Health & Science

Shots - Health News
3:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Experimental Tool Uses Light To Tweak The Living Brain

A technique called optogenetics is being used in the laboratory to observe and control what brain circuits are doing in real time.
Henning Dalhoff Getty Images/Science Photo Library RM

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 7:09 am

When President Obama announced his BRAIN Initiative in April, he promised to give scientists "the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action."

An early version of one of those tools already exists, scientists say. It's a relatively new set of techniques called optogenetics that allows researchers to control the activity of brain cells using light.

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Science
3:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Are We Genetically Inclined To Be Materialistic?

People tend to hate to lose stuff they already own. This trait, known as the endowment effect, is likely handed down to us by evolution, since it is visible cross-culturally as well as in non-human primates. However, new research suggests certain cultures place a brake on this evolutionary trait, whereas capitalistic societies put it on steroids.

News
3:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

With National Treasures At Risk, D.C. Fights Against Flooding

The U.S. Capitol dome provides a view down the National Mall, an area vulnerable to flooding.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 6:13 pm

The nation's capital is not exactly a beach town. But the cherry-tree-lined Tidal Basin, fed by the Potomac River, laps at the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. And, especially since Superstorm Sandy, officials in Washington have a clear idea of what would happen in a worst-case storm scenario.

"The water would go across the World War II memorial, come up 17th Street," says Tony Vidal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "And there are actually three spots where the water would come up where we don't have ... a closure structure right now."

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Science
3:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Supercamera: More Pixels Than You Know What To Do With

Zachary Phillips sets up the gigapixel camera at a nature reserve in Virginia.
Morgan Walker NPR

When a small team of researchers recently wheeled a supercamera up to the edge of a bay at Mason Neck State Park in Northern Virginia, there was no need to point the camera at anything specific.

That's because this camera could see everything we could see, only better.

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The Two-Way
1:41 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

McDonald's Shuts Down Website That Told Workers To Avoid Fast Food

Protesters demonstrate at a McDonald's in New York on Dec. 5. Protesters staged events in cities nationwide, demanding a pay raise to $15 per hour for fast-food workers and the right for them to unionize.
John Moore Getty Images

McDonald's has decided to shut down a website aimed at providing work and life advice to its employees after it was reported that it had urged workers not to eat the very fast food they are hired to produce.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's said Thursday that information on its McResources Line site had been taken out of context thus generating "unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary," according to a McDonald's spokeswoman.

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Shots - Health News
12:45 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Common Knee Surgery May Help No More Than A Fake Operation

Knee pain is common, but surgery isn't necessarily the answer, researchers say.
Inna Jacquemin iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 7:09 am

Go to the doctor with knee pain, and they might say you've got a meniscus tear and need surgery to fix it. But surgery for this common problem might not be any better at relieving pain than having no surgery at all, according to researchers who went to the trouble of performing fake surgery to find out.

The gold standard for medical research is a randomized controlled trial, but it's hard to sign people up if they might undergo pretend surgery.

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All Tech Considered
10:48 am
Thu December 26, 2013

A Game With Heart, Gone Home Is A Bold Step In Storytelling

Billed as a "story exploration game," Gone Home has users exploring an empty house and piecing together why no one is home.
The Fullbright Company

Originally published on Sun December 29, 2013 5:35 pm

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The Salt
2:18 am
Thu December 26, 2013

More People Have More To Eat, But It's Not All Good News

The Brazilian agricultural sector exported for a value of $94,590 million in 2011. One of its largest exports is soybeans, like these in Cascavel, Parana.
Werner Rudhart DPA /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:03 am

Among the things to celebrate this holiday season is the fact that there are fewer hungry people in the world. Just how many? Well, since 1965, researchers in Europe have been tracking the world's food supply and where it's going.

The good news is: The percentage of the world's population getting what the researchers say is a sufficient diet has grown from 30 percent to 61 percent.

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Shots - Health News
3:47 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

A Texas Social Worker Weighs Her Insurance Options

Tammy Boudreaux (right) with her partner, Laura Perez. Boudreaux is weighing the cost and benefits of purchasing health insurance.
Courtesy of Tammy Boudreaux

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:23 pm

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, with almost 1 in 4 people going without coverage.

One of them is Tammy Boudreaux.

Boudreaux, 43, lives just outside of Houston and works as a freelance psychiatric social worker, with no benefits.

She has been skipping mammograms and other checkups for years. "It's worrisome," she says. "It's like gambling. Gambling with my health, and it is very frustrating."

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Shots - Health News
12:03 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

Diabetes Gene Common In Latinos Has Ancient Roots

The skull of a female Neanderthal, who lived about 50,000 years ago, is displayed at the Natural History Museum in London.
Rick Findler/Barcroft Media Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 10:02 am

When it comes to the rising prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, there are many factors to blame.

Diet and exercise sit somewhere at the top of the list. But the genes that some of us inherit from Mom and Dad also help determine whether we develop the disease, and how early it crops up.

Now an international team of scientists have identified mutations in a gene that suggests an explanation for why Latinos are almost twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as Caucasians and African-Americans.

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