Archive for April, 2016

Variations in a particular gene may help explain why some people appear more youthful than others, researchers say.

The gene, known as MC1R, is already well known for influencing skin and hair color. Certain variants of MC1R are more common in people with red hair, pale skin and freckles, the researchers said.

Now, a new study suggests those same variants affect “perceived age” — that is, how old you appear to other people.

The researchers found that older adults who carried the “risk” variants of MC1R typically looked two years older than their peers who carried none of those variants. And the connection was independent of their skin tone or whether they had visible sun damage — such as dark spots or wrinkles.

Instead, the gene variants were linked to signs of aging other than wrinkles, said Dr. Orit Markowitz. She is director of the pigmented lesions and skin cancer program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

People may think wrinkles are the telltale sign of aging, but changes in “face shape” — like a sagging jaw line — are important, too, said Markowitz, who was not involved in the study.

She called the findings “very interesting,” and said they potentially point to one piece of the biological “fountain of youth.”

Of course, said David Gunn, one of the researchers on the study, there is no single youthfulness gene, and many factors affect how your looks change with age — including genes and lifestyle.

“This one gene variant only has a small effect on facial aging overall,” said Gunn. He is a senior scientist at Unilever, the United Kingdom- and Netherlands-based consumer goods company.

“I would encourage people to focus on their lifestyle rather than worrying about their genes,” Gunn said. Those lifestyle measures include not smoking, avoiding excessive sun exposure and eating a healthy diet, he noted.

Still, Gunn said, understanding the biological “secrets” of youthful-looking people might lead to “innovative ways” to help slow the facial aging process.

For the study, Gunn’s team combed the genomes (complete DNA) of nearly 2,700 older Dutch adults, looking for genetic variants that were linked to people’s perceived age. A group of “assessors” rated each person’s age based on a digital facial image.

It turned out that people who carried two copies of a “risk” variant of MC1R looked two years older, on average, than people of the same age who did not carry any of those variants.

Since those same variants are common among people with fair skin, it might seem the explanation would lie there, according to Gunn. Pale skin is more prone to sun damage and the consequent signs of aging.

But, his team found the MC1R variants were tied to faster facial aging regardless of skin tone or evidence of sun damage.

Gunn explained that although the variants are common among people with fair skin, people with a darker complexion can also carry them.

Plus, the gene mutations were mainly linked to signs of aging other than wrinkles — such as thinning lips and sagging skin along the jaw.

“This suggests the gene is affecting facial aging through some unknown route,” Gunn said.

The MC1R gene is linked to other biological processes, including repair of DNA damage, Gunn pointed out. But it’s not clear whether that explains the gene’s connection to facial aging, he said.

Since the study participants were all older white adults, no one knows if the genetic findings would be the same in other racial groups or in younger people.

Gunn speculated that a 40-year-old carrying the “risk” variants might look slightly older, but probably not by two years.

The study was published in the April 28 online edition of the journal Current Biology.

Variations in a particular gene may help explain why some people appear more youthful than others, a new study suggests

Source: This gene may help determine how old you look – CBS News

People who like milk chocolate have slightly different microbes in their intestines than those who prefer their chocolate dark, although researchers do not know why. Significant differences in the so-called microbiome are also found in individuals based on whether or not they eat a lot of fiber or take certain medications—such as the diabetes drug metformin, female hormones or antihistamines.

But all these variations account for only a small fraction of the microbial diversity seen in the guts of northern Europeans, according to new research published today in a special section of Science. Of the half-dozen microbiome articles in the journal, two studies stand out as being among the largest ever conducted on the gut microbes that inhabit healthy people’s large intestines and help with digestion and various immune processes—among other things.

In one, researchers identified 14 different microbial genera that form the core microbiomes of nearly 4,000 people—mainly from northern Europe. This list provides unprecedented insights into the basics of microbial inheritance and evolution, says researcher Martin Blaser, director of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University, who was not involved in either study. “These are fundamental characteristics of us humans,” he says.

Jeroen Raes, senior author of the first paper and a contributing author on the second, says he had hoped that the study would be large enough to offer definitive answers to some key questions, particularly how investigators might manipulate the microbiome to promote greater human health. “I thought I would know the answer by now,” says Raes, who eats lots of fiber and—true to Belgian custom—loves chocolate and beer. But he does not take probiotics, microorganisms that are believed to add to or restore a healthy bacterial balance. Nor does he really know what to make of the fact that so many medications appear to affect the makeup of intestinal bacteria. “It’s one of those ‘hmm, interesting,’ moments,” he says, adding that, nonetheless, he thinks variations in the microbiome will eventually be shown to influence the effectiveness of certain drugs as well as the side effects that they can cause. His research, he says, highlights the complexity of the system as well as likely flaws in earlier research.

The Belgian study, for instance, failed to find a benefit for participants who had been nursed or delivered through the birth canal, compared with those who had been fed formula in bottles or brought into the world via Caesarean sections. Previous experiments looking at newborns had, in fact, found a difference. (Healthy germs from moms are thought to coat their babies who are born vaginally, helping the infants establish a robust bacterial baseline. Some studies suggest that babies delivered by C-section are at higher risk for asthma and allergies—possibly because they lack this early protection.)

Assorted gut bacteria
Credit: jamesbenet/Getty Images

Raes, a microbiologist at the University of Leuven and the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) in Flanders, Belgium, says he does not think the other studies are wrong but that these early-life advantages may wane with age. Most of the people in his study were in their 40s and 50s, he notes, and thus any early advantages they may have originally enjoyed were now likely to have been wiped out by medications they took, the germophobic approach to life in wealthy Western nations and/or other life events.

More concerning, according to Raes, are some of the characteristics that he and his colleagues found that greatly influence the composition of the microbiome and that have been ignored in previous work. Case in point: the time it takes for someone to digest food, also known as “transit time”. Variations in transit time of as much as a day or so can significantly alter the environment in which the intestinal microbes live. Thus, different transit times may influence which species survive by, for example, limiting how long a bacterium can grow in the gastrointestinal system.

Prior studies looking at Parkinson’s disease, for instance, found a particular microbial signature that investigators have suggested may be used to diagnose the condition in people who are in the early stages of the illness. Given his findings on transit time, however, Baes suggests that it is just as likely that the patients’ microbes changed not because of their Parkinson’s but because of the severe constipation that often accompanies the condition. And so, any diagnostic test based on this particular microbial shift might falsely suggest that anyone who has not been to the bathroom in awhile could be at risk for Parkinson’s. Such cautions are reminders, Raes says, that research into the microbiome is still in its early days and is easily hyped. “Our field is coming into this consolidation phase,” he says. “We can fulfill the promise of the microbiome by doing proper studies.”

Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist and gut microbiome researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, says he now wants to go back to look at his own research—which suggests there are two types of irritable bowel disease with different microbial signatures—to see if taking transit time into account changes his results. The new findings in the Science study convinced him that all such studies should consider transit time. “Unless transit time is accounted for, which so far has not been done, what you may be seeing is not a correlation with disease process,” says Mayer, whose book The Mind–Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices and Our Overall Health, is due out in July.

The latest research also suggests that most previous microbiome studies were too small. Although Raes and his team looked at more than 1,100 Belgians and compared their results with a similar number of Dutch people, along with previously published studies of other Westerners, they were only able to describe about 7 percent of the microbial variation among individuals. To account for the rest would require a sample size of more than 40,000 people, the researchers estimated—and that is just for groups found in developed, Western economies. Charting normal variation in the microbiomes of people living on farms in rural areas of India or China would presumably require an equivalent sample size.

