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Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Newsbits

I'm totally unsure if I already posted this, but anyway, in this edition:


Teenage smokers risk badly wired brains

Parents may now have another reason to worry about their children smoking. Nicotine may cause the teenage brain to develop abnormally, resulting in changes to the structure of white matter - the neural tissue through which signals are relayed. Teenagers who smoke, or whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, are also more likely to suffer from auditory attention deficits, meaning they find it harder to concentrate on what is being said when other things are happening at the same time.

Leslie Jacobsen of Yale University School of Medicine and colleagues used diffusion tensor imaging, which measures how water diffuses through brain tissue, to study the brains of 33 teenagers whose mothers had smoked during pregnancy. Twenty-five of the teens were daily smokers. The team also studied 34 teens whose mothers had not smoked, of whom 14 were daily smokers. source

Macaque monkeys 'pay' for sex

SEX has probably been a commodity for as long as human society has existed, and perhaps even longer. The "oldest profession" seemingly has pre-human evolutionary roots. "When the opportunity arises, male macaque monkeys groom females to 'pay' for sex," says Michael Gumert of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Gumert looked at research on a 50-strong group of long-tailed macaques in Kalimantan Tengah, Indonesia, that covered a 20-month period. He found there was an increase in sexual activity after bouts of male-to-female grooming. On average, females had sex 1.5 times per hour, but immediately after being groomed by a male partner, this rate jumped to 3.5 times per hour. After grooming, the female was also less likely to offer herself to males other than her grooming partner (Animal Behaviour, DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.03.009).
source

Removing lead from petrol was supposed to prevent damage to children's mental development. Now it seems that traffic fumes may still be impairing their learning - because of the soot particles it contains.

When Shakira Franco Suglia at Harvard University and her colleagues studied 200 children in nearby Boston they found that scores on verbal reasoning, visual learning and other tests were lower in those exposed to more traffic fumes. The IQ of children from areas of the city with above-average pollution levels was 3 points below those in cleaner areas, even after controlling for socio-economic factors (American Journal of Epidemiology, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwm308).

That puts the impact of soot on a par with lead and other toxic substances that damage brain development, says Franco Suglia. source

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