New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 12 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. Here are my own picks for the week - you go and look for your own favourites:

Seeing without Seeing? Degraded Conscious Vision in a Blindsight Patient:

Blindsight patients, whose primary visual cortex is lesioned, exhibit preserved ability to discriminate visual stimuli presented in their "blind" field, yet report no visual awareness hereof. Blindsight is generally studied in experimental investigations of single patients, as very few patients have been given this "diagnosis". In our single case study of patient GR, we ask whether blindsight is best described as unconscious vision, or rather as conscious, yet severely degraded vision. In experiment 1 and 2, we successfully replicate the typical findings of previous studies on blindsight. The third experiment, however, suggests that GR's ability to discriminate amongst visual stimuli does not reflect unconscious vision, but rather degraded, yet conscious vision. As our finding results from using a method for obtaining subjective reports that has not previously used in blindsight studies (but validated in studies of healthy subjects and other patients with brain injury), our results call for a reconsideration of blindsight, and, arguably also of many previous studies of unconscious perception in healthy subjects.

The Early ANTP Gene Repertoire: Insights from the Placozoan Genome:

The evolution of ANTP genes in the Metazoa has been the subject of conflicting hypotheses derived from full or partial gene sequences and genomic organization in higher animals. Whole genome sequences have recently filled in some crucial gaps for the basal metazoan phyla Cnidaria and Porifera. Here we analyze the complete genome of Trichoplax adhaerens, representing the basal metazoan phylum Placozoa, for its set of ANTP class genes. The Trichoplax genome encodes representatives of Hox/ParaHox-like, NKL, and extended Hox genes. This repertoire possibly mirrors the condition of a hypothetical cnidarian-bilaterian ancestor. The evolution of the cnidarian and bilaterian ANTP gene repertoires can be deduced by a limited number of cis-duplications of NKL and "extended Hox" genes and the presence of a single ancestral "ProtoHox" gene.

Clinical Characteristics of 26 Human Cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus Infection in China:

While human cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) virus infection continue to increase globally, available clinical data on H5N1 cases are limited. We conducted a retrospective study of 26 confirmed human H5N1 cases identified through surveillance in China from October 2005 through April 2008. Data were collected from hospital medical records of H5N1 cases and analyzed. The median age was 29 years (range 6-62) and 58% were female. Many H5N1 cases reported fever (92%) and cough (58%) at illness onset, and had lower respiratory findings of tachypnea and dyspnea at admission. All cases progressed rapidly to bilateral pneumonia. Clinical complications included acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS, 81%), cardiac failure (50%), elevated aminotransaminases (43%), and renal dysfunction (17%). Fatal cases had a lower median nadir platelet count (64.5Ã109 cells/L vs 93.0Ã109 cells/L, p = 0.02), higher median peak lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) level (1982.5 U/L vs 1230.0 U/L, p = 0.001), higher percentage of ARDS (94% [n = 16] vs 56% [n = 5], p = 0.034) and more frequent cardiac failure (71% [n = 12] vs 11% [n = 1], p = 0.011) than nonfatal cases. A higher proportion of patients who received antiviral drugs survived compared to untreated (67% [8/12] vs 7% [1/14], p = 0.003). The clinical course of Chinese H5N1 cases is characterized by fever and cough initially, with rapid progression to lower respiratory disease. Decreased platelet count, elevated LDH level, ARDS and cardiac failure were associated with fatal outcomes. Clinical management of H5N1 cases should be standardized in China to include early antiviral treatment for suspected H5N1 cases.

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