Latest research news

July 6, 2005

French and British launch neuroscience venture

A group of British and French academics have signed an agreement with potentially far-reaching consequences for brain research. The academic entente cordiale has been signed by University College London with the Ecole Normale Supérieure, one of the prestigious French grands écoles, and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, known as Paris VI, also among the top 30 research universities in the world. Their ambition is to create a tri-polar centre of world excellence in neuroscience, to rival the dominance of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Guardian


Caution remains over stem cells despite breakthrough

News that a South Korean group has for the first time created human embryonic stem cells tailored to individual patients should be increasing pressure on pharmaceutical companies to scale up its involvement in this ethically problematic field. But firms are remaining resistant to the promises of stem cells. "From a scientific perspective, this is tremendously exciting to the stem-cell community," says John McNeish, Head of Genetic Technologies at Pfizer Global Research and Development. "Yet many advances will be needed to make this more widely accepted in industrial settings," he says.



Women have lower pain barrier, study shows

A woman’s ability to get in touch with her emotions is a severe handicap when it comes to dealing with pain. Research suggests that women complain loudest and longest when they are in pain. But a study at the University of Bath says that they have more to complain about than men, who suffer pain less often and in fewer places. The study, which involved volunteers taking part in painful tasks until they could no longer stand the agony, found that women have a lower pain threshold and tolerance levels. Dr Ed Keogh said men may take a more physical approach to pain, meaning that they think about what they can do to deal with it.

The Times, The Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman


Watching TV harms kids’ academic success

Too much time in front of the TV reduces children’s learning abilities, academic achievement, and even the likelihood of their graduating from university, suggest three new studies. But it may be the quality, not quantity, of the programmes that really matters. Decades of studies have linked childhood hours in front of the TV with aggressive behaviour, earlier sexual activity, smoking, obesity, and poor school performance. The research has lead the American Academy of Pediatrics to suggest children watch no more than two hours of TV per day and that children under two years old watch none at all.

New Scientist, The Times, The Scotsman


Footprints challenge theories

British scientists claimed they have unearthed 40,000 year-old human footprints in central Mexico which shatter previous theories on how humans first colonised the Americas . Dr Silvia Gonzalez, from Liverpool John Moores University , who led the team of researchers, said the findings were "the tip of the iceberg" and would help rewrite the history books. She said the discovery, near to the city of Puebla , 130 km southeast of Mexico City , challenges the traditionally held view that settlers first crossed the Bering Straits, from Russia to Alaska , at the end of the last ice age around 11,500 to 11,000 years ago.

The Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Nature, The Scotsman


Breast may not be best after all, says professor

For decades women have been encouraged to breast-feed their babies and told that formula milk is not as healthy. But now this orthodoxy is being challenged by a study that claims “breast is best” campaigns risk doing more harm than good. In a report published today, Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent , criticises the “breast-feeding zealots” who have politicised the issue and turned it into a moral crusade. As a result, he says, women who bottle feed have been made to feel like second-rate parents.

The Times


Bend, dig, rake...

Getting out into the garden is a favourite occupation of the British during the summer. But did you know that gardening is so good for you that it can be a substitute for going to the gym? Researchers at the University of Loughborough say that pruning, weeding and tending to lawns and flower beds will work your mind and body in a similar way to a tough yoga session. In a three-year study conducted with the therapeutic horticultural society Thrive, scientists found that gardening had a positive effect on the physical and emotional health of people with depression or other health problems. Not only did regular gardeners become fitter, says Dr Jo Aldridge, but they also had more time for self-reflection and relaxation, thereby boosting their mood.

The Daily Telegraph


Dolphins name each other so they can 'shout' for help

Dolphins have developed "names" for each other so they can keep in touch in case they get into trouble while swimming in deep water, according to new research. Academics at St Andrews University's sea mammal unit used sophisticated listening devices to record sounds made by dolphins and then tested these out by playing them back to the animals. They discovered that dolphins use "recognition signals" which are "almost as versatile as human names", according to biologist Dr Vincent Janik, a lecturer at the university.

The Scotsman

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