New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 15 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:

The Timing of the Shrew: Continuous Melatonin Treatment Maintains Youthful Rhythmic Activity in Aging Crocidura russula:

Laboratory conditions nullify the extrinsic factors that determine the wild expected lifespan and release the intrinsic or potential lifespan. Thus, wild animals reared in a laboratory often show an increased lifespan, and consequently an increased senescence phase. Senescence is associated with a broad suite of physiological changes, including a decreased responsiveness of the circadian system. The time-keeping hormone melatonin, an important chemical player in this system, is suspected to have an anti-aging role. The Greater White-toothed shrew Crocidura russula is an ideal study model to address questions related to aging and associated changes in biological functions: its lifespan is short and is substantially increased in captivity; daily and seasonal rhythms, while very marked the first year of life, are dramatically altered during the senescence process which starts during the second year. Here we report on an investigation of the effects of melatonin administration on locomotor activity of aging shrews.1) The diel fluctuations of melatonin levels in young, adult and aging shrews were quantified in the pineal gland and plasma. In both, a marked diel rhythm (low diurnal concentration; high nocturnal concentration) was present in young animals but then decreased in adults, and, as a result of a loss in the nocturnal production, was absent in old animals. 2) Daily locomotor activity rhythm was monitored in pre-senescent animals that had received either a subcutaneous melatonin implant, an empty implant or no implant at all. In non-implanted and sham-implanted shrews, the rhythm was well marked in adults. A marked degradation in both period and amplitude, however, started after the age of 14-16 months. This pattern was considerably delayed in melatonin-implanted shrews who maintained the daily rhythm for significantly longer. This is the first long term study (>500 days observation of the same individuals) that investigates the effects of continuous melatonin delivery. As such, it sheds new light on the putative anti-aging role of melatonin by demonstrating that continuous melatonin administration delays the onset of senescence. In addition, the shrew appears to be a promising mammalian model for elucidating the precise relationships between melatonin and aging.

Toward the Restoration of Hand Use to a Paralyzed Monkey: Brain-Controlled Functional Electrical Stimulation of Forearm Muscles:

Loss of hand use is considered by many spinal cord injury survivors to be the most devastating consequence of their injury. Functional electrical stimulation (FES) of forearm and hand muscles has been used to provide basic, voluntary hand grasp to hundreds of human patients. Current approaches typically grade pre-programmed patterns of muscle activation using simple control signals, such as those derived from residual movement or muscle activity. However, the use of such fixed stimulation patterns limits hand function to the few tasks programmed into the controller. In contrast, we are developing a system that uses neural signals recorded from a multi-electrode array implanted in the motor cortex; this system has the potential to provide independent control of multiple muscles over a broad range of functional tasks. Two monkeys were able to use this cortically controlled FES system to control the contraction of four forearm muscles despite temporary limb paralysis. The amount of wrist force the monkeys were able to produce in a one-dimensional force tracking task was significantly increased. Furthermore, the monkeys were able to control the magnitude and time course of the force with sufficient accuracy to track visually displayed force targets at speeds reduced by only one-third to one-half of normal. Although these results were achieved by controlling only four muscles, there is no fundamental reason why the same methods could not be scaled up to control a larger number of muscles. We believe these results provide an important proof of concept that brain-controlled FES prostheses could ultimately be of great benefit to paralyzed patients with injuries in the mid-cervical spinal cord.

Scale-Free Music of the Brain:

There is growing interest in the relation between the brain and music. The appealing similarity between brainwaves and the rhythms of music has motivated many scientists to seek a connection between them. A variety of transferring rules has been utilized to convert the brainwaves into music; and most of them are mainly based on spectra feature of EEG. In this study, audibly recognizable scale-free music was deduced from individual Electroencephalogram (EEG) waveforms. The translation rules include the direct mapping from the period of an EEG waveform to the duration of a note, the logarithmic mapping of the change of average power of EEG to music intensity according to the Fechner's law, and a scale-free based mapping from the amplitude of EEG to music pitch according to the power law. To show the actual effect, we applied the deduced sonification rules to EEG segments recorded during rapid-eye movement sleep (REM) and slow-wave sleep (SWS). The resulting music is vivid and different between the two mental states; the melody during REM sleep sounds fast and lively, whereas that in SWS sleep is slow and tranquil. 60 volunteers evaluated 25 music pieces, 10 from REM, 10 from SWS and 5 from white noise (WN), 74.3% experienced a happy emotion from REM and felt boring and drowsy when listening to SWS, and the average accuracy for all the music pieces identification is 86.8%(κ = 0.800, P

Adaptive Response to DNA-Damaging Agents in Natural Saccharomyces cerevisiae Populations from "Evolution Canyon", Mt. Carmel, Israel:

Natural populations of most organisms, especially unicellular microorganisms, are constantly exposed to harsh environmental factors which affect their growth. UV radiation is one of the most important physical parameters which influences yeast growth in nature. Here we used 46 natural strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae isolated from several natural populations at the "Evolution Canyon" microsite (Nahal Oren, Mt. Carmel, Israel). The opposing slopes of this canyon share the same geology, soil, and macroclimate, but they differ in microclimatic conditions. The interslope differences in solar radiation (200%-800% more on the "African" slope) caused the development of two distinct biomes. The south-facing slope is sunnier and has xeric, savannoid "African" environment while the north-facing slope is represented by temperate, "European" forested environment. Here we studied the phenotypic response of the S. cerevisiae strains to UVA and UVC radiations and to methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) in order to evaluate the interslope effect on the strains' ability to withstand DNA-damaging agents. We exposed our strains to the different DNA-damaging agents and measured survival by counting colony forming units. The strains from the "African" slope were more resilient to both UVA and MMS than the strains from the "European" slope. In contrast, we found that there was almost no difference between strains (with similar ploidy) from the opposite slopes, in their sensitivity to UVC radiation. These results suggest that the "African" strains are more adapted to higher solar radiation than the "European" strains. We also found that the tetraploids strains were more tolerant to all DNA-damaging agents than their neighboring diploid strains, which suggest that high ploidy level might be a mechanism of adaptation to high solar radiation. Our results and the results of parallel studies with several other organisms, suggest that natural selection appears to select, at a microscale, for adaptive complexes that can tolerate the higher UV radiation on the "African" slope.

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That is, among 20 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)…
Researchers from the University of Washington have demonstrated that paralysed monkeys can move using a simple neuroprosthesis consisting of an external electrical circuit which connects individual neurons in the motor cortex to muscles in the arm. Similar prostheses have been used to move…
Just trying to catch up with the publicartions in various PLoS Journals this past week. Here are some interesting titles. 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…

'Music of the Brain' is absolutely fascinating.
First thought: I wanna hear this; where do I sign up? But then by gum they include sound files toward the end, bless their hearts. I kinda wish they'd chosen a more "natural" sound to use than the piano, but fascinating.
Second thought: Isn't it the case that we send recordings out into space, including whale songs, for other civilisations to pick up on? Send our brain music!

(I'm back to blogging about Delayed Sleep-Phase Disorder, DSPS, and the blog has a new home at WordPress.)

'Music of the Brain' is absolutely fascinating.
First thought: I wanna hear this; where do I sign up? But then by gum they include sound files toward the end, bless their hearts. I kinda wish they'd chosen a more "natural" sound to use than the piano, but fascinating.
Second thought: Isn't it the case that we send recordings out into space, including whale songs, for other civilisations to pick up on? Send our brain music!

(I'm back to blogging about Delayed Sleep-Phase Disorder, DSPS, and the blog has a new home at WordPress.)

Cool! WordPress is so much better than that thing you were on before. Thanks for letting me know.