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Online Feature

Frankenfooty: Essendon's mixed bag of supplements

By Ian Musgrave

Essendon's players were exposed to worthless or unproven treatments at best, and rank pseudoscience at worst.

The list of charges by the AFL against the Essendon Football Club for its alleged supplements program makes for compelling reading. Early on in the Essendon charge sheet is this paragraph, which sets the stage for the tragedy that is the whole doping scandal:

Australian Antarctic science is being frozen out by budget cuts

By Matt King, University of Tasmania

Despite rising costs, the government this year handed an 8% budget cut to the Australian Antarctic Division.

A hundred years after Australian explorer and geologist Douglas Mawson returned from his epic scientific adventures in Antarctica, Australia’s scientific exploration of the icy southern continent has all but ground to a halt, for reasons I’ll discuss below.

Exposing dopers in sport: is it really worth the cost?

By Aaron Hermann and Maciej Henneberg

If the achievements of confirmed cheaters and other athletes are similar does it mean the drugs don't work or is everyone cheating?

On the back of an interim report by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) into the Essendon Football Club’s controversial supplements program in 2011-12, the AFL last night charged the club and four key officials, including coach James Hird and doctor Bruce Reid, with bringing the game of football into disrepute.

Sugar is toxic to mice in 'safe' doses

Three soft drinks daily affect lifespan, reproduction

When mice ate a diet of 25 percent extra sugar – the mouse equivalent of a healthy human diet plus three cans of soda daily – females died at twice the normal rate and males were a quarter less likely to hold territory and reproduce, according to a toxicity test developed at the University of Utah.

"Our results provide evidence that added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic adverse impacts on mammalian health," the researchers say in a study set for online publication Tuesday, Aug. 13 in the journal Nature Communications.

Brain scans may help diagnose dyslexia

Differences in a key language structure can be seen even before children start learning to read.

About 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from dyslexia, a condition that makes learning to read difficult. Dyslexia is usually diagnosed around second grade, but the results of a new study from MIT could help identify those children before they even begin reading, so they can be given extra help earlier.

The study, done with researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, found a correlation between poor pre-reading skills in kindergartners and the size of a brain structure that connects two language-processing areas.

Can people really be addicted to sex?

By Neil Levy

Is there a neurological basis to hypersexuality?

Is sex addiction real? That is, is it really a disorder, involving diminished control over behaviour?

Questions such as these are difficult to answer because it’s always difficult to distinguish diminished capacity to resist a temptation from a diminished motivation to resist. People who tell us they literally can’t resist might be deceiving themselves, or they might be looking for a convenient excuse.

The day before death

A new archaeological technique gives insight into the day before death.

The day before the child's death was not a pleasant one, because it was not a sudden injury that killed the 10-13 year old child who was buried in the medieval town of Ribe in Denmark 800 years ago. The day before death was full of suffering because the child had been given a large dose of mercury in an attempt to cure a severe illness.

Dolphins keep lifelong social memories

Dolphins can recognise their old tank mates’ whistles after being separated for more than 20 years — the longest social memory ever recorded for a non-human species.

The remarkable memory feat is another indication that dolphins have a level of cognitive sophistication comparable to only a few other species, including humans, chimpanzees and elephants. Dolphins’ talent for social recognition may be even more long-lasting than facial recognition among humans, since human faces change over time but the signature whistle that identifies a dolphin remains stable over many decades.

An End to Sunburn Pain?

The molecule that causes the pain of sunburn could be blocked in a sunscreen additive.

The painful, red skin that comes from too much time in the sun is caused by a molecule abundant in the skin’s epidermis, a new study shows.

Blocking this molecule, called TRPV4, greatly protects against the painful effects of sunburn. The results were published the week of Aug. 5 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Early Edition online. The research, which was conducted in mouse models and human skin samples, could yield a way to combat sunburn and possibly several other causes of pain.

How the brain keeps eyes on the prize

Dopamine signal strengthens as long-term goal draws nearer.

As anyone who has traveled with young children knows, maintaining focus on distant goals can be a challenge. A new study from MIT suggests how the brain achieves this task, and indicates that the neurotransmitter dopamine may signal the value of long-term rewards. The findings may also explain why patients with Parkinson's disease — in which dopamine signaling is impaired — often have difficulty in sustaining motivation to finish tasks.

The work is described in the journal Nature.