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Here’s what we are reading today:

“The last thing you’d expect to see out your airplane window is a bumblebee cruising by. But a new study suggests that the insects might be capable of such high-altitude jaunts. Researchers trapped six male bumblebees (pictured) living at an altitude of 3250 meters in Sichuan, China, and placed them, one at a time, in a plexiglass flight chamber.”

“Nine years after an accident caused the loss of his left hand, Dennis Aabo Sørensen from Denmark became the first amputee in the world to feel – in real-time – with a sensory-enhanced prosthetic hand that was surgically wired to nerves in his upper arm. Silvestro Micera and his team at EPFL (Switzerland) and SSSA (Italy) developed the revolutionary sensory feedback that allowed Sørensen to feel again while handling objects. A prototype of this bionic technology was tested in February 2013 during a clinical trial in Rome under the supervision of Paolo Maria Rossini at Gemelli Hospital (Italy). The study is published in the February 5, 2014 edition of Science Translational Medicine, and represents a collaboration called Lifehand 2 between several European universities and hospitals.”

“”Our study shows that within three minutes of meeting in real life, women find more dominant, wider-faced men attractive for short-term relationships, and want to go on another date with them,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Katherine Valentine of Singapore Management University.

According to Valentine, there’s considerable academic debate about whether physical dominance is advantageous in mating – that is, actually attractive to women. At the same time, researchers have been exploring facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) as a possible physical indicator of male dominance.”

“Rather, the memory rewrites the past with current information, updating your recollections with new experiences.

Love at first sight, for example, is more likely a trick of your memory than a Hollywood-worthy moment.

“When you think back to when you met your current partner, you may recall this feeling of love and euphoria,” said lead author Donna Jo Bridge, a postdoctoral fellow in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “But you may be projecting your current feelings back to the original”

“According to Yerkes researchers Larry Young, PhD, and Bill Hopkins, PhD, co-authors of the study, receptive joint attention is important for developing complex cognitive processes, including language and theory of mind, and poor joint attention abilities may be a core feature in children with or at risk of developing ASD.”

“Video gaming is a highly pervasive activity, providing a multitude of complex cognitive and motor demands. Gaming can be seen as an intense training of several skills. Associated cerebral structural plasticity induced has not been investigated so far”

“The Black Death didn’t just wipe out millions of Europeans during the 14th century. It left a mark on the human genome, favoring those who carried certain immune system genes, according to a new study. Those changes may help explain why Europeans respond differently from other people to some diseases and have different susceptibilities to autoimmune disorders.

Geneticists know that human populations evolve in the face of disease. Certain versions of our genes help us fight infections better than others, and people who carry those genes tend to have more children than those who don’t. So the beneficial genetic versions persist, while other versions tend to disappear as those carrying them die. This weeding-out of all but the best genes is called positive selection. But researchers have trouble pinpointing positively selected genes in humans, as many genes vary from one individual to the next.”


wesleychoy · February 5, 2014 at 11:47 pm

I found the article about wider-faced dates particularly interesting because there seems to be an exact contrast for perceived attractiveness between male and females. I remember in freshmen year I wrote a research paper about plastic surgery and how it was very popular in Korea for jaw and chin augmentation to achieve almost a “V” shaped jaw. The fWHR (face-width-to-height-ratio) provided a contrast for attractiveness showing how wider faces would be considered more attractive to women. Learning about the ratio, it actually makes sense since the “Superman Jaw” or strong jawline has always been a highly desirable trait in males.

jgabovich · February 8, 2014 at 3:06 pm

I haven’t yet found a positive argument for video-gaming until I came across this one, which I found interesting. While the researchers make a good case that playing video games improves certain functions of the brain I find it hard to believe that these improved functions can be applied to many things outside of playing video games. I imagine that the motor skills that are improved by participating in video games can be used in things only similar to pressing buttons on a controller. Additionally, they may help in certain ways but hurt in many more ways. Video games limit creativity and create a virtual world where many things such as violence are permitted.

jgabovich · February 8, 2014 at 3:25 pm

As technology progresses it seizes to amaze me. In my mind, some questions arise about this process. How is the unnatural limb attached to the rest of the arm and how stable is it? Another question I had while reading the article was if the prosthetic was sensory, could it also perceive pain the way natural hands do? If for a example a finger broke on the prosthetic would it produce the same sensation of pain as a real finger would? I believe this technology will progress further and soon it won’t even look like an electronic hand. Limbs will be able to be replaced at considerable ease (compared to before). With all these strides in technology it also makes me wonder why things like cancer have not been cured.

Ali G · February 8, 2014 at 4:31 pm

The bionic hand article made me really think about what could potentially be available for humanity in the future! The fact that this man actually felt things again for a limited time really stood out to me. It was also interesting to see the steps that the people took to make sure they followed all the protocols. The patient was not coerced, in fact, he stated that he wanted to do this experiment to help other amputees. They also spoke about taking the electrodes off of his peripheral nerves again just to make sure that everything would be okay and not cause long term damage, even though they wanted to leave them on longer, but I am sure that they would have risked not getting published had they kept the electrodes on his nerves, which would add potential risk factors. As I read these articles, my fascination for what we will accomplish in the future intrigues me more and more.

