From the Archives: Some Brain Science for #VideoGamesDay

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People are hungry for data about video games and the brain. One of our most popular stories, still consistently in the Top 10, is a longreads Cerebrum essay from back in 2009, “Video Games Affect the Brain—for Better and Worse.” Writer Douglas Gentile, Ph.D., concludes:

With the exception of educational games, most video games’ effects on brain and behavior are unintentional on the part of both the designers and the players. Nonetheless, research suggests that the effects are real. Video games are neither good nor bad. Rather, they are a powerful form of entertainment that does what good entertainment is supposed to do—it influences us.

In 2012, we followed up with a news story on research targeting more specific areas of cognition that might be affected by playing video games:

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From the Archives: Seeking to Stem Suicide

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Nearly 45,000 people in the US kill themselves each year (probably an underestimate, given the stigma still attaching to suicide), and there may be 25 attempts for each death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. A news story we published in January reported on a few of the many avenues of research trying to help doctors and caregivers predict who is at risk and how to better help them.

“Suicide is one of the few medical conditions in which the doctor and patient have different goals—the patient may be highly motivated not to reveal what he or she is thinking,” psychiatrist Maria Oquendo says in the story. “We need biological markers so we can identify those at risk.”

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It’s Tick Season Again: From the Archives

As North America heats up for summer, so does the activity of ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas, whose bites can carry diseases like Lyme, dengue and Zika, and plague. Between 2004 and 2016, more than 640,000 cases of these diseases were reported, and nine new germs spread by bites from infected mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

May is  Lyme Disease Awareness Month; people who become infected risk long-term problems with skin, heart, and joints–and brain. The disease can cause cognitive and memory impairment, headaches, neuropathic pain, facial palsies, encephalitis, and seizures.

Microbiologist and former Dana grantee Mark Wooten, at the University of Toledo, studies how the Lyme-triggering bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by ticks, interacts with the mammalian immune system. He credits growing up on a farm in Arkansas, in an area with a lot of ticks, with piquing his interest in Lyme disease, which was then a relatively new discovery. He talked with us last year about what makes this bacterium so tricky:

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Science Communication: Dana Resources

In the past decade, I’ve seen more and more scientists step outside their labs—or invite people in—to share how science affects our daily lives and why basic and translational research is important. Spreading the science love isn’t just the purview of reporters and PR people anymore, and interest is high.

Groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have included plenty of sessions on science communication in past years, including workshops to help researchers hone their “elevator pitches” and find compelling stories in their data. In 2017, both the International Neuroethics Society and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) included scicomm sessions during their annual meetings. I couldn’t even get into one of the workshops at SfN because it was so popular the room was already packed before the session started, with a standby line down the hall! (See also video of SfN’s 2017 “Dialogues” chat, with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and physician Siddartha Mukherjee chatting with SfN President Eric Nestler about “the excitement and importance of communicating the promise of scientific inquiry to the public.”)

Since part of the Dana Foundation’s mission is educating the public in a responsible manner about brain science and the potential of research, we’re glad to see this trend. Here are a few of our resources to help you reach out.

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From the Archives: Circadian Rhythms

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Image: Shutterstock

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to three men who did basic research, discovering molecular mechanisms that control the circadian rhythm. The discoveries by Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young “explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions,” write the Nobel committee.

They and other researchers have continued to add details to our understanding of this critical system. In a story for Cerebrum in 2014, Paolo Sassone-Corsi described two relatively new areas of research: circadian genomics and epigenomics:

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