Latest research news

November 9, 2005

Women 'easily pleased'
Women are more likely than men to enjoy a good joke because they are expecting less from the punch-line, according to a study published today. Professor Allan Reiss and colleagues at Stanford University, California, scanned the brains of 10 men and 10 women as they watched cartoons. While both groups largely found the same cartoons to be funny and displayed similar neurological responses, the women used the part of the brain that processes rewards more than the men did.
The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian

Drug ads slammed for being sadly misleading
Can depression be explained by a simple chemical imbalance in the brain? A pair of researchers has complained that the evidence for this is weak, and that drug companies should not be allowed to push this message in their advertisements. After being bombarded by messages that depression is caused by the lack of a certain chemical in the brain, say the researchers, patients may be sceptical of other kinds of treatment, including other drugs and talking to a therapist.

Common drug cures learning disability
A cure for one of the most common forms of learning disability may be on the horizon, US researchers have revealed. They reversed the condition in adult mice born with it, curing their learning disabilities by using a commonly prescribed drug. The researchers say the technique could potentially lead to treatments for other learning disabilities. Neurofibromatosis type I (NF1) is a condition caused by a single gene defect that affects more than 1 in 3000 people. The defect is either inherited or caused by a spontaneous mutation, which can then be inherited.
New Scientist

Penguins show how climate change speeds up evolution
A colony of penguins that has bred at the same site in Antarctica for thousands of years has provided scientists with a rare insight into how a change in the climate can speed up the course of evolution. Researchers analysed ancient fragments of DNA from the remains of penguins that have been buried at the site for up to 6,000 years and compared them to the DNA of living members of the same colony. The comparison has offered a snapshot of small-scale evolutionary changes to the genetic sequence of the penguins' DNA that have occurred without any obvious changes to the appearance or behaviour of the birds.
The Independent

Top Scots universities join forces for £24m research opportunity
Two of Edinburgh's top universities have teamed up for a £24 million initiative to share research facilities and develop a joint postgraduate school of engineering and mathematics. Edinburgh University and Heriot-Watt University have launched the Edinburgh Research Partnership to enable postgraduate students to collaborate on a range of scientific projects. Up to 20 new jobs - including ten professor positions - will be created by the link-up, which is being funded by the universities and the Scottish Executive.
The Scotsman

Hormones help women steer clear of accidents
Sex hormones could be helping women suffer fewer car accidents than men. Female drivers benefit from lower car insurance premiums because statistics show they are less likely to be involved in an accident. Scientists have claimed the reason is a difference between the way the brains of the two sexes work. Researchers at the University of Bradford found that women are significantly better than men at shifting concentration. This is not the same as the well-known female ability of multi-tasking, which involves dealing with more than one job at the same time.
The Scotsman

Hospital superbugs 'may be history by 2015'
Hospital superbugs could be all but wiped out in ten years by viruses that are harmless to humans, say Scottish scientists. Dr Mike Mattey and a team of researchers at Strathclyde University have come up with a new method of tackling bugs such as the killer MRSA that does not involve using antibiotics. They have patented a technique to allow bacteriophages - viruses which are the natural enemy of bacteria - to be used in normal cleaning products. The viruses can lie dormant for weeks, only waking up to devour the MRSA when it arrives.
The Scotsman

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