Neuroscientist David Eagleman begins his third book, Incognito: the secret lives of the brain, in panoramic Sagan-esque style, immediately striking a resonant harmony between lucidity and enthusiasm for the significance of his topic. The thesis? Human consciousness emerges from the physical attributes and activities of the brain, but is only a small part of the brain’s business; what else the brain is up to is normally inaccessible and mysterious, but our science, Eagleman asserts, is now uncovering its secrets. Continue reading
Few things feel more intuitive than our sense of right and wrong. How do agency, valence, and processing levels of moral stimuli influence this sense, and are the circuits involved lateralized in one or the other cerebral hemispheres? To address these questions, I used caloric vestibular stimulation (CVS) treatments followed by the Explicit Moral Judgment Test (EMJT) to probe the biological circuitry of moral judgments. Subjects’ moral evaluations were modulated by CVS treatments across agency, valence, and processing variables, providing evidence for the lateralization of newly identified moral modules concerned with positive-subtraction and self-positive processing. Continue reading
Whether called alternative, traditional, natural, integrative, or complementary medicine, this largely dietary supplement-based multi-billion dollar industry is associated with claims of extreme efficacy based more on anecdote than evidence. Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that long-term vitamin supplementation may actually be harmful. We wondered whether an industry known for exaggerated claims and pseudo-scientific products was similarly sloppy with its measurements and manufacture.
We chose to take three well known multivitamin supplement brands (One Source, Now, and Equate) to task by measuring the amount of iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper in each using atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS) to confirm or expose each brand’s reported values. Of the tools available, AAS was chosen because of its superior accuracy in metal analyte analysis. Continue reading
In “Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome”, Venter et al. report the first successful design, synthesis, assembly, and transplantation of an artificial genome into a host cell. The bacterial host subsequently underwent phenotypic transformation, resulting in the first engineered species created from a synthetic genome. Continue reading
The recent development of pluripotence induction in somatic cell lines raised the possibility of organ regeneration from a patient’s own cells. But until our lab’s research, it wasn’t known whether these induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) could fully restore vital organ function. We demonstrated that iPSC-derived differentiated hepatocytes possess the functional and proliferative capacities required for complete liver regeneration in a murine model of fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase (FAH) deficiency. However, because we transplanted fibroblast-derived iPSCs into strain-matched blastocysts, our model relied exclusively on iPSC differentiation in vivo during embryonic development, where exposure to developmental signaling may have contributed significantly to their functional capacities. Continue reading