In the second Science study, which focused on residents of the Netherlands, researchers could explain just 19 percent of the microbial variation among individuals—suggesting there are many influences that have not yet been recognized. Both new studies confirmed that antibiotics have powerful effects on the adult microbiome. Similarly, a large study also out today in Cell found the same in young children.

In an accompanying essay in Science, Blaser argues that clinicians need a new approach to prescribing antibiotics in early childhood. Particularly in the first three years children should probably be prescribed good bacteria along with their antibiotics to restore a healthy microbiome, he says, although we do not yet know which bacteria will be best. Storing children’s pre-antibiotic microbes and then giving them back after antibiotic treatment might also make sense, although this has not been studied, says Blaser, author of Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues. And he called for the development of new, more targeted antibiotics that selectively kill the bad bacteria, rather than also taking out the good. “My concern is that the antibiotics children take affect how their microbiomes will develop and how they will develop immunologically,” Blaser says.

Many activities of modern life, including our obsession with getting rid of germs, deprive us of the microbial diversity that seems to promote long-term health, he says. Low microbial diversity has been associated with several autoimmune disorders, for example, including inflammatory bowel disease, a condition that arises when the body’s own defenses attack the lining of the intestine, and type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the body targets certain cells in the pancreas that produce the insulin hormone.

Genetics also plays a role in the microbiome, although much about the relationship remains to be unraveled. In a review in Science, Ruth Ley, a molecular biologist at Cornell University, examines three recent genetic microbiome studies: a large twin study; a genome-wide association study; and an examination of 200 Hutterites, members of a religious community similar to the Amish. So far, she says, the research does not yet make clear whether genes directly affect people’s microbial populations or whether someone’s microbes are driven by their food preferences, which are known to be genetically linked.

Still, scientists are making some progress in learning how to manipulate the microbiome, says Tommi Vatanen, a graduate student researcher at both the Broad Institute in the U.S. and Aalto University in Finland. “There are very small puzzle pieces that we are starting to understand—maybe the corner pieces of the big puzzle,” says Vatanen, who was a co-author on the Dutch study. If he had small children today, he says, he would give them probiotics with Bifidobacterium, a common component of a healthy microbiome, and get them a dog—which apart from being a great companion also has a microbiome that, studies suggest, may help protect toddlers under a year old against developing certain illnesses later in life.

Ley says she’s not ready to encourage people to take certain probiotics or supplements. But she does avoid antibiotics whenever possible. And she eats yogurt as well as the Korean cabbage dish, kimchi—both of which are known to contain a variety of healthy bacteria.

What to Read Next:

Innovations in the Microbiome

Fecal Transplants: The Straight Poop

A preference for dark versus milk chocolate, among other things, shows up in the kinds of healthy germs found in the gut

Source: Findings from the Gut–New Insights into the Human Microbiome – Scientific American

Ejaculation frequency could be a sign of overall health.

By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) – – Men who ejaculate often may have a lower risk of prostate cancer than their peers who don’t do it as frequently, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers followed about 32,000 men starting in 1992 when they were in their 20s and continuing through 2010. During this period, almost 4,000 of the men were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Men who ejaculated at least 21 times a month in their 20s were 19 percent less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than men who ejaculated no more than seven times a month, the study found. Men who ejaculated more often in their 40s were 22 percent less likely to get a prostate cancer diagnosis.

“Ejaculation frequency is, to some extent, a measure of overall health status in that men at the very low end of ejaculation – 0 to 3 times per month – were more likely to have other (medical problems) and die prematurely from causes other than prostate cancer,” said lead study author Jennifer Rider, who did the analysis while working at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“While our findings should be confirmed in studies that evaluate the potential biological mechanisms underlying the observed associations, the results of our study suggest that ejaculation and safe sexual activity throughout adulthood could be a beneficial strategy for reducing the risk of prostate cancer,” Rider, now at Boston University, added by email.

Prostate cancer accounts for 15 percent of all new cancer diagnoses worldwide, the researchers note in the journal European Urology. Established risk factors like age, race and family history are not “modifiable,” they add, and there are few lifestyle changes that can be recommended to men to lower risk.

To understand the connection between ejaculation frequency and cancer, Rider and colleagues reviewed data from questionnaires men completed about sexual health and examined medical records and lab tests to verify which participants were diagnosed with prostate tumors.

During the study period, there were 192 cases of prostate cancer among men who ejaculated no more than three times a month. There were 1,041 cases with 4 to 7 ejaculations a month, and 1,509 cases with 8 to 12 monthly ejaculations, another 807 cases with 13 to 20 ejaculations a month and 290 cases with at least 21 monthly ejaculations.

One limitation of the study is that it relied on men to accurately recall and report how often they ejaculated, the authors note. The study also included mostly white men, and it’s possible the results might look different in a more diverse population.

The apparent protective effect of high ejaculation frequency was seen mainly in reduced numbers of low-risk forms of prostate cancer, the authors note.

The association between ejaculation frequency and cancer is also strongest for men without symptoms of prostate tumors such as pain or urinary difficulties that are already at low-risk for these malignancies, said Dr. Behfar Ehdaie, a urology specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York who wasn’t involved in the study.

“If ejaculation frequency was truly a causal factor for prostate cancer development, we would expect to find the association across all prostate cancer risk categories,” Ehdaie said by email.

It’s also too soon to weigh the merits of sex as a tool for cancer prevention, said Siobhan Sutcliffe, a cancer researcher at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Sexual activity can have some negative health consequences, such as acquiring a sexually transmitted infection,” Sutcliffe noted by email.

Frequent ejaculation through sex or masturbation probably results from other factors that contribute to good health, such as a healthy diet and normal weight, which might also lower the risk of cancer, said Dr. John Gore, a urology researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle who wasn’t involved in the study.

“I do not think we need to tell men `if you don’t use it, you lose it,’” Gore said by email. “If lower ejaculation frequency prompts a man to schedule a visit with a primary care provider or specialist, and that visit serves to examine and promote preventive care and wellness, then that would be a successful application of the results of this study.”

Source: Guys Who Don’t Ejaculate Frequently Could Have A Higher Risk Of Prostate Cancer

Say someone came up to you selling a dietary supplement—a pill that you take once a day—that could boost your energy, improve your body’s ability to repair its DNA, and keep you healthier as you get older.

It might sound like a scam, or more likely just another in a sea of confusing, undifferentiated claims that make up the $20 billion dollar supplement industry.

But let’s say that someone is MIT’s Lenny Guarente, one of the world’s leading scientists in the field of aging research. And he’s being advised by five Nobel Prize winners and two dozen other top researchers in their fields. You might pay a little more attention.

Elena Ray via Shutterstock

The Scientist And The Startup

Cofounding a supplement company seems an unlikely career move for someone like Guarente, a man who is one of the most well-respected scientists in his field. (“It is a departure,” Guarente admits). Mostly, for him, getting involved in Elysium Health is a decision born out of opportunity and frustration. The opportunity is the chance to make a difference by translating findings in the booming field of aging research directly to consumers today. The frustration is that doing this has taken so long in the first place.

“My biggest hope is that we can make available to people something that is currently unavailable, and that it will have a positive impact on their health,” Guarente says.

