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My picks from ScienceDaily

This Is Your Brain On Jazz: Researchers Use MRI To Study Spontaneity, Creativity:

A pair of Johns Hopkins and government scientists have discovered that when jazz musicians improvise, their brains turn off areas linked to self-censoring and inhibition, and turn on those that let self-expression flow.

More coverage from Smooth Pebbles, Mind Hacks, Wired Science, Neurophilosophy, Science A Go Go, PsychCentral and The Rehearsal Studio

Evolution Of Aversion: Why Even Children Are Fearful Of Snakes:

Some of the oldest tales and wisest mythology allude to the snake as a mischievous seducer, dangerous foe or powerful iconoclast; however, the legend surrounding this proverbial predator may not be based solely on fantasy. As scientists from the University of Virginia recently discovered, the common fear of snakes is most likely intrinsic.

By Sixth Grade Nearly One In Six Children Are Alcohol Users, Study Shows:

A study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the University of Florida suggests that ‘tweens’ should receive alcohol prevention programs prior to sixth grade, when nearly one in six children are already alcohol users.

Chad Orzel comments.

Polluted Prey Causes Wild Birds To Change Their Tune:

Considerable attention has been paid to the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in aquatic environments, but rather less attention has been given to routes of contamination on land. A new study by researchers at Cardiff University, reveals that wild birds foraging on invertebrates contaminated with environmental pollutants, show marked changes in both brain and behaviour: male birds exposed to this pollution develop more complex songs, which are actually preferred by the females, even though these same males usually show reduced immune function compared to controls.

Catching Rats’ Twitchy Whiskers In Action:

Rats use their whiskers in a way that is closely related to the human sense of touch: Just as humans move their fingertips across a surface to perceive shapes and textures, rats twitch their whiskers to achieve the same goal. Now, in a finding that could help further understanding of perception across species, MIT neuroscientists have used high-speed video to reveal rat whiskers in action and show the tiny movements that underlie the rat’s perception of its tactile environment.

Spread Of Bird Flu Strains Slowed At Some Borders:

Several strains of the bird flu virus that raged across southern China were blocked from entering Thailand and Vietnam, UC Irvine researchers have discovered. This first-ever statistical analysis of influenza A H5N1’s genetic diversity helps scientists better understand how the virus migrates and could, in the future, help health officials determine whether efforts to thwart its spread were successful.

From Sharks To Microbes, Key Data At Central Pacific’s Line Islands Archipelago Captured:

An ambitious expedition led by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego to a chain of little-known islands in the central Pacific Ocean has yielded an unprecedented wealth of information about coral reefs and threats from human activities. The exploration of four atolls in the Line Islands, part of a chain approximately a thousand miles south of Hawaii, has produced the first study of coral reefs comprehensively spanning organisms from microbes to sharks. This in-depth description was replicated across a gradient of human impacts, from uninhabited Kingman Reef to Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, with a population of 5,000 people.

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