Mirror self-recognition found in magpies
FRANKFURT, Germany, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- A German study shows self-recognition, thought a hallmark of advanced cognitive abilities in animals, might also be present in magpies.
Frankfurt University psychologist Helmut Prior and Ruhr University biopsychologist Onur Gunturkun said they have discovered evidence of self-recognition in magpies -- a bird species with a brain structure very different from mammals.
The researchers said they placed a mark on magpies in such a way that it could only be seen in a mirror. When the magpies engaged in activity that was directed towards the mark, for example scratching at it, the researchers were able to conclude the birds recognized the image in the mirror as themselves, and not another animal.
The researchers said their findings not only indicate non-mammalian species can engage in self-recognition behavior, but that self-recognition can occur in species without a neocortex -- an area of the brain that has been thought to be crucial to self-recognition in mammals. Its absence in the study, said the scientists, suggests higher cognitive skills can develop independently along separate evolutionary lines.
The study appears in the journal PLoS Biology.
Cause of cerebral malaria growth found
BALTIMORE, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they have discovered what drives the development of cerebral malaria -- a fatal form of the disease that occurs mostly in children.
Johns Hopkins University researchers say they found red blood cells infected with the malaria parasite activate platelets to secrete the PF4 protein, which triggers the immune system to inflame blood vessels and obstruct capillaries in the brain -- both hallmarks of cerebral malaria.
"Cerebral malaria is lethal 20 percent of the time in the best of hands, and here we've shown something as simple as aspirin, because of its affect on platelets, might be able to improve the outcomes of those who contract this deadly form of the disease," said Dr. David Sullivan.
To make the specific connection between PF4 and malaria, the scientists compared responses to malaria infection by normal mice and mice genetically engineered to lack PF4. They found more than 60 percent of the mice lacking PF4 were still alive after day 10, while only 30 percent of the mice with PF4 survived that long.
The study that included Assistant Professor Craig Morrell appears in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.
Polymer electric storage shows promise
PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they are developing ferroelectric polymer-based capacitors that can deliver power more rapidly than do conventional batteries.
Pennsylvania State University materials scientists said the proliferation of solar, wind and tidal electric generation and the rapid emergence of hybrid electric automobiles is fueling the demand for flexible and reliable high-capacity electrical storage. "Electrical energy storage is very important for all electrical and electronic systems," said Associate Professor Qing Wang. "Even renewable energy systems like solar cells need somewhere to store excess energy to be used at night."
Wang and his team developed power density tunable polymers and polymer ceramic nanocomposites as electrical store materials for capacitors. Although power conditioning is currently conducted by capacitors, Wang said eventually properly tuned polymer capacitors might replace batteries.
The team that included Wang, postdoctoral fellow Yingying Lu, and graduate students Jason Claude and Junjun Li reported its findings Wednesday in Philadelphia during the 236th national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Process of HIV-related dementia is found
NEW YORK, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they have found evidence that a component of the cell walls of intestinal bacteria help the human immunodeficiency virus enter the brain.
The Albert Einstein College of Medicine researchers said in up to 20 percent of people infected with HIV, the virus manages to escape from the bloodstream and cross into the brain, resulting in HIV-associated dementia and other cognitive disorders.
The Yeshiva University scientists said their findings might lead to the development of strategies for preventing HIV from entering the brain.
"Previous research has suggested that it's not individual HIV viruses that get into the brain, but rather HIV-infected immune cells known as monocytes," said Dr. Harris Goldstein, senior author of the study. "Using an animal model, we wanted to find out first of all whether being infected with HIV enables monocytes to do what they don't usually do -- escape from blood vessels and enter brain tissue."
They discovered that being infected with HIV somehow gives monocytes the capacity to cross an intact blood brain barrier, said Goldstein.
The study is detailed in the Journal of Virology.