Elysium Health actually had its beginnings in conversations between its other two, younger cofounders, Eric Marcotulli and Dan Alminana, who were then tech investors and gym buddies. Even though they’re both quite health-conscious, they knew they couldn’t halt the march of aging and all the ailments that come with it. Far more than diet or anything else people can control, the biggest risk factor for many of the diseases that kill us—including diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease—is simply getting older.

Straight 8 Photography via Shutterstock

Marcotulli knew something about the market opportunity too, which has also lately attracted the likes of Google (with its Calico Labs project) and other SIlicon Valley investors. He had studied the story of a company called Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, which in the mid-2000s was working to take resveratrol, the natural anti-aging compound found in red wine, and alter it into a more potent form that could be patented and developed into a medical drug. In 2008, Sirtris—founded by Guarente’s former postdoc David Sinclair—was acquired by the drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline for a jaw-dropping $720 million.


Learn More

“The fundamental question was: Are there other natural products out there that could be meaningful? I think resveratrol was the first, and I was thinking there’s maybe the potential for many others,” Marcotulli remembers thinking as he studied the story while in business school.

The two started cold-calling scientists involved in aging research and were surprised how many were enthusiastic about the idea, including Guarente. The FDA doesn’t recognize aging itself as a condition, so, instead, companies like Sirtris and GSK are are taking scientific findings about how we age and translating them into drugs that treat specific age-related diseases. The issue is that the clinical trials involved in doing this can take more than a decade, and even then that is no guarantee a drug will be approved. The result has been that, though scientists have made major strides in understanding how and why we age and demonstrating that this aging can be delayed, they’ve so far seen few results in translating their work to help people.

The two entrepreneurs wanted to take a very different approach than the drug makers: sell only unaltered natural products, which generally aren’t patented and don’t need FDA approval, and create new kinds of supplements that make no claim to treat a specific disease but promote general wellness instead.

“If there’s a benefit that can be had now, then I think it doesn’t make sense to wait a decade or more until some derivative [from a drug company] becomes available—though I’m not saying that’s not a good thing to do too” says Guarente.

The three cofounders have been taking the company’s first product, a pill they are calling BASIS, for the last three to five months. Through its website, Elysium Health will sell a one-month supply to consumers for $60, or $50 with a monthly subscription.

Boosting NAD

The theory behind the pill is built on work first pioneered in Guarente’s lab on sirtuins, a group of enzymes involved in cell metabolism and energy production that are common to a wide range of living organisms. Researchers have found that boosting the activity of sirtuins, which is sometimes done by calorie restriction diets, can extend lifespan of yeasts, worms, mice, and other animals. Efforts to develop a drug that can have the same effect, without the lack of calories, have been going on for the last two decades, including at Sirtris and GlaxoSmithKline. There are also natural compounds that elevate sirtuins—one is resveratrol, which is already sold as a dietary supplement today. Another is called NAD.

NAD—Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide—is one of the most compelling bits of chemistry related to aging. Its presence in the body is directly correlated with the passage of time: An elderly man will have about half the levels of NAD is his body as a young person. There’s no amount of healthy eating or exercise that can stop the decline. But in a scientific paper published in 2013 that generated headlines about “reversing aging,” Harvard’s Sinclair showed that after a week of giving two-year-old mice a boost of NAD, their tissues looked more like six-month-old mice.

Elysium’s pill is an attempt to replicate that process naturally in humans. It contains the building blocks of NAD, so the body can easily absorb the smaller molecules and synthesize its own. The pill also contains pterostilbene, a compound, that is a close relative of resveratrol, but which Guarente says is potentially more potent and effective.

Elysium explicitly wants to avoid the charlatan feel of the countless “anti-aging” products on the market today. It isn’t selling the pill as a key to a longer life or to preventing any particular disease, since there isn’t any evidence the pill will do that. A press release the company put out with its launch hardly mentions aging at all. (Another reason is they want to appeal to young people too, who don’t necessarily care about aging, but may want to feel healthier and more energetic). Instead, the founders talks about enhancing basic biological functions: improving DNA repair, cellular detoxification, energy production, and protein function.

“We have no interest in being an anti-aging company and extending lifespan,” says Marcotulli. “For us this is about increasing healthspan, not lifespan.”

The Future Of Dietary Supplements

There is a downside to the model: They can’t patent their work. Some companies already sell supplements for each of the two ingredients in BASIS, and others could copy Elysium as soon as it releases its next products. That’s where Elysium’s business model— and its scientific superstars—come in.

The company aims to be very different type of dietary supplement company—the founders cite the hip, design savvy consumer brands Warby Parker, Oscar Health, Harry’s, and Nest as their role models. (Warby Parker co-CEO Dave Gilboa and one of its early investors, Kal Vepuri, are angel investors in Elysium. Martin Lotti, creative director for Nike’s soccer division, is a strategic advisor.)

“Our vision and mission is to bring scientifically validated natural health products to market through these traditional retail channels,” says Marcotulli. “But it also takes the best aspects of the pharmaceutical model—the R&D focus, clinical rigor, and following these consumers over time.”

Its products will only be sold on its website, where Elysium can control more nuanced messaging than on store shelves. Branding, trust, and scientific expertise are what the team hopes differentiates them from the faceless companies that line Whole Foods’ shelves. At the most basic level, that means trust that the pill contains what it says it contains, but also beyond that, trust that it is doing a person any good.

Elysium assures the ingredients in its products will all be pure, and it will do its own safety testing, as well as test for a basic level of efficacy. Already, says Guarente, it has tested BASIS at a range of doses for safety and to assure that NAD levels in the body actually increase from taking its pill. Over time, the team hopes to also collect data back from customers to start demonstrating some of the longer-term benefits over months and eventually years.

Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says Elysium has a good business idea based on sound science and an impressive team. As someone who is not involved in the company, his one fear is that if something went wrong with a top scientist like Guarente’s name attached, it might set back the whole field of research. Though not required by the FDA, he urges the company to go above and beyond in all of its testing. “People are going to overuse it, and I’m sure if you have too much of it, it could have some effect we can’t predict,” he says.

For Elysium’s next products, which might touch on other areas such as brain health or musculoskeletal health, it will start to tap into the expertise of the formidable list of more than 30 scientific advisors signed on—everyone from Eric Kandel, a brain scientist who received the 2000 Nobel Prize in medicine to Tom Sudhof, a cellular physiologist at Stanford who received the prize in 2013. Eventually, it hopes to expand this network of scientific expertise further to as many scientists that want to get involved.

If anything, Elysium might make more people aware that aging is becoming something that we may one day treat.

“There has been an explosion of science in the field of aging. And I think the public doesn’t really realize how far aging research has come. We have a lot of ideas about the mechanisms of aging, and tons and tons of pathways that can be optimized, tweaked, or activated to possibly extend lifespan,” says Stanford University aging researcher Stuart Kim, who is on Elysium’s scientific advisory team. “I think the public is probably about 30 years behind our thinking about aging. It’s as if we thought about cancer in the way we did in 1960.”

Source: One Of The World’s Top Aging Researchers Has A Pill To Keep You Feeling Young | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

Fish oil, Vitamin D and other nutrients appear to raise the potency of medication

The multibillion-dollar supplement industry spews many dubious claims, but a new study suggests that some nutritional supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, may boost the effectiveness of antidepressants. If so, the supplements might help relieve symptoms for the millions of people who don’t immediately respond to these drugs.

