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New Discovery

We Are What We Eat: True for Bacteria Too

Bacteria are present everywhere – all around and within us. Are you scared of them? Don’t be, as most bacteria are beneficial for us. Only a small number of them can occasionally cause infections, making us sick. Bacteria do this by dividing quickly inside the human body, that is, by becoming two from one at a fast pace. To fuel growth and division, bacteria need to find their favourite food and be able to process it correctly. Like humans love to eat candies, one of the favourite food choices of bacteria is the simple sugar ‘glucose’. We have found that when glucose is not processed correctly, bacteria cannot divide properly. We want to understand the link between food processing and division in bacteria – especially during infection – so that we can stop them from dividing by either supplying them with a food choice they don’t like or making them process their preferred food choice incorrectly. This will kill the bacteria and prevent them from making us sick.

Authors

Riti Mann / Leigh G. Monahan / Elizabeth J. Harry / Amy L. Bottomley
Reviewed by Aine
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Core Concept

Grateful People Are Happy and Healthy—But Why?

What are you grateful for today? Scientists have found that people who feel grateful more often are also happier, get better grades, and are more satisfied at school. They also sleep better, have less pain, and do not get sick as often. One explanation for this is that grateful people think about the world in a more positive way. Another explanation is that grateful people have better friendships, because they offer more help and receive more help in return. Thinking more positively about things that happen to you, and having better friendships, can both increase your happiness and improve your physical health. The good news is that practicing gratitude is a skill that you can get better at by simply writing down a few things that you are grateful for each day.

Authors

Anna Alkozei / Ryan Smith / William D. S. Killgore
Reviewed by Jack and Addy
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Core Concept

Do Teenagers Really Make Bad Decisions?

Scientific research provides evidence to show that a specific area of the human brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, continues to develop much longer than other brain regions. This area is involved in a number of complex functions and actions, including our decision making abilities. As the areas involved in making decisions do not reach full maturity until early adulthood, and undergo major structural changes throughout adolescence, the way in which we make decisions can differ greatly between our teenage years and adulthood.

Authors

Stacey A. Bedwell
Reviewed by Manchester Grammar
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New Discovery

Waves of Perception

We experience the world around us as continuous. But how does our brain achieve that? Here we suggest that the brain samples our environment in discrete snapshots. We demonstrate that brain waves work just like a flipbook, where the rapid stream of related pictures creates the illusion of a continuous movie. We present results from a recent experiment that show how brain waves capture our visual world. These brain waves occur approximately 10 times per second and are called ‘alpha oscillations’. Here we provide an overview how these brain waves were discovered, how they can be measured, what they mean and how they help to create our perception from the world around us.

Authors

Bhargavi Ram / Randolph F. Helfrich
Reviewed by Krishna
Reviewed by Darius
Reviewed by Wyatt
Reviewed by Schuyler
Reviewed by Sybille
Reviewed by Paceyn
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New Discovery

Yawns Are Cool

Although we yawn each and every day, most people have little understanding of why we do it. In fact, the function of yawning has remained elusive for centuries, even among scientists, and this has only changed quite recently. Contrary to conventional wisdom and long-held popular beliefs, it is now well recognized that yawns do not have a respiratory function. Instead, new and growing research has revealed that yawns serve as a brain cooling mechanism. This new perspective on yawning as a response to elevated brain temperature has transformed our understanding of this commonly overlooked, and misinterpreted behavior, and provides numerous practical applications in the fields of medicine and psychology.

Authors

Andrew C. Gallup / Omar Tonsi Eldakar
Reviewed by Amy
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New Discovery

Does Stress Change Who We Are?

All living things deal with stress. For you, that might be having a cold in addition to not getting enough sleep. For a plant, it’s stressful to live through a drought. It turns out that stress is more than a passing annoyance. It can actually change who we are. Sometimes stress can affect our DNA, the instruction manual for building a living thing. Stress doesn’t rewrite the letters in the DNA instruction manual, but it can change which pages are used, and which ones are skipped over. Researchers are using corn plants to better understand how different kinds of stress can change how tall the plants grow. Understanding how DNA and the environment work together can not only help us grow bigger, better corn, but it can help us understand other organisms too, including ourselves.

Authors

Katherine McKissick / Ann E. Stapleton
Reviewed by Slauson Middle School
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New Discovery

What Is Optogenetics and How Can We Use It to Discover More About the Brain?

How does the brain work? This is a question that scientists have been interested in for hundreds of years. In order to figure this out, scientists have had to do lots of experiments and figure out ways to examine and test the brain. In 2005, a new technique was created called optogenetics. This technique uses a combination of light and genetics to control the cells of the brain. Optogenetics has become very popular and is being used in neuroscience laboratories all over the world. It is helping us to discover many new things about the brain. Here, we explain what makes optogenetics so special for studying the brain.

Authors

Diana H. Lim / Jeffrey LeDue
Reviewed by Pruthvi
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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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