Ali G · February 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm

I am not sure if I agree or disagree with the wide face beauty article. It is a very interesting concept but there are too many factors that determine if two people are compatible and correlation does not equal causation. I feel if the article had a graph that represented their data, then there would be stronger support. On the other hand it would make sense that wider faces are probably correlated with more testosterone, which is more preferential for natural selection. But that concept confuses me because if these men are not people the women want to spend their lives with then how does the fitness of these men actually increase by having a wider face? In my opinion, this area of research needs to address this problem in order for its idea on physical dominance and mating advantage to be accurate.

jnlui · February 9, 2014 at 10:51 pm

The article relating to the brains memory and its ability to correctly capture a moment is a very interesting topic. The experiment that was conducted sounds very trivial, like a game of “spot” the difference. But through this experiment, it clearly does show that the brain does distort our memories. From this when relating it to life I completely agree. For example, when things are good and well, we as people are happy, and therefore find everything about the situation or person to be perfect. But once things start to turn sour, or the situation has changed we begin to see all the flaws and negativeness. In actuality, these situation where probably never that great, but also not as bad as it seemed when one is at the low point.

Alexandra Grundler · February 10, 2014 at 12:25 am

I find the “Wider-faced dates” article particularly amusing. Firstly, it is fascinating that testosterone has anything to do with face width. Without scientific research, someone would not have speculated that as opposed to estrogen and fertility correlating to wide hips. The female body’s ability to perceive the estrogen and act accordingly is also interesting. It definitely makes me wonder if the face width has anything to do with the perception. It is easy to confuse causation with correlation. I guess I am also just trying to determine if the researchers are saying that the wider faces make the men more attractive or that the more attractive men happen to have wider faces. How our cognition analyzes testosterone is extremely fascinating. It strikes me as a little peculiar that we would discern between long and short term relationships. When choosing to see a wider-faced man again, the implication is that the woman knows the relationship will inevitably end. Is it hopeless romantic idealism to think that you should not go into a relationship knowing (or at least betting) that it will fail? I think not.

BonnieBurns · February 10, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Reading the article about Bumblebees flying at extremely high altitudes greatly surprised me. Whenever flying in an airplane I do not recall seeing any insects or bugs capable of flying at the same altitude as the plane. Perhaps overtime bees have evolved to be able to fly at higher and higher altitudes as humans have overtaken much of the lower elevation habitats they once lived in. It would be interesting to somehow observe whether or not bees actually fly at the high elevation they were tested at. While bees may be capable of this, there must be another reason why we don’t just see bees flying around while we are in an airplane? It seems highly specialized that the bees are able to adapt their wing motion to compensate for the high altitudes.

Kelly Kreulen · February 10, 2014 at 4:31 pm

The article about the man with the sensory capabilities in his prosthetic left arm was amazing. I can’t help but think if technology has advanced to this point, whats next. If they can have fully functioning prosthetic limbs what about prosthetic organ or even so far as a prosthetic brain!!

Kelly Kreulen · February 10, 2014 at 5:14 pm

I agree with the scientists speculation about the genes increasing immune function being a mechanism of positive selection. Being a biology major, I have taken several evolution and genetics classes. There are extreme amounts of evidence of gene mutation because bacteria and viruses evolve to best survive in their environments. Different strains of viruses evolve at rapid rates, with influenza being one of the most well-known. If these viruses and bacteria can evolve at such rapid rates, it is perfectly logical that the human genome must evolve to counteract their progression.

eilamarinero · February 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Wider-faced dates more attractive as short-term mates-
This article sparked my interest because of its significance. I am not quite sure what the motivation of the study was because it seems quite shallow. I mean what does anyone really gain from this article? The article mentions that their findings have been linked with perceived dominance and mating, but if women found these wide faced men as only being good for short term relationships it doesn’t apply to reproduction. The article ends with “The fact that women wanted to see these men again suggests that our findings are robust – women aren’t just saying they are interested, they’re actually willing to be contacted by these men,” – Valentine
He seems astonished by this even though the experiment consisted of speed dating. If the subjects were participating in speed dating then one would figure that they were interested on going on an actual date so they could spend more than three minutes getting to know each other.

eilamarinero · February 10, 2014 at 6:02 pm

In addition the study consisted of only 150 participants, which is not a big enough sample size to make such claims.

Luke Simon · February 12, 2014 at 9:40 pm

It is hard to believe that playing video games actually can benefit your brain. I play video games now and then, and it feels like more of a waste of time than an advantageous strategy to increase gray matter in my hippocampus. Better start playing video games more often!

kdouglas · February 16, 2014 at 7:19 pm

I completely agree with the article about memory. I consider myself to have a good memory, but I may be wrong. Memory is influenced by so many factors: pictures, stories and time itself. The things that one person thinks they remember clearly change significantly over time. It would not surprise me if the memories that I believe are strongest in my mind have been reprocessed and changed, possibly several times. The article on memory did not mention the influence of infantile amnesia, but that is a huge issue as well. People who say that they remember their second birthday would not because the part of the brain that stores those memories would not have been developed at that time. I used to proclaim that I remembered exactly where I was, what I was doing, and what I was wearing on days that seemed to have little significance in my life, but those memories could have been confabulated or rearranged by mental processes.

tabithaahearn · February 28, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I found the article “bumble bees are surprising” interesting, because I for one, have never seen a bumble bee and would not expect to see them at such high altitudes. What I found most interesting though, was that the bees did not change the rate at which they were beating their wings. Rather, they widened the range of motion of their wings to compensate for the lack of air pressure. I wonder what other insects could survive at this altitude. I found an interesting article written about a new tool for measuring high-altitude insect migration which I found expanded a bit on this topic. The link for the article is:

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