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Top Stories: Bleeding Brains, Wily Wolves, and Fighting Flu

31 May 2013 4:45 pm
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Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences/University of Washington; D. Corti and A. Lanzavecchia, Annu. Rev. Immunol. 31 (2013); Duane Loh and Andy Freeberg, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Microbleeding in Brain May Be Behind Senior Moments
With age comes wisdom—and cognitive decline. The culprit, scientists say, is stiffening arteries that cause microbleeding in the brain. A stiffer aorta can increase blood pressure in the brain, creating the tiny bleeds linked to worsening cognitive function. In fact, researchers found that blood pressure and aorta stiffness were sensitive predictors of a person's cognitive abilities. As experiments continue, researchers will look into whether treatments that keep arteries soft and flexible might help slow our inevitable mental decline.

Who's (Socially) Smarter: The Dog or the Wolf?
The obvious winner in the social intelligence game seems like it has to be dogs—they're not called man's best friend for nothing. But it turns out that although dogs are attuned to human cues, they're not very good at learning from each other. Wolves, on the other hand, are much more socially savvy when interacting with their own kind. Researchers theorize that dogs might have traded their canine social smarts for a better relationship with humans.

Gene Therapy … Against the Flu?
When a pandemic influenza virus surfaces, researchers are in a race against time to make an appropriate vaccine. Now, scientists have developed an entirely new approach to flu protection. The new therapy involves squirting the genes for protective antibodies straight up people's noses, getting their cells to produce antibodies exactly where flu viruses try to establish infection. The catch? So far, the antibodies stick around for just 3 months, which is too short a time for effective influenza protection.

A Better Predictor of Autism
When it comes to predicting whether toddlers with autism will face severe impairment later in life, parents have had only one choice: Wait and see. Now, researchers have discovered distinct brain activity that can predict how well kids with disorders on the autism spectrum will fare long-term. The discovery illuminates the link between language development and social ability and should help doctors develop better early treatments for the disorder.

New Agreement Casts Spotlight on Efforts to Inventory Black Carbon
Scientists agree that black carbon plays an important but so far poorly understood role in climate change and air pollution. Now, an expert U.N. panel has come up with a technical road map to guide the first global effort to create a standardized emissions inventory of tiny soot particles. Countries will start reporting in 2015, and the new data should help scientists better understand black carbon's effect on the world's climate.

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