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Core Concept

Big Bad Biofilms: How Communities of Bacteria Cause Long-Term Infections

Bacteria are tiny living things that like to attach to surfaces. Most bacteria are harmless, but if the wrong kind of bacteria get into the human body where they do not belong, they can cause an infection. Infections make the human body very sick. Most infections can be cured by antibiotics, but not infections caused by biofilms! Biofilms are communities of bacteria living together and covered in protective sticky goo, and most medicine does not work against them. Here we explain how biofilms protect bacteria from antibiotics, and what we can do to fight these long-term infections.

Authors

Mira Okshevsky / Rikke Louise Meyer
Reviewed by Vine Academy
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New Discovery

Can Money Buy You a Better Brain? What Do You Think?

The things you do and experience in the environment you grow up in as a child can impact the way your brain develops and works throughout your life. Our brains keep changing as we learn new skills and form new memories even when we get to be older adults. When we are in our childhood and adolescent years, our brains are like sponges, soaking up things we learn, see, eat, and do at a much faster rate than later in life. If you spent all of your time doing nothing when you are a kid, then, your brain would have nothing to tell it how to wire itself as you grow up. So, it is important that you give your brain a chance to experience new activities like sports, art, and music, to learn new things from reading books, or going to museums, and, to make new friends to play and learn with. You don’t need a lot of money to do many of these things, so, get off of the couch, and start training your brain!

Authors

Kristina Uban / Megan Herting / Elizabeth R. Sowell
Reviewed by Carpenter Community Charter School
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Core Concept

Can We Use Nanotechnology to Treat Cancer?

Could the next big change in cancer treatment actually be tiny? There are many reasons that cancer is such a difficult disease to treat. Scientists can try to come up either with new and better cancer medicines, or better ways for patients to receive their medicines. This paper describes a possible new way to deliver cancer medicines using nanoparticles – tiny, tiny sponge-like materials that have the cancer medicines inside – to try and improve the delivery of the cancer medicine into tumors. By putting the medicine inside the nanoparticle, we can protect the healthy cells in the body from these strong medicines, and we might be able to use a lower dose of the medicine to treat the patient. This exciting technology is still being researched and optimized, but could one day be used as an effective strategy to treat cancer patients.

Authors

Courtney R. Thomas
Reviewed by Aidan
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Core Concept

When One Is More Than Two: Increasing Our Memory

In our daily lives, we learn new things all the time. Unfortunately, though, it’s usually difficult for us to remember everything we learn. To increase our ability to remember, we can think in a way that ties together several pieces of information, so that they make fewer pieces of information. “Chunking” is a way of thinking that allows us to keep more information in our memory for very short time periods. The prefrontal cortex part of the brain helps us with this type of thinking. “Unitization” is way of thinking that gives an important linking relationship to two or more items and can help us remember information easily and for a long time. The perirhinal cortex part of the brain helps with this. These ways of learning can help us when we need to remember more information, such as when we’re studying for our exams!

Authors

Roni Tibon / Elisa Cooper
Reviewed by Easterly Parkway Elementary School
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Core Concept

Treating Parkinson’s Disease with Brain-Controlled Electrical Stimulation

In this article we discuss a treatment for a brain disorder called Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s disease have abnormal movements. One treatment that improves the symptoms involves sending electricity to deep structures in the brain. A problem with the treatment is determining how much electricity to send and when to send it. Without knowing this sometimes too much electricity is used and side effects can occur or too little stimulation is sent and patients symptoms are not improved. A solution to this problem would be providing feedback to the device that sends electricity, to tell it how bad the symptoms are at a certain time. This way it could send stimulation only when the patient really needs it (when they have bad symptoms). One kind of feedback that scientists think may work well is brain signals. Since Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder the idea is that the brain signals during symptoms may be different from when there are no symptoms.

