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Latest University of Wisconsin Stories

2010-11-22 19:48:28

Like musical compression saves space on your mp3 player, the human brain has ways of recoding sounds to save precious processing power. To whittle a recording of your favorite song down to a manageable pile of megabytes, computers take advantage of reliable qualities of sounds to reduce the amount of information needed. Collections of neurons have their own ways to efficiently encode sound properties that are predictable. "In perception, whether visual or auditory, sensory input has a lot of...

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2010-11-22 10:30:00

In deep ocean waters, it's sometimes difficult to hide from predators. That's why so many sea creatures have evolved extraordinary methods of disguise. Cephalopods, such as octopus, squid and cuttlefish, are big on camouflage, by day or night. In fact, the Hawaiian bobtail squid has several means of stealthy self- preservation. "During the day, if they are disturbed from the sand, they will come out, sit on the surface with a sand coat on them, trying to be invisible," says Margaret...

2010-11-18 16:46:04

For decades, scientists have been searching for the fundamental biological secrets of how eating less extends lifespan. It has been well documented in species ranging from spiders to monkeys that a diet with consistently fewer calories can dramatically slow the process of aging and improve health in old age. But how a reduced diet acts at the most basic level to influence metabolism and physiology to blunt the age-related decline of tissues and cells has remained, for the most part, a...

2010-11-15 13:48:05

Growing human embryonic stem cells in the lab is no small feat. Culturing the finicky, shape-shifting cells is labor intensive and, in some ways, more art than exact science. Now, however, a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reports the development of a fully defined culture system that promises a more uniform and, for cells destined for therapy, safer product. Writing this week (Nov. 14) in the journal Nature Methods, a team led by Laura Kiessling, a UW-Madison...

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2010-11-11 10:32:03

Scientists have observed, for the first time, an intermediate stage in the chemical process that repairs DNA methylation damage and regulates many important biological functions that impact health conditions such as obesity, cancer and diabetes. The observations focused on the bacterial DNA repair protein AlkB, but the results also apply to several proteins in the same family that play key regulatory roles in humans. Armed with these results, researchers may one day develop methods for...

2010-11-01 22:33:01

Nature's capacity to store carbon, the element at the heart of global climate woes, is steadily eroding as the world's farmers expand croplands at the expense of native ecosystem such as forests. The tradeoff between agricultural production and maintaining nature's carbon reservoirs "“ native trees, plants and their carbon-rich detritus in the soil "“ is becoming more pronounced as more and more of the world's natural ecosystems succumb to the plow. The problem, experts say, is...

2010-11-01 15:21:02

They are the portals to the cell, gateways through which critical signals and chemicals are exchanged between living cells and their environments. But these gateways -- proteins that span the cell membrane and connect the world outside the cell to its vital inner workings "“ remain, for the most part, black boxes with little known about their structures and how they work. They are of intense interest to scientists as they are the targets on which many drugs act, but are notoriously...

2010-10-25 13:49:29

Psychological well-being is powerful enough to counteract the pull of socioeconomic status on the long-term health of the disadvantaged, according to a study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lack of education is a powerful predictor of future poor health and a relatively early death. But among people whose formal education ended with a high school diploma or less, positive psychological characteristics such as meaningful relationships with others and a sense of purpose...

2010-10-19 16:46:16

In cold weather, many children can't resist breathing onto a window and writing in the condensation. Now imagine the window as an electronic device platform, the condensation as a special conductive gas, and the letters as lines of nanowires. A team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison Materials Science and Engineering Professor Chang-Beom Eom has demonstrated methods to harness essentially this concept for broad applications in nanoelectronic devices, such as next-generation memory or tiny...

2010-10-12 17:20:28

The mathematical skills of boys and girls, as well as men and women, are substantially equal, according to a new examination of existing studies in the current online edition of journal Psychological Bulletin. One portion of the new study looked systematically at 242 articles that assessed the math skills of 1,286,350 people, says chief author Janet Hyde, a professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. These studies, all published in English between 1990...


Word of the Day
call-note
  • The call or cry of a bird or other animal to its mate or its young.
'Call-note' is newer than 'bird-call,' which originally referred to 'an instrument for imitating the note of birds' but now also refers to 'the song or cry of a bird.'
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