RAGE AGAINST THE VACCINES

VACCINES, AMONG URBAN LEGENDS AND COLLECTIVE PSYCHOSIS by Alessandro Zancla, MD   An anti-vaccination philosophy has spread for long among people, supported by blogs and websites that have taken advantage of people’s fears and susceptibility. As a consequence of this, we may risk destroying the progress reached in more than two hundred years of scientific research. This anti-vaccination attitude thrives thanks to general disinformation, a false sense of safety against infectious diseases and lack of historical memory, and it is starting to produce its results: in some areas of developed countries vaccine coverage levels risk being insufficient to guarantee adequate protection. Maybe we forgot too quickly that not many years ago diseases such as Diphtheria, Poliomyelitis, Pertussis and Rubella were a daily hazard, and so were the deaths they would cause and the serious consequences they would leave in the survivors (mainly children). Perhaps we physicians have some responsibility in this too. We evidently failed to reassure and inform the public proficiently, but believe me when I say it is terribly hard to speak convincingly against fears and persuasions that are stuck in the deepest irrational psychological sphere of mankind, especially when people are not willing to get informed. Sometimes a doctor proposing a vaccination is treated like a salesman you quickly want to get rid of. Trust me, it is not nice at all. When a doctor proposes a vaccine to a patient he only does so because he believes that it is useful and that the risks-to-benefits ratio is favorable to the vaccination, otherwise he would not.   I think it is time to clear a few...
Our extinct ancient relatives, Neanderthals, are more developed than previously thought

Our extinct ancient relatives, Neanderthals, are more developed than previously thought

By Simona Giunta, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Rockefeller University   Human ancestors, Homo neanderthalensis, who lived about 100,00 years ago, were able to self-medicate, showing knowledge of medicinal plants and their pain-relieveing and curative properties. A new study published yesterday in the journal Nature, discovered new evidence using DNA extracted from a tooth plaque. It contained traces of the naturally-occuring antibiotic, penicillin found in the penicillium fungus, and of bark roots and leaves containing salicylic acid, active ingredient in aspirin and other pain-killer. Because DNA from the same individual also reveled presence of a diarrhoea-causing pathogen and of dental abscess, scientists suggest that he may have been self-medicating to address these health issues.   Thanks to advancing in sequencing technologies, the study shows comprehensive sequencing of the neanderthal man DNA and its microbiome, portraying a novel view of Neanderthals and the society human ancestors lived in many thousands of years ago as more advanced than previously thought.     Source publication: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature21674.html#affil-auth   Please follow and like...
NASA announces 7 new planets in the universe, 3 of which in habitable zones

NASA announces 7 new planets in the universe, 3 of which in habitable zones

By Chiara Bertipaglia, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University and KnowScience editor On Wednesday 22nd February NASA announced the discovery of 7 rocky planets just 39 light years (235 trillion miles) away from the Earth. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature, is fruit of collaboration between astronomers at the University of Liege in Belgium and NASA’s laboratories at Caltech in California. These 7 exoplanets (planets beyond our solar system) appear to be rocky and are part of the TRAPPIST-1 system, meaning they all orbit around the same star called TRAPPIST-1. The TRAPPIST-1 system was discovered just a year ago by the Transiting Planets and Planetesimal Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile reporting, at the time, only 2 planets around the star. TRAPPIST-1 is an ultracool dwarf, a type of star emitting infrared light, impossible to see by naked eye. It is 10 times smaller than the sun and much dimmer and colder since it produces nearly a thousand times less radiation.  It was therefore an ideal candidate to be studied by the infrared space telescope Spitzer, which was launched in space in the Summer of 2003 to explore the corners of the universe that are inaccessible to normal optical telescopes. To properly record the light emitted by TRAPPIST-1, Spitzer had to be modified directly “in space” by astronauts, said Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC, during the press conference of last Wednesday. It was worth it, since the new modifications allowed to record the presence of 5 more planets. The 7 planets appear to orbit relatively close to the star, 20-200 times closer than the...
Undermining science damages society: Scientists unite against the latest political changes

Undermining science damages society: Scientists unite against the latest political changes

