July 24, 2013

Oxytocin Has A Darker Side – The Daily Orbit

Research shows love hurts-hormonally!

Building the human brain.

Your phone could help with a scientific breakthrough.

And we’re digging things up! on the Daily Orbit

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.

Mother Nature’s Love Potion #9 may have a darker side. New research says that the hormone oxytocin, or the love hormone known to produce those warm, fuzzy feelings of love, is also responsible for intense emotional pain. Um yeah, have they not heard love hurts? Researchers say the hormone strengthens social memory, so if you have a negative or stressful experience, the hormone activates a part of your brain that intensifies the memory. But, on the flip side, it does the same for good experiences, therefore increasing feelings of well-being. Oxytocin has been tested as an anti-anxiety drug and researchers say by understanding its dual role in triggering or reducing anxiety, depending on the social context, they can optimize oxytocin treatments. Well, hurt me once shame on you, hurt me twice—shame on my oxytocin for not helping me remember the first time.

And on the subject of your brain, another interesting breakthrough in research—scientists in Switzerland say they have made microchips that imitate the way our brains process information. How their fake brain differs from computer brains past? They actually developed electronic circuits that are comparable to a real brain in terms of size, speed, and energy consumption. Scientists say this technology could allow robots to navigate autonomously and survive without someone else controlling it. (Umm…that’s so scary.)

And on to a topic I love to talk about on the Daily Orbit: dinosaur discoveries. Paleontologists have uncovered 50 vertebrae on the only complete, articulated Hadrosaur tail to be found in Mexico. Hadrosaurs are considered “duck-billed” dinos because their heads resemble that of modern ducks. The 72 million year old tail is nearly 16-feet in length and the vertebrae remain bound together in the same way as when the dino walked the Earth. Scientists say studying the space between the vertebrae—where the cartilage was—will help them discover the biomechanics of the tail. Archeologists will pull a mold and create a carbon copy of the position the dinosaur was at its death before fully excavating the bones. They say it’s also important to analyze the environment where the dino died to determine cause of death, though as of now they believe it died of natural causes.

And there’s another fossil of a different sort to be uncovered. UK archaeologists plan to pop the lid off a stone coffin found at the Grey Friars archeological site in Leicester—assumed to contain the remains of a medieval knight or an eminent Franciscan. The remains of King Richard III were recently discovered at the site, but archeologists say the resident in this coffin was buried around 200 years before the King. This is the first fully intact stone coffin found in the city of Leicester. Researchers will begin by measuring the coffin and taking photos and then they’ll “lift the lid up to see what is inside.” And just whom might they find? They suspect a leader of the Grey Friars Order, probably Friar Peter Swynsfeld, who died in 1272, or William of Nottingham, who died in 1330. Well, I’m guessing whoever it is they’re not going to be looking very cheeky by now.

And maybe you can’t make it to an archaeological dig to uncover some 800-year-old knight, but you can still be a part of scientific research. A new app created by researchers at UC Berkeley will allow users to donate their phone’s idle computing power while its charging, to crunch numbers for projects that could lead to major breakthroughs from medicine to the stars. The app is named for the project, Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, or easier to say…BOINC…and is already available for Android. BOINC’s creator David Anderson said they want to make it easy for scientists to use BOINC for their projects and easier for volunteers to participate.

And that’s it for the Daily Orbit. Have a great day!

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