Latest notes for busy minds

Giving parents therapy can help their anxious children
  • A new study found that parents are a big cause of anxiety disorders in their children.
  • Researchers assigned one group of kids with anxiety disorders to typical cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • The second group didn’t have therapy themselves, but their parents took part in SPACE - Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions.
  • It turned out that children whose parents did SPACE reduced their anxiety as much as children who took 12 therapy sessions.

Sugary drinks may be associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases
  • In a study funded by the US National Institutes of Health, scientists found that as people drink more sugar-sweetened drinks, their risk of death increases.
  • This study used data from 37,716 men and 80,647 women.
  • Those who drank two or more servings per day of sugar-sweetened drinks had a 31% higher risk of early death from cardiovascular diseases.
  • Sweetened drinks represent the single largest source of added sugar in the US diet, and consumption is increasing around the world.
  • Lead study author recommends water as the best replacement for sweet drinks.

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Scientists grow 'mini-brain on the move' that can contract muscle
  • Scientists have grown a brain-like organoid which linked up with and sent electrical impulses to a mice’s 1mm-long spinal cord and back muscle.
  • It took the team over a year to grow the mini-brain, using a new method involving human stem cells.
  • The ‘blob’ is similar to a human fetal brain at 12-16 weeks of pregnancy.
  • It has 2 million neurons, whereas a fully developed human brain has up to 90bn.
  • The goal is to someday use systems like this to study the development of the human brain and nervous system.

Harvard University uncovers DNA switch that controls genes for whole-body regeneration
  • In a genetic study of the three-banded panther worm, scientists have uncovered that a section of their ‘junk’ DNA controls a ‘master control gene’ called early growth response (EGR).
  • EGR acts like a switch that turns regeneration on or off.
  • Humans carry the gene too, and the researchers want to find out why it doesn’t trigger large scale regeneration of our bodies.
  • ‘Junk’ DNA used to be seen as useless, and now scientists are realizing its impact.
  • The study is an important step towards finding out how to turn genes on and off.

With single gene insertion, blind mice regain sight
  • Researchers @UC Berkeley gave blind mice vision that lasts for a lifetime by injecting their eyes with an adeno-associated virus (AAV).
  • AAV naturally infects ganglion cells, which are normally insensitive to light.
  • The team used AAV to fill these cells with green cone opsin, which made 90% of them light sensitive.
  • This allowed the mice to navigate around obstacles, see motion, and adapt to brightness changes over a thousandfold range.
  • Study authors are now raising funds to take the gene therapy into a human trial within three years.