Found on Eurekalert

For some reason, Eurekalert has a more than the average number of interesting press releases today. Take these with a grain of salt -- press releases are usually nonsense -- but still very interesting.

People who wear glasses are not more introverted:

Myopia or shortsightedness is a complex eye condition which affects about one in four Australians.

In the word's biggest study into factors linked to myopia, and utilising the University's Australian Twin Registry, 633 twins and a comparative group of 278 family members were involved in the study over a four year period.

For the first time in a study into personality and myopia, participants were analysed using a state-of-the-art measure of the five major personality factors (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism), administered by psychologists from the University of Melbourne.

Results revealed that comparison of family members and twins showed no link between myopia and introversion; however there was a significant but small association with myopia and Agreeableness.

The researchers are performing a personality survey on people with glasses to see in they are quote more introverted -- which they construe as more "geeky." It sounds like they did this survey so that they can battle the social stereotype of the geeky kid with glasses which may prevent some kids from getting glasses.

All fine and good, but are there people who still believe that? I thought people with glasses were more likely to be cool (but that might just be because I think geeks are awesome).

Organically grown foods are nearly as productive as their non-organic counterparts:

Can organic cropping systems be as productive as conventional systems? The answer is an unqualified, "Yes" for alfalfa or wheat and a qualified "Yes most of the time" for corn and soybeans according to research reported by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and agricultural consulting firm AGSTAT in the March-April 2008 issue of Agronomy Journal.

The researchers primarily based their answer on results from the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trials, conducted for 13 years (1990-2002) at Arlington, WI and 8 years (1990-1997) at Elkhorn, WI. These trials compared six cropping systems (three cash grain and three forage based crops) ranging from diverse, organic systems to less diverse, conventional systems. The cash grain systems were 1) conventional continuous corn, 2) conventional corn-soybean, and 3) organic corn-soybean-wheat where the wheat included a leguminous cover crop. The three forage based systems were 1) conventional corn-alfalfa-alfalfa-alfalfa, 2) organic corn-oats-alfalfa-alfalfa, and 3) rotationally grazed pasture.

In this research they found that: organic forage crops yielded as much or more dry matter as their conventional counterparts with quality sufficient to produce as much milk as the conventional systems; and organic grain crops: corn, soybean, and winter wheat produced 90% as well as their conventionally managed counterparts. In spite of some climatic differences and a large difference in soil drainage between the two sites, the relatively small difference in the way the cropping systems performed suggested that these results are widely applicable across prairie-derived soils in the U.S. upper Midwest. The researchers also compared their results to other data analysis done on this topic in the U.S. Midwest.

I remember having a fight with someone about this subject. He was arguing that organic food will never supplant regular because of limited productivity. It looks like the technology with organic food is improving such that you can make nearly as much food without using fertilizer or chemicals as with using them. Whether this will bring organic foods in price parity with their non-organic counterparts is another manner.

Also, crop science is, I imagine, a moving target so you have to expect this relative parity to change over time as new technologies are created.

Beta-blockers work in the brain as well as on the heart:

Heart failure patients are routinely given beta-blockers, although doctors do not know exactly how these drugs boost cardiac performance and reduce the risk of death. The UCL study, based on the rat model of postmyocardial infarction-induced heart failure and published in the journal Circulation Research, has discovered that the beta-adrenoceptor blocker metoprolol acts directly in the brain to slow the progression of heart failure. The action seems to be localised to a group of brain cells that UCL researchers have identified previously as being crucial in the control of blood pressure and heart rate.

Professor Mike Spyer, UCL Vice-Provost and co-author of the study, says: "Our study shows the importance of the brain in regulating the cardiovascular system. This is often ignored by cardiologists who concentrate on the dynamics of cardiac contraction and the receptors on the heart that influence this, rather than how the nervous innervation of the heart is regulated."

Beta-blockers are a common class of medications prescribed for hypertension, heart failure, heart attacks and some other stuff. We were taught that they act to slow the heart rate by binding to Beta-1 receptors for catecholamines (like norepinephrine) which would normally speed up the heart rate. They block these receptors leading to an overall reduction in heart rate. This is good during the above described diseases because the heart is more efficient at lower rates.

It would appear that these drugs also have an action in the brain rather than directly on the heart.

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