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New Discovery

What Thrives Inside; The World Within the Gut

We all have bacteria in our guts, and so do birds. These bacteria are good for us in many ways, and help to digest food. We often see similar groups of bacteria in the guts of related animals. But it’s not clear why this is. It could be because of the food each animal is eating, or how similar the animals are. It could even be a result of how closely together they live. We performed an experiment to try to work out which one was the cause but the results were not as simple as we hoped. Here, we explain the steps we took to try to answer this question.

Authors

David W. Waite / Siân I. Morgan-Waite / Michael W. Taylor
Reviewed by Brian
Reviewed by Elsa
Reviewed by Yoonsa
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Core Concept

Why Are We Not More Selfish? What the Study of Brain and Behavior Can Tell Us

Even though it might not always seem to make sense from the perspective of personal gain, people often show a tendency towards cooperation. Why this might occur is a question that has long been a topic of fascination in researchers from many different fields. As societies often do better when their citizens cooperate with each other, an answer to this question not only gives us insight into ourselves, but also creates opportunities for improving our society. In this article, we discuss behavioural and brain imaging research which suggests that there may be several different motivations as to why we tend to cooperate instead of behaving selfishly. A tiny hint: wanting to feel good, avoid punishment, and live up to others’ expectations have a lot to do with it!

Authors

Mirre Stallen / Nastasia Griffioen / Alan Gerard Sanfey
Reviewed by Maxwell
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Core Concept

How Do Little Kids Learn Language?

Different kids grow up in different environments. Imagine Kid A: she gets to play and talk with her parents a lot, she has a yummy dinner every night with her family, she gets to travel on airplanes, and she has lots of books in her bedroom. Now imagine Kid B: his parents are really busy, he does not play or talk with grownups very much, he watches TV a lot, he does not get to eat much healthy food, and he almost always stays in his house. Kid A gets a lot of chances to have fun and learn, and Kid B gets fewer chances. Kid A gets to read about adventures all over the world, and Kid B does not get as much practice with reading. Did you get a lot of chances to play, talk, and learn when you were little? Have you ever thought about how other kids’ lives were different from yours? Have you ever thought about all the complicated stuff you learned, like language? There are lots of scientists who study how babies and little kids learn, and we want to tell you about some important research findings. After you finish reading, we hope you feel excited about how this science could help give every kid a fair chance.

Authors

Casey Lew-Williams / Adriana Weisleder
Reviewed by Nick
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New Discovery

What Happens in Your Mind and Brain When You Are Excluded from a Social Activity?

In school and in everyday life, we sometimes experience being rejected by classmates, or we might see someone being excluded. What do excluded individuals feel? How does the brain process information about being socially excluded? In the past few decades, psychologists and social neuroscientists have investigated the influence of social exclusion, including social rejection, on our mind, brain, and behavior. Social exclusion is a complex and ambiguous phenomenon, and therefore, we process information about it dynamically and often cope with it flexibly. In this article, I have described the dynamic effects of social exclusion on our mind, brain, and behavior by developing a model of intrapersonal and interpersonal processes of social exclusion.

Authors

Taishi Kawamoto
Reviewed by Ayanna
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Core Concept

Treats and Tricks: The Magic World of Sweetness

Taste is one of the five senses, together with sight, hearing, smell and touch. Food contains small particles, molecules, that entering our mouth are captured by receptors, which tell the brain that their taste is sweet, bitter, sour, salty or umami (the taste of stock cubes). Sweet is the taste people prefer by far. There are thousands of different substances that taste sweet, not only sugar but many other chemical compounds, including a few sweet proteins. Nobody would ever expect sugar to taste like meat or fish, nor a protein to taste like sugar. When the receptor “eats” the sweet molecule, it changes shape and sends a signal inside the cell. Sweet proteins can be almost as big as the receptor, so they cannot enter the cavities of the receptor but they can hug the receptor, stabilizing its active form.