Know Science is a non-profit organization that was born with the mission to share science and the latest scientific discoveries with the taxpayers that finance the research: YOU. A week after the Trump administration took office, the scientific community has already begun fearing for its operational independence, its freedom in communicating scientific findings to the public and, ultimately, in the ability for the US to continue being a leader in science and biotech. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), the HHS (Department of Health and Human Services), the Department of Transportation and the National Park Service were told to stop any form of communication to the media and the general public regarding their research results. Publication in scientific journals would still be allowed, but photographs, press releases, blogs or social media posts are forbidden, at least until the content has been vetted by the political appointees (aka, the Trump administration’s transition team). Which raises the question, should politics control the press in such a radical way? And, when it comes to science and facts-based evidence, withholding information from the public sounds even more radical. If this is not enough to alarm you, it also seems that EPA contracts approvals have been frozen and new funds for research withheld. It’s not only access to information that is being oppressed – it’s access to resources too. EPA is the agency that writes and enforces rules aimed at protecting the environment: it regulates and controls matters like emissions from vehicles, the chemical composition of drinking water, or the safe disposal of hazardous wastes. Significant cuts in...
Let’s Talk About Sex….The Science Of It

Let’s Talk About Sex….The Science Of It

By Charlotte Wincott, Ph.D. Most researchers agree that drug addiction is a disease of the brain that occurs as the result of environmental factors and genetic predisposition. However, there is no general consensus on whether sex addiction should be perceived in the same way as heroin or cocaine addiction. Researchers and clinicians alike have been struggling for years to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction with some success. On the other hand, questions about sex-related behaviors are answered in hushed tones at the end of scientific talks on drug addiction. Why are we as a society so afraid to talk about sex addiction when so many individuals suffer from its consequences? Perhaps similar efforts should be made to understand the behaviors associated with sex addiction, which may be driven by some of the same brain circuits that control drug-related behaviors.  The pleasant feelings that are experienced by users of cocaine, for instance, are produced by activity in our brain’s reward center. This brain region is called the nucleus accumbens. Our brains are extremely complicated but, to make it simple, the nucleus accumbens receives information in the form of a molecule called dopamine. Dopamine allows us to learn that something is pleasurable. When the nucleus accumbens receives dopamine signals, it tells other brain regions what to do in order to get more of the drug or whatever it was that caused the pleasant feeling. Rats, like humans, also have this reward center which undergoes changes when animals eat sugar;1 sexual behavior is also driven by some of the same molecules and brain structures. Scientists at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine showed that when rats have sex or are presented with sex-related cues, dopamine messages are sent to the nucleus...
Timing is Everything –  How Your Brain Stores Memories

Timing is Everything – How Your Brain Stores Memories

“I am hopelessly in love with a memory. An echo from another time, another place.” ―Michel Foucault Humans are obsessed with memory. There are references to memory and how we remember things throughout history—in film, music, art, science, and philosophy. Humans have a wistful affection for the past and we often spend time replaying vignettes from our lives. Philosophers and scientists began searching for a place in the brain that stores memory, which was referred to as the “engram.” In the 1920s, Karl Lashley performed memory experiments on animals in search of this elusive engram.1 But it wasn’t until the 1950s that researchers were given the first real glimpse into the the neuroscience of memory.2 A Brief History of Memory Research Henry Molaison (known as H.M. until his death in 2008) underwent a resection of his temporal lobe in order to lessen the burden of his epilepsy. Shortly following this surgery, he became unable to create and store new memories.2 Thousands of studies later, neuroscientists have accumulated mounting evidence pointing to the hippocampus as the seat of episodic memory in the brain.3 The hippocampus, which is Greek for seahorse, is a bilateral curve-shaped structure located deep in the brain. Almost all of H.M.’s hippocampus was removed during this surgery, which resulted in his prominent short-term memory loss.2 H.M.’s hippocampal memory loss has been replicated in animal studies in which the hippocampus is damaged or removed and in human studies using fMRI, where hippocampal activity was shown to be associated with memory events.3 Since then, neuroscientists have used more powerful techniques to study memory. Different regions of the brain can be analyzed by measuring gene expression, and electrical activity that is emitted...
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