andy Murray’s ability to manage his goals, as well as his skill, determination and motivation that makes him such a successful athlete. Murray dropped out of the French Open after a back injury this year, missing out on his goal of playing in four grand slam finals in a row. But this decision has allowed him to recuperate in time for Wimbledon this month. According to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), athletes who recognise early when a goal is unattainable and switch their focus to other objectives are the most successful at achieving their main career goals.The researchers, from the universities of Birmingham and Southampton, found that the reasons why a person is motivated to achieve tough sporting goals influence how well that person does in pursuing these goals. A person who is motivated by the enjoyment or personal importance of a goal will strive harder and for longer and will be more successful in achieving an increasingly difficult goal, compared to someone motivated by external pressure or feelings of guilt.But when the goal becomes so difficult that it is unattainable, people who are self-motivated find it harder to stop striving for their goal. This persistence can cause psychological distress. However the research identified that when athletes with high self-motivation recognised early when a goal was impossible they were able to quickly disengage from the goal and then re-engage with challenging, new targets that were also compatible with their overall objectives. This group of athletes made the most progress toward achieving their central goal.“Our experiments showed the importance of a person realising early enough when it was better to continue striving for a goal or when it was best to let go and adopt another similar goal,” said Professor Nikos Ntoumanis, an exercise and sport psychologist from the University of Birmingham. “Our research also showed that the reasons behind a sportsperson’s goal are important to know, not just the actual goal.”This research goes a step further than the existing body of knowledge on the role of goal-setting in sport by examining the impact of different types of motivation in the face of tough goals. The researchers carried out two sophisticated experiments that asked over 180 athletes to complete a range of cycling tests. …

Read more

An ‘extinct’ frog makes a comeback in Israel

June 4, 2013 — The first amphibian to have been officially declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been rediscovered in the north of Israel after some 60 years and turns out to be a unique “living fossil,” without close relatives among other living frogs.The Hula painted frog was catalogued within the Discoglossus group when it was first discovered in the Hula Valley of Israel in the early 1940s. The frog was thought to have disappeared following the drying up of the Hula Lake at the end of the 1950s, and was declared extinct by the IUCN in 1996. As a result, the opportunity to discover more about this species’ history, biology and ecology was thought to have disappeared.However, a team of Israeli, German and French researchers now report in the scientific journal Nature Communications on an in-depth scientific analysis of this enigmatic amphibian.Based on new genetic analyses of rediscovered individuals and the morphologic analyses of extant and fossil bones, the conclusion is that the Hula frog differs strongly from its other living relatives, the painted frogs from northern and western Africa. Instead, the Hula frog is related to a genus of fossil frogs, Latonia, which were found over much of Europe dating back to prehistoric periods and has been considered extinct for about a million years,The results imply that the Hula painted frog is not merely another rare species of frog, but is actually the sole representative of an ancient clade of frogs (a group with a single common ancestor).Plans to reflood parts of the Hula Valley and restore the original swamp habitat are in place, which may allow expansion in population size and a secure future for the Hula painted frog.

Read more

New biomolecular archaeological evidence points to the beginnings of viniculture in France

June 3, 2013 — France is renowned the world over as a leader in the crafts of viticulture and winemaking — but the beginnings of French viniculture have been largely unknown, until now.Imported ancient Etruscan amphoras and a limestone press platform, discovered at the ancient port site of Lattara in southern France, have provided the earliest known biomolecular archaeological evidence of grape wine and winemaking — and point to the beginnings of a Celtic or Gallic vinicultural industry in France circa 500-400 BCE. Details of the discovery are published as “The Beginning of Viniculture in France” in the June 3, 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Dr. Patrick McGovern, Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton University Press, 2006) is the lead author on the paper, which was researched and written in collaboration with colleagues from France and the United States.For Dr. McGovern, much of whose career has been spent examining the archaeological data, developing the chemical analyses, and following the trail of the Eurasian grapevine (Vitis vinifera) in the wild and its domestication by humans, this confirmation of the earliest evidence of viniculture in France is a key step in understanding the ongoing development of what he calls the “wine culture” of the world — one that began in the Turkey’s Taurus Mountains, the Caucasus Mountains, and/or the Zagros Mountains of Iran about 9,000 years ago.”France’s rise to world prominence in the wine culture has been well documented, especially since the 12th century, when the Cistercian monks determined by trial-and-error that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were the best cultivars to grow in Burgundy,” Dr. McGovern noted. “What we haven’t had is clear chemical evidence, combined with botanical and archaeological data, showing how wine was introduced into France and initiated a native industry.”Now we know that the ancient Etruscans lured the Gauls into the Mediterranean wine culture by importing wine into southern France. This built up a demand that could only be met by establishing a native industry, likely done by transplanting the domesticated vine from Italy, and enlisting the requisite winemaking expertise from the Etruscans.”Combined Archaeological, Chemical, and Archaeobotanical Evidence Corroborate DiscoveryAt the site of Lattara, merchant quarters inside a walled settlement, circa 525-475 BCE, held numerous Etruscan amphoras, three of which were selected for analysis because they were whole, unwashed, found in an undisturbed, sealed context, and showed signs of residue on their interior bases where precipitates of liquids, such as wine, collect. Judging by their shape and other features, they could be assigned to a specific Etruscan amphora type, likely manufactured at the city of Cisra (modern Cerveteri) in central Italy during the same time period.After sample extraction, ancient organic compounds were identified by a combination of state-of-the-art chemical techniques, including infrared spectrometry, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, solid phase microextraction, ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, and one of the most sensitive techniques now available, used here for the first time to analyze ancient wine and grape samples, liquid chromatography-Orbitrap mass spectrometry.All the samples were positive for tartaric acid/tartrate (the biomarker or fingerprint compound for the Eurasian grape and wine in the Middle East and Mediterranean), as well as compounds deriving from pine tree resin. Herbal additives to the wine were also identified, including rosemary, basil and/or thyme, which are native to central Italy where the wine was likely made. …

Read more

Utilizzando il sito, accetti l'utilizzo dei cookie da parte nostra. maggiori informazioni

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close