Authors

Eleonora Asia Motti / Piero A. Temussi
Reviewed by Brian
Reviewed by Elsa
Reviewed by Yoonsa
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New Discovery

Studying the Seeds for Clouds at the CERN Research Labs

Tiny particles in the sky are needed for clouds to form. These particles can come directly from the ground (for example from volcanoes or industry) or form in the sky when sticky molecules clump together. More particles in the sky makes clouds whiter. Whiter clouds reflect more of the sun’s rays. This tends to cool down Earth’s climate. So particles in the sky affect clouds and this in turn has an effect on global warming. Therefore, it is important to understand how particles form in the sky. To study this, we measure how fast they are made when we add controlled amounts of sticky gases to a tank at the CERN research lab. With computer simulations, we use the results to estimate which gases are most important for making particles in different parts of the atmosphere. This will help scientists understand how particles affect Earth’s climate.

Authors

Hamish Gordon
Reviewed by Bury Church of England High School
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Core Concept

How to Exercise by Imagining Movements

When you shoot some hoops or kick a ball, areas in your brain responsible for planning, coordinating and executing movements are active, the so-called motor areas. But motor areas are not only involved in movement execution, they are also activated when you imagine performing movements. The fact that movement execution and imagery activate comparable brain areas can be used to improve motor functions such as hand or foot movements. When motor areas of the brain are damaged due to an injury, e.g., when you hurt your head during an accident, your motor functions might be impaired. So, you have to make physiotherapy to train specific movements and let injured brain areas recover. The recovery can be boosted by additionally imagine moving the affected limb. This therapy is called movement imagery. Movement imagery activates injured brain areas and leads to improvements in motor functions. This is how exercising using movement imagery works.

Authors

Silvia Erika Kober / Guilherme Wood
Reviewed by Bailey
Reviewed by Devona
Reviewed by Rosie
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Core Concept

Good News from Immunotherapy: Our Immune Defense Stands Up to Cancer

Our immune system defends us and combats many microbes, like the viruses that cause common cold or bacteria that enter wounds. Our defenses can also learn to protect us from more difficult situations – and they can do so with the lessons learned from vaccines. For example, the poliovirus vaccine teaches our immune system to recognize and eliminate the poliovirus in case it enters our body. In recent years, scientists have found that the immune system can also be taught to attack another type of disease: cancer. Cancer is a big mistake in our body. It happens when cells lose control and start to grow without limits. The good news is that nowadays, we can educate the immune system in cancer patients – this is called immunotherapy. In this article, we will overview how our defenses can learn to attack and eliminate cancer.

Authors

Silvia A. Fuertes Marraco / Natalie J. Neubert / Daniel E. Speiser
Reviewed by ITI Galileo Ferraris
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Core Concept

Why Should We Worry About Sea Level Change?

Around 250 million people live by the coast less than 5 m above the sea. Changes to sea level affect people through flooding, when water in rivers cannot flow into the ocean because the sea is too high, and when seawater surges into the land during storms. If the sea water finds its way to farms and reservoirs it can harm our drinking water and our ability to grow crops. Because of this, knowledge of how and why sea level is changing is of importance to society.

Authors

Martin J. Siegert
Reviewed by International School of Lausanne
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Core Concept

How Your Brain Cells Talk to Each Other—Whispered Secrets and Public Announcements

Imagine that you want to tell your friends something new; you could whisper it into their ears or shout it out loud. This is rather like two forms of communication that occur within your brain. Your brain contains billions of nerve cells, called neurons, which make a very large number of connections with specialized parts of other neurons, called dendrites, to form networks. Neurons have been thought to communicate with each other by passing (‘whispering’) chemical signals directly through these connections, but now we know that they also can spread messages more widely (‘public announcements’) by releasing chemical signals from other parts of the neuron, including the dendrites themselves. If we understand how and what neurons communicate with each other, we will have a chance to correct disturbances in communication that may result in altered behaviors and brain disorders.

Authors

Mike Ludwig
Reviewed by Sarit
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