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Talking back

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    Gary Stix, a senior editor, commissions, writes, and edits features, news articles and Web blogs for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. His area of coverage is neuroscience. He also has frequently been the issue or section editor for special issues or reports on topics ranging from nanotechnology to obesity. He has worked for more than 20 years at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, following three years as a science journalist at IEEE Spectrum, the flagship publication for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He has an undergraduate degree in journalism from New York University. With his wife, Miriam Lacob, he wrote a general primer on technology called Who Gives a Gigabyte? Follow on Twitter @@gstix1.
  • Just 1 Rock Concert or Football Game May Cause Permanent Hearing Damage

    A single exposure to loud but not deafening noise may be enough to precipitate irreparable harm to nerves in the auditory system. This is the take-home from a new line of research that may help explain why many people, particularly as they age, have difficulty in picking out a conversation from the wall of background [...]

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    Working Memory and The Movies Streaming In Our Heads

    Peter Carruthers began his career studying philosophy as an undergraduate at the University of Leeds, an outpost for Wittgenstein scholarship. Carruthers waded through the Austrian-British philosopher’s thinking for the early part of his career, getting a doctorate from Oxford and publishing books on Wittgenstein along the way. He decided at one point to join a [...]

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    Statistical Flaw Punctuates Brain Research in Elite Journals

    Neuroscientists need a statistics refresher. That is the message of a new analysis in Nature Neuroscience that shows that more than half of 314 articles on neuroscience in elite journals   during an 18-month period failed to take adequate measures to ensure that statistically significant study results were not, in fact, erroneous. Consequently, at  least some [...]

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    Early Trial of Doctor’s Office Test to Predict Dementia Before First Symptoms

    Until very recently, the only way to provide a firm diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was through a brain autopsy. Things are starting to change. Brain imaging and spinal taps have now started to look for the plaques and tangles that are the hallmarks of the neurodegenerative disease in living patients. These techniques are now being tested [...]

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    Can Acupuncture Reverse Killer Inflammation?

    The ST36 Zusanli (足三里) acupuncture point is located just below the knee joint. This spot in mice—and it is hoped perhaps in humans—may be a critical entryway to gaining control over the often fatal inflammatory reactions that accompany systemic infections. Sepsis kills over 250,000 patients in the U.S. each year, more than 9 percent of [...]

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    The Nazis’ Biowarfare Program at Dachau

    Hitler decided against Germany’s officially establishing a biological warfare program for reasons that are not entirely clear. Speculation has centered on his experience of being gassed in World War I and on a personal phobia about microbes. That may have stopped the Nazis from putting in place the type of aggressive effort instituted by the [...]

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    The Riddle of What Is Killing Thousands of Central American Cane Workers

    “Why the Silence Comandante Ortega?” That paraphrasing of a headline from the great Spanish daily El Pais introduced a story in the paper on the difficulties that Nicaragua has  faced in coming to grips with the death and disability wrought by a still-unexplained kidney disease epidemic. By one estimate, at least 20,000 men throughout Central [...]

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    World-Class (and Free) Heart Surgery in the Sudan—an Interview with Gino Strada

    When Italy’s populist Five Star Movement held an online poll last year to probe who might make the best presidential candidate, surgeon Gino Strada came in second. Laughingly, Strada declined any possible entreaty to run with an Italian variation of “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.” Strada’s star, nonetheless, [...]

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    Fooling Brain Defenses to Deliver an Alzheimer’s Drug

    The blood-brain barrier is the Berlin Wall of human anatomy and physiology. Its closely packed cells shield neurons and the like from toxins and pathogens, while letting pass glucose and other essential chemicals for brain metabolism (caffeine?). For years, pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers have engaged in halting efforts to traverse this imposing blockade in [...]

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    Sleep’s Role in Obesity, Schizophrenia, Diabetes…Everything

    Is sleep good for everything? Scientists hate giving unqualified answers. But the more sleep researchers look, the more the answer seems to be tending toward a resounding affirmative. The slumbering brain plays an essential role in learning and memory, one of the findings that sleep researchers have reinforced repeatedly in recent years. But that’s not [...]

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