The meta-analysis—published Tuesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry—reviewed the results of 40 clinical trials that evaluated the effects of taking nutritional supplements in conjunction with several major classes of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants. It revealed that four supplements in particular upped the potency of the medications, compared with a placebo.

The researchers, based at Harvard University and the University of Melbourne, found the strongest evidence for an omega-3 fish oil called eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA. In general, people with depression who took an antidepressant drug and an omega-3 sourced from fish oil experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms as assessed by a the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, a common measure used by most of the studies in the review. The same was true, although to a lesser extent, for S-adenosylmethionine, methylfolate (a form of the B vitamin folic acid) and Vitamin D. A few isolated studies found some benefit from augmenting treatment with creatine, while adding zinc, vitamin C, the amino acid tryptophan and folic acid produced mixed results. The authors deemed all of these supplements relatively safe.

Lead study author Jerome Sarris of the University of Melbourne’s ARCADIA Mental Health Research Group notes that a large percentage of people with depression do not fully respond during one or two trials of an antidepressant. By some estimates, two-thirds don’t respond to the first antidepressant they try and a third fail to get better after several treatment attempts. “The implications are that clinicians and the public can consider [adding] therapeutic doses of nutrients such as omega-3s as a potential low-cost approach to reducing depression in people who are non-responsive to antidepressants,” he says.

Sarris and his colleagues speculate that the supplements may enhance the efficacy of antidepressants in various ways, perhaps directly by altering neurostransmitter activity or indirectly by reducing inflammation, known to contribute to depression. Leading nutritional psychiatry researcher Felice N. Jacka of Deakin University and the University of Melbourne explains that conditions like depression can trigger a cascade of physical concerns that certain supplements, when combined with accepted antidepressant therapies, could help mitigate.

“Serious illnesses such as major depression can result in increased inflammation and oxidative stress, which can in turn result in nutritional deficiencies and a depletion of essential fatty acids,” she notes. “Nutrients form the substrate of the essential biological processes of the body and brain, so ensuring that nutrient levels are adequate in patients suffering from any serious illnesses is important.”

Doctors and scientists often come down hard on nutritional supplementation. There is little to no scientific evidence backing many of the products crowding the shelves at health food stores and pushed by celebrity doctors. In fact, many come in mega-doses associated with serious side effects. And countless manufacturers produce these supplements, many with no standardized processes and varying degrees of quality control.

Indeed, the supplement industry exists largely outside of any oversight by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In December last year, the FDA announced the formation of a new Office of Dietary Supplement Programs to help tighten regulation, but for now when it comes to supplements, consumers often don’t know what they are getting.

Sarris acknowledges that supplements can differ greatly in quality and that his results should be approached with caution. “We’re not telling people to rush out and buy buckets of supplements,” he wrote in a press release accompanying the new paper. “Always speak to your medical professional before changing or initiating a treatment.”

But researchers like Sarris are gradually disentangling potential fact from fiction. A number of vitamins and supplements are coming under scientific scrutiny. Vitamin D in particular has been the focus of a host of recent studies and may be beneficial in treating a variety of conditions, from multiple sclerosis to schizophrenia.

For brain health, all—or at least most—roads lead to the sea.  Many small trials have reported associations between omega-3 fatty acids—obtained either through diet or supplements—and improved depression symptoms. In practice, omega-3s derived from fish appear to reach significantly higher blood levels than those sourced from plants. And there is a fast accumulating body of data linking a reduced risk for depression to traditional diets—including the Mediterranean, Scandinavian and Japanese diets—that are high in vegetables, whole grains and fish.

How does the evidence sit in light of the new study’s findings? “It is important to advise that a balanced whole-food diet is important for physical as well as mental health, and that supplements should not replace this,” Sarris notes. “However, I believe a good diet in addition to select nutraceutical prescriptions can still be recommended in some cases, such as when people have inadequate responses to antidepressant medication.”

As a next step, Sarris believes that researchers should move beyond specific supplements and study augmenting antidepressant treatment with, say, the Mediterranean diet. Both he and Jacka also feel that more work needs to be done to determine which supplements may benefit patients as individuals, based on their specific nutrient deficiencies, brain conditions and genetic profiles.

“A key imperative for nutritional psychiatry is to develop a clear understanding of what supplements are useful for whom, and under what conditions, and also to understand the baseline factors that might influence nutrient metabolism, such as gut health,” Jacka says. “This sort of knowledge should help us to begin to design targeted and personalized nutritional interventions for psychiatric illnesses.”

Source: Do Vitamins and Supplements Make Antidepressants More Effective?

Just as President Obama prepares to travel to Riyadh, the kingdom has threatened to withdraw hundreds of billions in investments over a Senate bill related to 9/11.

Almost exactly 11 years ago, in April 2005, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited President George W. Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It was a friendly occasion. The Bush family had long had good relations with the Saudi royal family. Though the war in Iraq was not going especially well, and the fallout concerned Riyadh, the Saudis were glad to see Saddam Hussein gone. The two men issued a statement hailing “our personal friendship and that between our nations.” They spoke about the need to “forge a new relationship between our two countries—a strengthened partnership that builds on our past partnership, meets today’s challenges, and embraces the opportunities our nations will face in the next sixty years.”

As President Obama heads to Saudi Arabia this week, that hope is unfulfilled, and relations between the two long-time allies are extremely strained. Bush is long out of office and mostly out of the political scene. Abdullah is dead, replaced by his half-brother Salman. The Saudi and American governments are at odds over a host of issues. The U.S. disapproves of the ongoing Saudi intervention in Yemen and was angry at Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr early this year. The Saudis want the U.S. to do more in Syria, and, in particular, remain upset about the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran.
Related Story

The Obama Doctrine

But the most pressing issue at hand is much older: It’s the September 11 attacks. As Obama prepares to travel, Congress is considering a bill that would open the door for Saudi interests to be held liable in court for the attacks. And as The New York Times reported over the weekend, the Saudi government is threatening to sell off nearly a trillion dollars in assets held in the U.S. if the bill passes.

The families of 9/11 victims have attempted to sue Saudi Arabia for playing a role in those attacks, but under a 1976 law, foreign governments are immune from many types of lawsuits in American courts. The bill under consideration now would tweak current law, so that foreign governments could be held liable if they are found culpable for attacks on U.S. soil that kill Americans. That very narrow scope—carefully calibrated to apply to few situations—could allow lawsuits to move forward.

The bill is unusually bipartisan, co-sponsored by members of both parties’ leadership teams: Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York, the presumptive leader when Senator Harry Reid retires, and Republican John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip. It has the support of members from Ted Cruz to Chris Coons and Chuck Grassley to Kirsten Gillibrand. In the last couple of days, both Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidates, have said they support it. It passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously in February.

Notably, however, the Obama administration has opposed the bill. The White House has lobbied Congress not to pass the bill, and Press Secretary Josh Earnest threatened a presidential veto on Monday, saying, “It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the president would sign the bill as currently drafted.” In February, Secretary of State John Kerry told senators that the bill would “create a terrible precedent” that could lead to other countries opening up the U.S. government to lawsuits, despite the carefully tailored language. The Times reports that top State and Defense Department officials warned lawmakers in a closed-door briefing that the law could expose American soldiers and diplomats abroad.

