We all know that adverse, early life experiences can affect normal development and the ability to lead a happy and healthy adult life. A number of recent studies have shown that rodents which are mistreated as pups have long lasting changes to their gene expression (i.e. epigenetics). They are more anxious and have a harder … Continue reading Isolation and drug addiction
I am finally back from a very busy semester. I taught physiology classes at Mills College and UC Berkeley this semester, so I have been interested in new topics in human physiology. This week’s paper by Schippers et al. came out recently in Current Biology and describes adaptations that mice must make in order to … Continue reading Burning carbs in the Andes
I will not have time to update this blog this semester since I am teaching four classes plus research. I'll catch up with you again in the winter.In the meantime, enjoy this hilarious chemistry comic:
There is a growing epidemic of obesity in the aging population. Of course a lot of this has to do with our cultural lifestyle, but could there also be a biological explanation related to the way our bodies age? One clue comes from the fact that older lab mice have a tendency to become obese, … Continue reading A biological reason for aging weight gain
A few months ago I wrote about an article that disputed the claim that pigeons have iron-rich cells in their beaks that sense the earth’s magnetic field. A new paper by Eder et al. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes their discovery of magnetic cells in the trout nose. The way they … Continue reading Magneto… yes??
“The old adage that cheaters never prosper is far from applicable in the animal kingdom.” That’s the first sentence of a new paper by Brown et al. that was published this week in the journal Biology Letters. There are numerous examples of animals deceiving other members of their own species and social group. For instance, … Continue reading The cunning (and conning) cuttlefish
Leaf litter and other plant debris are broken down in the soil by fungi and microbes, which decompose the organic matter into molecules which they can use. We know that all living matter is connected through complex ecosystem interactions. Changes in predator populations affect the prey populations which may then cause changes to the plants … Continue reading Fear is in the soil
By now we all know there are tons of bacteria living in our guts (we are made up of 10x more bacteria than human cells!) The bacteria help us digest food and make new molecules. If our microbiome gets disrupted it can lead to serious digestive problems. It has also been suggested that our bacteria … Continue reading This is why pre-meds have to learn about fungi
Ever wonder what makes a good tomato taste so great? Well, so do the plant geneticists trying to produce the “better” tomato. The amount of sugar has a lot to do with it, but what about that tomato smell? Our perception of taste is enhanced by how food smells before we put it in our … Continue reading What makes a bloody butcher taste so damn good?
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks…or can you?We’ve all heard about how the brain slows down as we age. We’re constantly losing brain cells. Neurons become “static” and cannot make new connections. Is this true? Are we really doomed to a lifetime of deteriorating mental function?A paper by Oberlaender et al came out … Continue reading Plastic axonal trees