A Blog Around The Clock

New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 29 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:

Deathly Drool: Evolutionary and Ecological Basis of Septic Bacteria in Komodo Dragon Mouths:

Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizard, dispatch their large ungulate prey by biting and tearing flesh. If a prey escapes, oral bacteria inoculated into the wound reputedly induce a sepsis that augments later prey capture by the same or other lizards. However, the ecological and evolutionary basis of sepsis in Komodo prey acquisition is controversial. Two models have been proposed. The “bacteria as venom” model postulates that the oral flora directly benefits the lizard in prey capture irrespective of any benefit to the bacteria. The “passive acquisition” model is that the oral flora of lizards reflects the bacteria found in carrion and sick prey, with no relevance to the ability to induce sepsis in subsequent prey. A third model is proposed and analyzed here, the “lizard-lizard epidemic” model. In this model, bacteria are spread indirectly from one lizard mouth to another. Prey escaping an initial attack act as vectors in infecting new lizards. This model requires specific life history characteristics and ways to refute the model based on these characteristics are proposed and tested. Dragon life histories (some details of which are reported here) prove remarkably consistent with the model, especially that multiple, unrelated lizards feed communally on large carcasses and that escaping, wounded prey are ultimately fed on by other lizards. The identities and evolutionary histories of bacteria in the oral flora may yield the most useful additional insights for further testing the epidemic model and can now be obtained with new technologies.

Smooth Pursuit Eye Movements Improve Temporal Resolution for Color Perception:

Human observers see a single mixed color (yellow) when different colors (red and green) rapidly alternate. Accumulating evidence suggests that the critical temporal frequency beyond which chromatic fusion occurs does not simply reflect the temporal limit of peripheral encoding. However, it remains poorly understood how the central processing controls the fusion frequency. Here we show that the fusion frequency can be elevated by extra-retinal signals during smooth pursuit. This eye movement can keep the image of a moving target in the fovea, but it also introduces a backward retinal sweep of the stationary background pattern. We found that the fusion frequency was higher when retinal color changes were generated by pursuit-induced background motions than when the same retinal color changes were generated by object motions during eye fixation. This temporal improvement cannot be ascribed to a general increase in contrast gain of specific neural mechanisms during pursuit, since the improvement was not observed with a pattern flickering without changing position on the retina or with a pattern moving in the direction opposite to the background motion during pursuit. Our findings indicate that chromatic fusion is controlled by a cortical mechanism that suppresses motion blur. A plausible mechanism is that eye-movement signals change spatiotemporal trajectories along which color signals are integrated so as to reduce chromatic integration at the same locations (i.e., along stationary trajectories) on the retina that normally causes retinal blur during fixation.

Face Coding Is Bilateral in the Female Brain:

It is currently believed that face processing predominantly activates the right hemisphere in humans, but available literature is very inconsistent. In this study, ERPs were recorded in 50 right-handed women and men in response to 390 faces (of different age and sex), and 130 technological objects. Results showed no sex difference in the amplitude of N170 to objects; a much larger face-specific response over the right hemisphere in men, and a bilateral response in women; a lack of face-age coding effect over the left hemisphere in men, with no differences in N170 to faces as a function of age; a significant bilateral face-age coding effect in women. LORETA reconstruction showed a significant left and right asymmetry in the activation of the fusiform gyrus (BA19), in women and men, respectively. The present data reveal a lesser degree of lateralization of brain functions related to face coding in women than men. In this light, they may provide an explanation of the inconsistencies in the available literature concerning the asymmetric activity of left and right occipito-temporal cortices devoted to face perception during processing of face identity, structure, familiarity or affective content.

Relationships of the Location and Content of Rounds to Specialty, Institution, Patient-Census, and Team Size:

Existing observational data describing rounds in teaching hospitals are 15 years old, predate duty-hour regulations, are limited to one institution, and do not include pediatrics. We sought to evaluate the effect of medical specialty, institution, patient-census, and team participants upon time at the bedside and education occurring on rounds. Between December of 2007 and October of 2008 we performed 51 observations at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Stanford University Hospital, and the University of Washington Medical Center of 35 attending physicians. We recorded minutes spent on rounds in three location and seven activity categories, members of the care team, and patient-census. Results presented are means. Pediatric rounds had more participants (8.2 vs. 4.1 physicians, p<.001; 11.9 vs. 2.4 non-physicians, p<.001) who spent more minutes in hallways (96.9 min vs. 35.2 min, p<.001), fewer minutes at the bedside (14.6 vs. 38.2 min, p = .01) than internal medicine rounds. Multivariate regression modeling revealed that minutes at the bedside per patient was negatively associated with pediatrics (−2.77 adjusted bedside minutes; 95% CI −4.61 to −0.93; p<.001) but positively associated with the number of non-physician participants (0.12 adjusted bedside minutes per non physician participant; 95% CI 0.07 to 0.17; p = <.001). Education minutes on rounds was positively associated with the presence of an attending physician (2.70 adjusted education minutes; 95% CI 1.27 to 4.12; p<.001) and with one institution (1.39 adjusted education minutes; 95% CI 0.26 to 2.53; p = .02). Pediatricians spent less time at the bedside on rounds than internal medicine physicians due to reasons other than patient-census or the number of participants in rounds. Compared to historical data, internal medicine rounds were spent more at the bedside engaged in patient care and communication, and less upon educational activities.