The Saudi threat to withdraw investments has gotten more attention than those cautions, though. The assets in question include $750 billion in Treasury notes, plus some other investments, which the government fears could be frozen by U.S. courts in a lawsuit. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reportedly delivered the threat in Washington in person. There’s a great deal of skepticism from economists and lawmakers about the threat, which could be damaging to the U.S. economy, but even worse for the Saudi economy, which has already been battered by the declining price of oil.

But wait, what role did Saudi Arabia play in the attacks? The 9/11 Commission report said this: “We have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” Just like the proposed change to sovereign foreign immunity, it’s a narrowly tailored sentence.

“You can’t provide the money for terrorists and then say, “I don’t have anything to do with what they’re doing,’” Bob Kerrey, the former senator and a member of the 9/11 Commission, told 60 Minutes recently. “In general, the 9/11 Commission did not get every single detail of the conspiracy. We didn’t. We didn’t have the time, we didn’t have the resources. We certainly didn’t pursue the entire line of inquiry in regard to Saudi Arabia.”

Even then, there’s some information about Saudi involvement that has been gathered but is not yet public. A 2002 joint congressional investigation into intelligence failures ahead of 9/11 produced 28 pages that remain classified, and which are said to shed light on potential Saudi involvement in the attacks—perhaps by lower-level Saudi officials, or by elements of the government but not the government “as an institution.” Former Senator Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat who chaired the Senate side of the committee, has been pushing for years for the 28 pages to be released. Graham (no relation to this reporter) has fought a long and somewhat lonely battle, in part because he believes it could affect the victims’ families’ quest for restitution.

“No. 1, I think the American people deserve to know the truth of what has happened in their name,” he said last year. “No. 2 is justice for these family members who have suffered such loss and thus far have been frustrated largely by the U.S. government in their efforts to get some compensation.”

The pages were classified at the request of the FBI when produced. Graham and then-Representative Porter Goss, who was the House chair of the committee (and later directed the CIA) suggest there’s been no good reason given for keeping the document secret. Since the documents are classified, Graham won’t say what’s in them, but he has promised “a real smoking gun.”

Obama adviser Ben Rhodes, who worked on the 9/11 Commission, described how Saudis were involved to David Axelrod recently:

Without getting into that specifically because that’s still classified, I think that it’s complicated in the sense that, it’s not that it was Saudi government policy to support Al Qaeda, but there were a number of very wealthy individuals in Saudi Arabia who would contribute, sometimes directly, to extremist groups, sometimes to charities that were kind of, ended up being ways to launder money to these groups. So, a lot of the funding—and you know Bin Laden himself was a wealthy Saudi—so a lot of the money, the seed money if you will, for what became Al Qaeda, came out of Saudi Arabia.

Between the increased tension with the Saudis, Obama’s upcoming trip, and immunity bill, there seems to be greater pressure and awareness to release the 28 pages now than ever before. Interestingly, the Saudis themselves have in the past backed those efforts. In 2003, then-Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called for release so that Saudi Arabia could defend itself.

“We want to see them for two reasons,” he told CNN. “If there are accusations against Saudi Arabia, we want to respond to it, because we know we are clear of any accusations. But if there are any also information about possible supporters of terrorists, we want to know about them to take care of the situation.” (Saud al-Faisal died last summer, but his position is one the Saudis appeared to maintain as recently as 2014, though their current position on declassification is unclear.)

Now there’s some indication that the U.S. government might actually do it. Graham told the Tampa Bay Times last week that the White House told him a decision on whether to declassify was coming within the next one to two months. That means not before Obama’s trip to Riyadh—assuming the decision is to declassify at all.

While American officials have expressed ambivalence about the Saudi government before, noting the kingdom’s dismal record on human rights and involvement in exporting radical Islamism, there’s a new drumbeat of questions about the value of the relationship. The new mood suits both liberals who have always disliked Saudi Arabia and seen America’s ties to it as cynical, and conservatives who think the kingdom is doing too little to stop terrorism, and may in fact be fomenting it. But the U.S. still relies on the Saudi government for plenty of things, notably funneling support to Syrian rebels who oppose the Assad regime.

Despite the movement on the 28 pages and the immunity bill, it isn’t clear whether Obama will discuss them with the king this week, according to Earnest, the White House spokesman. Despite his lobbying against the current bill, and refusal thus far to declassify the congressional investigation, Obama has shown himself to be no fan of the Saudi government, and far more skeptical of the royal family than his predecessor. As Jeffrey Goldberg reported in his recent Atlantic cover story, the president complained to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about Saudi and Gulf influence producing stricter forms in Islam in places like Indonesia, where practice had been more liberal.

“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?,” Turnbull wondered, to which Obama replied: “It’s complicated.” Nor does it seem likely to get any simpler at the moment.

Source: The 9/11 Immunity Bill, the 28 Pages, and the Ever More Complicated U.S. Relationship With Saudi Arabia – The Atlantic

Carl Smith Provides the Rosetta Stone of Solar Science?

Carl is no longer with us, but he has certainly left us with a legacy. Back in 1965 Paul Jose was one of the first to link solar modulation with planetary movements. He discovered that the planets roughly returned to the same position every 178.8 years (My research suggests 172 yrs). Jose’s paper included a very rough solar radius graph which showed some modulation but was difficult to draw from. Later Theodor Landscheidt wrote many papers using a similar principle but mainly relied on solar torque graphs which ranged over long time periods. Theodor also focused on the zero crossings  or when the Sun returns to the centre of the solar system, which in my opinion is not the crucial stage but happens close to grand minima. Landscheidt predicted a Grand Minimum to start at 1990, peak around 2030 (the latter 2030 might be late, if the current trend continues) and extend out to 2070…Those dates are derived from the zero crossing method which incorporates an extreme in solar torque measurements.

Then Carl Smith in 2007 using JPL data and his own programming skills plotted the Angular Momentum of the Sun. This graph I believe is the Rosetta stone of solar science.

Carl’s original graph did not have the green arrows, but instead he displayed red arrows when the curve reached zero. (both Carl & Landscheidt concentrated on the negative angular momentum as the graph goes through zero). Link to Carl’s original article HERE.. The solar disturbances occurring at the green arrows is a new discovery quite different to the Landscheidt theory.

Carbon 14 graph from Wiki showing correlation with Carl’s graph. Green squares corresponding with the green arrows.

Carl’s Graph was produced in 2007. Around 12 months later I stumbled on his graph while doing some ENSO research and noticed the “camel shaped humps” at the green arrows (green arrows added later), this is the point of divergence and the beginning of my research.

The humps or disturbance to the normal pattern also looked to line up very accurately with prior slowdowns of the Sun for the last 400 years. I later discovered this to be true for the last 6000 years. By studying the shape of the hump and measuring the Saturn angle we can now also quantify the severity of the solar downturn which lines up with the 11000 yr 14C (solar proxy) records in timing and strength, I call these humps the AMP event which stands for Angular Momentum Perturbation. Further research established another correlation, I checked the planetary position at the point of disturbance and noticed a recurring pattern. Every time there is a disturbance on Carl’s graph we have the same planetary position. This position is Neptune, Uranus and Jupiter together with Saturn opposing, this only happens on a cycle around 172 years average, which now laid the foundation for solar modulation planning. In addition it also became obvious that Angular Momentum (AM) was responsible for the strength of the solar cycle, the AM curve very closely matches the sunspot curve which now allows us easily to predict modulation strength for the next 200 years and more. The AM graphs serve as a marker and AM is not a driver in itself, the background forces are gravity, rotation, torque and velocity. There is one fact that cannot be argued against, the position of the planets as just described radically changes the path of the Sun around the Solar System Barycenter (SSB), this also coincides with all solar slowdowns. Only this planetary position can cause this radical path change.

