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A round-up of the latest science and news from Australasia.

Antidepressants and Breastfeeding Can Mix

Women on antidepressant medication are more successful at breastfeeding their babies if they keep taking the medication, according to research presented at the 18th annual conference of the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand.

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Gene Critical in Brain Development

New research from the University of Adelaide has confirmed that a gene linked to intellectual disability is critical to the earliest stages of the development of human brains.

Published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the research explains how mutations in USP9X are associated with intellectual disability. These mutations, which can be inherited from one generation to the next, cause disruptions to normal brain cell functioning.

Stomach Responds to Time of Day

By Stephen Luntz

Nerves in the stomach alter the amount we can eat without feeling full depending on the time of day.

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People Prefer a Human Face for Robots

By Stephen Luntz

Elderly people prefer to get medical assistance from a robot that displays a human face, according to Dr Elizabeth Broadbent of the University of Auckland’s Department of Psychological Medicine.

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Nanomaterial to Protect Astronauts from Space Radiation

Scientists have designed a nanomaterial that can reflect or transmit light on demand, opening the door to technology that protects astronauts in space from harmful radiation. Dr Mohsen Rahmani of The Australian National University’s Nonlinear Physics Centre said the material was so thin that hundreds of layers could fit on the tip of a needle and could be applied to any surface, including spacesuits.

Herbal Medicine’s Hidden Risks Pose a Threat to Health

The perception that herbal medicines are safe because they are derived from natural materials and have been in use for thousands of years could see people unknowingly putting their health at risk, according to a report in the Medical Journal of Australia.

The report highlights a range of issues relating to the preparation of complementary medicines, warning that some traditional herbal preparations contain toxic chemicals from both animals and plants, as well as heavy metals and pesticides.

Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis Has Created an Artificial Epidemic

Doctors around the world are overdiagnosing the most common thyroid cancer, creating an artificial epidemic that costs billions of dollars each year in unnecessary medical costs. Global diagnoses of differentiated thyroid cancer have increased threefold during the past 25 years yet there has been no change to the disease’s low death rate.