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How the brain tells you to scratch that itch

It's a maddening cycle that has affected us all: it starts with an itch that triggers scratching, but scratching only makes the itchiness worse. Now, researchers have revealed the brain mechanism driving this uncontrollable itch-scratching feedback loop. Researchers showed that the activity of a small subset of neurons, located in a deep brain region called the periaqueductal gray, tracks itch-evoked scratching behavior in mice.

Exercise-induced hormone irisin triggers bone remodeling in mice

Exercise has been touted to build bone mass, but exactly how it actually accomplishes this is a matter of debate. Now, researchers show that an exercise-induced hormone activates cells that are critical for bone remodeling in mice. A study identifies a receptor for irisin, an exercise hormone, and shows that irisin impacts sclerostin in mice, a major cellular regulator of bone structure in humans.

Neanderthal genes give clues to human brain evolution

A distinctive feature of modern humans is our round (globular) skulls and brains. Researchers report that present-day humans who carry particular Neanderthal DNA fragments have heads that are slightly less rounded, revealing genetic clues to the evolution of modern brain shape and function.

Novel mechanisms of dengue and Zika virus infections and link to microcephaly

New insights into how dengue and Zika viruses cause disease reveal strategies the viruses use to successfully infect their host and a link to microcephaly.

CRISPR joins battle of the bulge, fights obesity without edits to genome

A weighty new study shows that CRISPR therapies can cut fat without cutting DNA. Researchers describe how a modified version of CRISPR was used to ramp up the activity of certain genes and prevent severe obesity in mice with genetic mutations that predispose them to extreme weight gain. Importantly, the researchers achieved long-lasting weight control without making a single edit to the genome.

Megacity traffic soot contributes to global warming

Soot from road traffic in emerging countries can reach high altitudes, where it can be transported over long distances and thus contributes to global warming. The reduction of pollutants from road traffic such as soot particles from diesel cars should therefore have high priority in order to both protect the health of the population in the growing conurbations of emerging countries and reduce global warming.

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and save power for smart devices, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved functionality in a super thin material.

Early animals: Death near the shoreline, not life on land

Our understanding of when the very first animals started living on land is helped by identifying trace fossils -- the tracks and trails left by ancient animals -- in sedimentary rocks that were deposited on the continents.

How particles arrange themselves into complex structures

Complexity in nature, whether in chlorophyll or in living organisms, often results from self-assembly and is considered particularly robust. Compact clusters of elemental particles can be shown to be of practical relevance, and are found in atomic nuclei, nano particles or viruses. Researchers have decoded the structure and the process behind the formation of one class of such highly ordered clusters. Their findings have increased understanding of how structures are formed in clusters.

How teens deal with stress may affect their blood pressure, immune system

Most teens get stressed out by their families from time to time, but whether they bottle those emotions up or put a positive spin on things may affect certain processes in the body, including blood pressure and how immune cells respond to bacterial invaders, according to researchers.

Monitoring the environment with artificial intelligence

Microorganisms perform key functions in ecosystems and their diversity reflects the health of their environment. Researchers use genomic tools to sequence the DNA of microorganisms in samples, and then exploit this considerable amount of data with artificial intelligence. They build predictive models capable of establishing a diagnosis of the health of ecosystems and identify species that perform important functions. This new approach will significantly increase the observation capacity of large ecosystems.

Neuroscientists uncover sensory switches controlling infanticide and parental behavior

Many species of mammals have evolved what appear to be paradoxical behaviors towards their young. Like humans, most exhibit nurturing, protective behaviors, and in some circumstances even act as surrogate parents. However, virgin males often engage in infanticide as a strategy to propagate their own genes. How are these conflicting social behaviors controlled?

Watching brain cells fire

Brain scientists have plenty of ways to track the activity of individual neurons in the brain, but they're all invasive. Now, researchers have found a way to literally watch neurons fire -- no electrodes or chemical modifications required.

Chemical biologists unearth cause of a rare brain disorder

In pontocerebellar hypoplasia type 1b, two key biological structures are blocked from binding to one another -- which ultimately stunts critical brain growth.

Swarming behavior discovered in fish-dwelling parasite

Researchers have observed a previously unrecognized behavior in a single-celled parasite called Spironucleus vortens, which infects ornamental fish such as angelfish: The protozoans swarm.

Amyloid pathology transmission in lab mice and historic medical treatments

A study has confirmed that some vials of a hormone used in discontinued medical treatments contained seeds of a protein implicated in Alzheimer's disease, and are able to seed amyloid pathology in mice.

New discovery improves use of optical tweezers

This year's Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded for discoveries in laser physics, recognizes optical tweezers. Now researchers have developed a method that greatly simplifies and improves the use of optical tweezers.

Oldest known plant virus found at ancient settlement

Researchers studying ancient corncobs found at a Native American archeological site have recovered a 1,000-year-old virus, the oldest plant virus ever reported.

Researchers shine new light on disease-spreading mosquitoes

Physicists are now exploring laser-based technology traditionally used for studying conditions in the atmosphere -- such as Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) -- to shine a light on the subtlest of features of mosquito activity and better track populations that may carry a viral threat.

Moun­tain birds de­clin­ing in Europe

Population data for European mountain birds have been for the first time combined in a recent study, with worrying results: the abundances of mountain-specialist birds has declined by as much as 10% in the 2000s.

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