The oncoming Grand Minimum will prove Carl’s graph is the key to solar activity, which will radically change the solar scientific arena. It will take time for Angular Momentum Theory (AMT) to take hold, but the house of cards of the last 50 years of solar science will eventually crumble, showing us all how little we really know.

Below is a new version of Carl’s graph that uses different data that slightly enhances the AMP events at the green arrows. Click on the image for a full size view.

Be sure to visit our sister site that has more new research in the Planetary Realm along with a full archive of Dr. Landscheidt’s & Carl Smith’s work

Dont forget to vote on “who’s name should be on the next grand minimum” in the poll link at the top.


Addition Keystone graphs produced after paper publication:

solar powerwave

3 prongs grand minima

Source: Beyond Landscheidt…. | Planetary Theory Moves to the Next Level

Holy Crap! Global cooling is coming.

If you have no Idea what this means start with Landscheidt cycles…..

Beyond Landscheidt…. | Planetary Theory Moves to the Next …
Jul 23, 2009 – Landscheidt predicted a Grand Minimum to start at 1990, peak … Momentum (AM) was responsible for the strength of the solar cycle, the AM …

A Cycles Based Approach to Understanding Solar Activity & Climate.

A Supreme Court order issued today closes the book on (or perhaps merely ends this chapter of) more than a decade of legal warfare between Google and the Authors Guild over the legality of the former’s scanning without permission of millions of copyrighted books. And the final word is: it’s fair use

The order is just an item in a long list of other orders that appeared today, and adds nothing to the argument except the tacit approval of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals 2015 decision — itself approving an even earlier decision, that of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2013. So in a way, it’s old news.The 2013 decision found that the scanning of books (provided for that purpose by libraries) was not a violation of copyright, owing to its being “transformative” — in a technical sense. The books were not simply being resold or the like, but were being used for a new and creative purpose: a search engine for books that were frequently out of print or copyright. It doesn’t provide a “substitute” for the original work, and the court accepted Google’s argument that it was in fact doing a public service as well as providing authors with new audiences.

The Appeals court found that decision sound, and now the Supreme Court has, at least, declined to examine it, which is as much as saying it’s fine with them.

Naturally, the Authors Guild is furious. Executive director Mary Rasenberger lashed out in a press release:

Blinded by the public benefit arguments, the Second Circuit’s ruling tells us that Google, not authors, deserves to profit from the digitization of their books… The price of this short-term public benefit may well be the future vitality of American culture.

The vituperative tone may cause eye-rolling in some who find the fair use case to be an obvious one, but Rasenberger does go on to make broader, more philosophical observations that are food for thought:

Authors are already among the most poorly paid workers in America; if tomorrow’s authors cannot make a living from their work, only the independently wealthy or the subsidized will be able to pursue a career in writing, and America’s intellectual and artistic soul will be impoverished.

The denial of review is further proof that we’re witnessing a vast redistribution of wealth from the creative sector to the tech sector, not only with books, but across the spectrum of the arts.

It’s fuel for the ongoing argument about whether and how technology enables and damages the creation and distribution of art, be it literary, musical or visual. This decision is, I think, the right one, but there are hard questions that it doesn’t answer. Copyright is at best a deeply flawed system as it stands legislated today, though few will argue with the concept of legal protections of creative works.

That said, any copyright policy (or lawsuit) that fails to acknowledge the vastly different world those works enter into today versus even a few years ago is bound to crumble in time. And, for that matter, any effort sufficiently advanced of concept will certainly invite legal scrutiny and obstruction. Not every such effort can wage a decade-long legal battle, so alas, many a far-reaching project will be (and has been) smothered at the earliest stages.

The Guild will “keep fighting” and promised to act as watchdog over Google (although the Books project isn’t nearly as active as it once was) while pursuing its own solution to the question of mass online distribution and indexing.

A Supreme Court order issued today closes the book on (or perhaps merely ends this chapter of) more than a decade of legal warfare between Google and the Authors Guild over the legality of the…

Source: Supreme Court affirms Google Books scans of copyrighted works are fair use | TechCrunch

Stupid PILLS

From the Aging Brain Care folks:

What drugs make you stupid….

Source: ACB_scale_-_legal_size.pdf

LSD: Distortions of Vision and Pain

This paper is a manually-entered copy of the complete published text of the 1979paper. The author thanks the editors of erstwhile Perceptual and Motor Skillsfor thisspecial permission. The published text pagination has been preserver, except thathyphenated words and REFERENCES crossing page boundaries have been gathered tothe page on which they were begun.In addition to this Preface, one minor change has been made to correct a newly-founderror on the published p. 518, an error which is explained the

Feeling “one with nature” or feeling the self “dissolve” is triggered when psychedelics shift the patterns of connectivity in the brain.

Source: Brain Scans Show Why LSD Makes You Feel One With Nature and Your Self Dissolve

Ask parents of teenagers what they’re worried about, and amon

Source: Why helping teens get more sleep could save lives –

Ask parents of teenagers what they’re worried about, and among the issues they’re likely to bring up is their teens not getting enough sleep. So many teens stay up past midnight and get up early, especially when their school starts, in some cases, well before 8:00 a.m.
A new study finds that pattern is not only dangerous — it could be deadly.

