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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.

A new branch of life found in a pond in Melbourne

By Susan Lawler

Pandoravirus promises future surprises

The pandoravirus is a brand new form of life, and it’s a bit like a knitted potato. No one can imagine a knitted potato. Klara Kim

Are doctors to blame for superbugs?

Who is to blame re the mess we are in regarding antibiotic-resistant superbugs? Doctors, livestock farming, airlines, drug companies, nursing homes, or a mixture of them all?

How Australia and other developed countries have ended up in their current predicament of infections showing increasing resistance to antibiotics has been addressed in a session at the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID) Gram Negative Superbug meeting on the Gold Coast.

Climate change is at a record pace

Climate change occurring 10 times faster than at any time in past 65 million years.

The planet is undergoing one of the largest changes in climate since the dinosaurs went extinct. But what might be even more troubling for humans, plants and animals is the speed of the change. Stanford climate scientists warn that the likely rate of change over the next century will be at least 10 times quicker than any climate shift in the past 65 million years.

Climate strongly affects human conflict

The Earth's climate plays a more influential role in human affairs than previously thought – both now and in ancient times.

Shifts in climate are strongly linked to human violence around the world, with even relatively minor departures from normal temperature or rainfall substantially increasing the risk of conflict in ancient times or today, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University.