Authors

Coralie de Hemptinne / Nicole C. Swann
Reviewed by Darius
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New Discovery

Measuring the Methane Leaks to the Air from Three Large Natural Gas Production Regions

In the coming years, humans will have choices to make about where we get the fuel that powers our lights for us to see at night, our stoves for our hot meals, our water heaters for our warm baths, and even our cars. These choices will affect the air we breathe: burning fuel often causes pollution, like the smog found in cities, and almost always leads to more greenhouse gases in the air. This in turn affects the way the Earth cools itself. One choice we have today is whether to use coal or natural gas as a fuel for power plants. In a recent study, my colleagues and I measured the greenhouse gas emissions from three of the largest natural gas fields in the United States. We found that using that natural gas instead of coal to fuel power plants could lead to fewer greenhouse gases in the air.

Authors

Jeff Peischl
Reviewed by Ecole Moser Genève
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New Discovery

I Want It Now! The Neuroscience of Teenage Impulsivity

What would you rather do on a hot summer day? Going to football practice or having ice-cream by the pool? The pool might be much more fun than going to –any- sports practice, so it may seem to be an easy choice. However, if you would often miss practice, your coach might not line you up at the next match, and you would not improve overall. In the light of these future consequences, attending practice might not look so bad after all. Yet, research shows that teenagers, more often than others, tend to follow their impulses rather than pursuing long-term goals. Why do teenagers have so much difficulty controlling their impulses? And how does this get better when you get older? We studied the developing brain and found that this depends on at least two different brain areas. Specifically, as you grow older, connections between these two brain areas get stronger: This helps you think about the future consequences of your actions, be less impulsive, and (maybe) also turn this into better decisions.

Authors

Christina Leuker / Wouter van den Bos
Reviewed by Francisco Lincoln
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New Discovery

Oxytocin: How Does This Neuropeptide Change Our Social Behavior?

Neuropeptides are small molecules that act as messengers between different brain regions. There are roughly 100 neuropeptides that are important for a variety of functions, including hunger, memory, and learning. Oxytocin is one such neuropeptide, playing a crucial role in childbirth and breastfeeding. More recently, oxytocin has been shown to be essential for our social behaviors. When given to people in the form of a nasal spray, oxytocin can change key aspects of social behavior, such as how well we can recognize emotions in others. As people with autism spectrum conditions have difficulties in how social information is understood and used, scientists have been testing oxytocin nasal spray as a potential treatment. But how does oxytocin nasal spray travel from the nose to the brain, and how does it change how we behave socially?

Authors

Daniel S. Quintana / Gail A. Alvares
Reviewed by St. Bernard Regional Catholic School
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New Discovery

Are There Other Earths Out There? Astronomers’ First Clues to an Answer Date Back 100 Years

Of all the questions that science might hope to answer, few excite people more than "is there life on worlds other than our Earth, and, if so, do any alien creatures possess intelligence comparable to that of human beings?” But how can we find rocky Earth-like worlds that orbit around stars other than our Sun? Remarkably, the first astronomical evidence that such worlds exist dates back 100 years! This evidence involved observation of the type of star that our Sun will become five billion years from now, something called a "white dwarf" star. Such studies have shown that rocky worlds with compositions similar to that of Earth are common throughout our Milky Way galaxy. Thus future prospects are bright for finding rocky planets suitable for hosting life.

Authors

Benjamin Zuckerman
Reviewed by Lapwai High School
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Core Concept

How Brain Cells Make Memories

Remembering a lot of things at the same time is difficult. As an experiment, read these numbers: 07041776. Then close your eyes and try to say them aloud, in order. How did you do? We would guess that you remembered around half of the numbers. Now, try again but think of the same numbers as a date: 07-04-1776. Did you remember more of the numbers this time? You just demonstrated something called working memory. Working memory (“WM” for short) is the ability to hold onto and process pieces of information. WM activates when you experience and remember events in your life, learn new facts, talk to people, read, and do math. WM is a core human behavior. As shown in the numbers experiment, WM has limited capacity. How does the brain support WM? And, what is happening in the brain that limits our capacity to store multiple memories at the same time?

Authors

Elizabeth L. Johnson / Randolph F. Helfrich
Reviewed by Abby
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