The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that teens who get less than seven hours of sleep on school nights were more likely to engage in risky behaviors — such as texting and driving, drinking and driving, riding with a driver who was drinking, and not wearing a seat belt in a car or a helmet while on a bicycle — than teens who sleep nine hours a night.
“It was rather surprising to find such an impact of short sleep duration on these injury-related behaviors and suggests that sleep deprivation may play an important role in poor judgment and decision-making among adolescents,” said Janet Croft, chief of the epidemiology and surveillance branch of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the co-authors of the study.
Results are in: School starts too early, autism screening, PTSD and more
Results are in: Kids start school too early
This current CDC report, which analyzed questionnaires from more than 50,000 high school students in 2009, 2011 or 2013, is just the latest research to document how worrisome a lack of sleep for teens can be.
Back in 2011, the CDC found that insufficient sleep for teens, which was described as less than eight hours on average a night, was associated with cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use, sexual activity, not getting enough exercise, feeling sad or hopeless, and seriously considering attempting suicide. Almost 70% of teens were not getting enough sleep, the CDC found.
Read the CDC report (.PDF)
Doctors around the country grew so concerned about the impact of a lack of sleep on teens, including the connection with obesity, depression and traffic accidents, that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2014 recommending that schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. so that teens can get the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night.
But last year, researchers from the CDC and the U.S. Department of Education found that, based on data from the 2011-2012 school year, only 18% of the schools surveyed started classes at the recommended time of 8:30 a.m. or later, while more than 80% started earlier. Students in Louisiana were found to go to school the earliest with an average start time of 7:40 a.m.
‘Our society does not respect sleep’
Think about this: If you have to be at school at 7:40 a.m., and you have a 30-minute commute and need at least 30 minutes to have breakfast, shower and get out the door, you must be up at 6:40 a.m. at the latest. If you want to get the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep, you need to be in bed between 9:10 p.m. and 10:10 p.m. Do you know any teens who go to bed that early?
“The real issue at this point is that our society does not respect sleep, and we have grown-ups that brag about how, ‘We can get on with five hours of sleep,’ ‘We can drink that Red Bull and soldier on,’ ‘Sleep is for wimps,’ ‘I’ll get enough sleep when I’m dead,'” said Maribel Ibrahim, co-founder of Start School Later, a nonprofit focused on increasing public awareness about the relationship between sleep and school hours. “These are the statements that are horrifying, because really sleep is an essential third pillar of health.”
Let kids sleep later
School days: Teens need to start later (Opinion)
For way too many years, I’ve gotten too little sleep. From 4:00 a.m. wake-up calls during my days covering the White House, to sleeping just three hours at a stretch when I had my girls, to early wake-ups even now, I still don’t regularly get enough sleep — but I see the difference when I do. I’m fresher, quicker and all-around better at my job and as a parent when I get more sleep, and that is the case with teens, too.
A study by the University of Minnesota of more than 9,000 students in eight public high schools from three states found that schools with start times of 8:30 a.m. or later report improved academic performance in core areas such as math, English, science and social studies, better scores on state and national achievement tests, improved attendance and a reduction in tardiness.
Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Missouri, moved up the start time for the school day from 7:50 a.m. to 8:55 a.m. at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
The school has not done any study on the impact of the later start time, but anecdotal evidence from parents does point to some improvement, said Jennifer Rukstad, the school’s principal.
“There was just lots and lots of complaining about the impact on the life of the family, and so once you kind of allowed that to get through, then if you would ask the parents what kind of impact has it had on your child as far as their affect and their performance. And everyone said, ‘Oh, they’re much easier to get along with,'” Rukstad said.
“A teenager is going to go to bed when they go to bed, no matter what time they are supposed to get up, so if they’re going to stay up until midnight, they’re going to stay up until midnight whether school starts at 7:50 or 8:55. So they are, in general, getting a little more sleep than they were before, because they don’t have to get up as early,” she said. “But I have no data that says that performance has gone up, that we’ve dropped depression rates. We just don’t have data on that.”
Doctors: Early school start times unhealthy for students
Early school start times unhealthy, doctors say
The experience at Rock Bridge also points to the challenges of implementing later start times at every school around the country. The school day at Rock Bridge ends at 4:05 p.m., which affects athletic teams that need to travel a distance for games and after-school clubs. After-school clubs are not nearly as popular as before-school clubs, Rukstad said.
People generally love the start time, but hate the end time, she added. It’s possible, she said, that at some point in the next few years, based on financial pressures, busing needs and teaching demands in the district, the school time at Rock Bridge might move back to a slightly earlier time, but not as early as 7:50 a.m.
“There are just some limitations, especially when you look at middle school and high school of having their schedules so vastly different,” said Rukstad. (Middle schoolers start their day at 7:30 a.m.)
‘The enemy is ignorance’
Ibrahim of Start School Later said more schools are moving in the direction of starting later. When her group was formed in 2011, she said, schools in a total of 23 states attempted to begin the school day at a later time. Today, schools in 44 states have made the move, she said.
“So it is becoming a conversation piece. People are talking about it, and right now we have school districts that have done it,” she said. “All the previous obstacles that were cited are really not obstacles at all. The biggest obstacle is fear of change.”
Just this week, Maryland passed legislation which will recognize schools that are making strides toward healthy hours, said Ibrahim. “It’s really going to bring even more attention to the problem and it’s going to support school districts that are really trying to make a change,” she said.
Calming the teenage mind in the classroom
Calming the teenage mind in the classroom
What can a parent do? Researchers at the CDC say parents can encourage their children to practice good sleep habits, such as setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time, including on weekends, and limiting the use of devices such as computers, video games and cell phones in the bedroom after a certain hour.
“Parents may benefit themselves and their children by setting a good example,” said Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a co-author of the new study. “Adolescent sleep habits tend to reflect their parents’ sleep habits.”
The greatest thing parents can do to help their teens get more sleep, according to Ibrahim of Start School Later, is really get educated on the issue of school start times. “Ironically, even well-meaning school districts that have attempted to implement school start times have gotten backlash from the community, from the parents, because the school districts are not the villains necessarily. Really the enemy is ignorance,” said Ibrahim. “The enemy is assuming, ‘Oh this isn’t that big a deal. Just turn off your devices at night and stop texting and all will be well.’ That would be great if kids could get up at 7:30 in the morning, but it’s not great when they still have to get up at 5:00.”
Join the conversation

See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.
It will be years before my girls, 8 and 10, begin high school. But after going through the research, hearing the benefits of later school start times, and knowing how difficult it is to get a teen to go to bed early despite a parent’s best intentions, I’m hoping by the time they get there, later start times will be as normal in high school as a teenager’s eye roll.
“We’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, they used to start school at what time?'” joked Ibrahim.
Do you think high schools should have later start times? Share your thoughts with

Source: Brain Scans Show Why LSD Makes You Feel One With Nature and Your Self Dissolve

When study participants in a new fMRI study on LSD reported experiencing their sense of self dissolve, a common experience on the psychedelic substance, a remarkable thing happened to their brain scan images: The regions of the brain responsible for higher cognition lit up, suddenly becoming heavily “over-connected” with other networks in the brain that do not normally communicate with one another.

When psychological research into LSD ground to a halt in the mid-1970s, after the Nixon administration placed the drug in the most tightly controlled substance category, the ability to take pictures of brain activity in real time was still decades off. Now, with LSD research back on the rise and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans a standard tool of brain research, a group of neuroscientists decided to pick up where their predecessors left off. What they found explains why, for centuries, people who have taken psychedelics have reported feeling they’re “one with nature” and that the self “dissolved” while on a trip.

When study participants on LSD reported experiencing their sense of self dissolve (what researchers called “ego dissolution”), a remarkable thing happened to their fMRI scans: The regions of the brain responsible for higher cognition lit up, suddenly becoming heavily “over-connected” with other networks in the brain that do not normally communicate with one another. The degree of connectivity correlated with the degree to which the person on LSD told the researchers they were feeling the borders between themselves and the rest of the world blur or fall away completely.

“This could mean that LSD results in a stronger sharing of information between regions” that deal with how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive the outer world, Enzo Tagliazucchi, a neuroscientist who helped lead the study, said in a statement. For example, LSD appeared to trigger the area of the brain associated with self-consciousness, called the fronto-parietal cortex, to connect strongly with areas of the brain that process sensory information about the world outside ourselves—areas that don’t normally connect. That interconnectedness may be “enforcing a stronger link between our sense of self and the sense of the environment and potentially diluting the boundaries of our individuality,” Tagliazucchi said.

Try Newsweek for only $1.25 per week

It’s important to remember, said Tagliazucchi, that when you’ve taken LSD and experience your “self” or your ego disappearing, it’s an illusion; it’s what happens when the brain temporarily reorganizes itself to change our perception. In fact, the brain is doing this all the time—mostly to help make our world comprehensible. For example, the brain filters out the veins that cross in front of the retina of our eyes so we see a clear picture not distorted by the veins. “So when we take psychedelics, we are, it could be said, replacing one illusion [with] another illusion. This might be difficult to grasp, but our study shows that the sense of self or ‘ego’ could also be part of this illusion,” he said.

That may sound like stoner philosophy, but it could be key to new insights about how the brain constructs reality—and, perhaps, why reality appears differently to people with certain mental disorders. Tagliazucchi hopes to extend this research to explore what goes on in the brain while it is constructing alternate realities during a dream state, to see how it compares with the brain on psychedelics.

04_22_GSLSD_02 An image from the study, provided by Enzo Tagliazucchi, shows the effects of LSD and psilocybin (the psychedelic substance present in “magic mushrooms”) on the overall connectivity of the human brain. Enzo Tagliazucchi

A paper using the data, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , found that the increased interconnectedness of brain regions while on LSD makes the brain of a tripping adult resemble something like the brain of a baby, which is less impeded by compartmentalization than an adult brain. In the adult brain, networks that control vision, movement and hearing function separately; LSD lifts the barriers between these networks, promoting the unconstrained flow of information between them.

“This also makes sense when we consider the hyper-emotional and imaginative nature of an infant’s mind,” Robin Cahart-Harris of the Imperial College London, who led the study, told Reuters. “This could have great implications for psychiatry,” especially in the treatment of depression or other mental disorders that emphasize negative thought, he said, especially because the “improvement in well-being” appears not to subside after the drug has worn off.

Monarch butterflies possess highly-accurat

Source: Scientists Crack Code Of Monarch Butterfly’s Internal Compass: Here’s How It Works : SCIENCE : Tech Times

TAG Monarch butterfly, butterflies, insects, Insect Migration, Migration, Mystery solved
Scientists Crack Code Of Monarch Butterfly’s Internal Compass: Here’s How It Works

By James Maynard, Tech Times | April 14, 10:51 PM
Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies undertake a journey of 2,000 miles twice each year. Now, scientists finally understand how they find their way.
(Photo : Smart Destinations | Flickr)

Monarch butterflies possess highly-accurate internal compasses that guide them during their long-distance migrations. Now, researchers believe they have determined how the directional systems within the flying insects work.

Every year, as summer turns to autumn, monarch butterflies from across the United States begin a 2,000-mile journey to the warm climate of central Mexico.

University of Washington investigators studied how the insects are able to sense which direction to fly — southwest — during their yearly journey. Researchers believe the internal compass of the insects is able to determine the position of the sun as well as the time of day. Together, this data allows the butterflies to head in the right direction.

Biologists have understood for several years that monarch butterflies utilize these two pieces of information to orientate themselves. However, the process by which their brains receive and process this data was unknown — until now.

Like humans, monarchs possess an internal clock, mediated by the natural rhythms of clock genes. In the body plan of the colorful insects, the workings of this timekeeping system takes place within the antennae. This information is then fed to the brain for processing and analysis. When combined with information from the large eyes of the insect, the tiny animals are able to determine direction.

“We created a model that incorporated this information — how the antennae and eyes send this information to the brain. Our goal was to model what type of control mechanism would be at work within the brain, and then asked whether our model could guarantee sustained navigation in the southwest direction,” said Eli Shlizerman of the University of Washington.

Populations of monarch butterflies have plummeted in recent years, due to the loss of milkweed — the sole source of food for monarch larvae.

Investigators found that, when these insects are thrown off-course during their journey, they do not simply turn the fastest direction toward their desired path. Instead, the animals rely on a specific separation point to determine whether they should turn left or right. The tiny creatures will not cross this point in their field of vision when altering their course.

When the time comes to return back north in the spring, these mechanisms simply switch direction, guiding the brightly-colored animals toward the northeast.

Analysis of the internal compass of monarch butterflies was published in the journal Cell Reports.

Judges rule that the state’s job protections for teachers do not deprive poor and minority students of a quality education, or violate their civil rights.

Source: California Appeals Court Reverses Decision to Overturn Teacher Tenure Rules – The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — A California appeals court ruled on Thursday that the state’s job protections for teachers do not deprive poor and minority students of a quality education or violate their civil rights — reversing a landmark lower court decision that had overturned the state’s teacher tenure rules.

The decision put a roadblock — at least temporarily — in front of a national movement, financed by several philanthropists and businesspeople, to challenge entrenched protections for teachers, championed by their unions.

Two years ago, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down five California statutes connected with the awarding of tenure, as well as rules that govern the use of seniority to determine layoffs during budget crises. Ruling in a case brought by a group of nine high school students — four of whom have since graduated — the judge, Rolf Treu, said the statutes violated the students’ rights to an equal education under the California Constitution because they allowed poorly performing teachers to remain indefinitely in classrooms.

In reversing the trial court’s decision, a panel of three appeals judges wrote that if ineffective teachers are in place, the statutes themselves were not to blame because it was school and district administrators who “determine where teachers within a district are assigned to teach.” The laws themselves, the judges wrote, do not instruct districts in where to place teachers.

“The court’s job is merely to determine whether the statutes are constitutional,” the panel wrote, “not if they are ‘a good idea.’”

Teachers unions immediately welcomed the ruling.

“I consider this a victory for teachers and a victory for students,” said Eric C. Heins, the president of the California Teachers Association. “What these statutes have done is, one, they bring stability to the system, and for many students they bring stability to their schools and to the teachers in their schools. For many kids, the school environment is the only stable environment that many of them have.”

Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction in California, said the appeals court decision would allow districts to recruit and train teachers at a time of shortages in the state.

“All of our students deserve great teachers,” Mr. Torlakson said in a statement. “Teachers are not the problem in our schools — they are the answer to helping students succeed on the pathway to 21st century college and careers.”

The plaintiffs in the case, known as Vergara v. California, said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court.

“The Court of Appeal’s decision mistakenly blames local school districts for the egregious constitutional violations students are suffering each and every day,” Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “But the mountain of evidence we put on at trial proved — beyond any reasonable dispute — that the irrational, arbitrary and abominable laws at issue in this case shackle school districts and impose severe and irreparable harm on students.”

The decision came just a day after another group of parents served notice to defendants in a lawsuit challenging Minnesota’s job protections for teachers. A similar lawsuit is also pending in New York.

The plaintiffs in Minnesota and New York vowed to press on, with backing from the Partnership for Educational Justice, a New York-based group that receives financing from the foundations of Eli Broad, a Los Angeles billionaire, and the Walton family, founders of Walmart.

Katharine Strunk, an associate professor of education at the University of Southern California, said that while the ruling may be considered a victory for teachers’ unions, the case had sparked a national conversation over teacher hiring and firing.

“The judges are saying things are not right in California, that there are drawbacks to the current system, but this is not something for the courts to decide,” Ms. Strunk said. “I don’t think anyone believes that these laws are the best we can do.”

After the trial court judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs two years ago, Arne Duncan, former United States secretary of education, applauded the decision, saying he hoped it would prompt policy makers to change tenure statutes. On Thursday, John B. King Jr., Mr. Duncan’s successor, was not immediately available for comment.

The plaintiffs argued that because the state allows districts to grant tenure after just two years, and because districts often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove teachers they consider low-performing, tenure rules can lock in ineffective educators for life.

All too often, the plaintiffs argued, the worst teachers are placed in schools with high concentrations of low-income and minority students.

In its ruling, the appeals court said that “the challenged statutes do not in any way instruct administrators regarding which teachers to assign to which schools.”

The judges acknowledged that principals got rid of “highly ineffective teachers” by transferring them to other schools, including schools with many poor students.

“This phenomenon is extremely troubling and should not be allowed to occur,” they wrote, “but it does not inevitably flow from the challenged statutes.”