How the brain delays temptation for future rewards
A specific area of the brain—the hippocampus—may hold the answer to the question of why some people are better able to resist temptation than others.
In a new study, published in the journal PLOS Biology, researchers from the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris examined the relationship between the hippocampus and the ability to choose long-term satisfaction over immediate rewards.
Researchers conducted a series of experiments on volunteers using both immediate rewards and future rewards. Immediate rewards were presented as pictures, while the future rewards were presented as text, in order to make the participants have to “imagine” the future reward.
The same series of experiments were then conducted on volunteers who had damage in their hippocampus—the area of the brain involved in making memories and which is crucial to making decisions about immediately accepting and delaying rewards.
Results showed that the participants without hippocampus damage were able to resist temptation and select future rewards, and this ability was linked to the amount of activity in the hippocampus. However, participants with hippocampus damage tended to choose immediate rewards when future rewards had to be imagined.
Findings suggest that the hippocampus does not only provide clues to memory problems, but it also plays a role in people’s decisions to either make goals for long-term rewards versus immediate rewards.
Why each human face is unique
The unique characteristics of your face can be attributed to certain DNA sequences, according to new research published in the journal _Science. _
Scientists have known that genetics play a role in hereditary physical characteristics, but this study provides insight into the process by which DNA “fine-tunes” genetics and makes some people resemble each other and not others.
In the study, researchers examined the role of gene enhancers in the facial development of mice.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory identified more than 4,000 gene-enhancing DNA sequences, which they predicted to play a role in fine-tuning genes involved in facial development. The researchers were then able to create maps of the gene enhancers by pin-pointing their location in the mice.
Knowing about these gene enhancers, their exact location in the human genome and their activity patterns in facial development may lead to a better understanding of the connection between genetics and development of the human face, researchers said.
Researchers are planning further research to search for mutations of gene enhancers in humans who have certain facial birth defects.
More young people suffering strokes
The prevalence of strokes is increasing among younger and middle-aged people and shows a shift in the trend of strokes traditionally occurring in people over the age of 65, according to new research.
The new study is the first of its kind to compare incidence and impacts of stroke among countries on a global scale.
The research, published in The Lancet, looked at data from 119 studies to calculate the number of strokes between 1995 and 2010, based on country and region.
Globally, in 2010, 5.2 million strokes, or 31 percent of strokes, occurred in children (ages 20 and younger) and young and middle-aged adults (ages 20 to 64).
In the U.S., hospital discharges for strokes among young people increased from 23 percent in 1995 to 53 percent in 2007.
Researchers also found that an overwhelming majority of the strokes occurring among young people—almost 90 percent—take place in low- or middle-income countries.
Findings suggest that effective global preventive strategies are necessary in order to prevent these figures to continue to rise, researchers said.
Genetic factors for Alzheimer's identified
Researchers have identified 24 new genes, 11 of which have been confirmed, that may lead to better understanding of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
This discovery comes from a nationwide effort to better be able to explain individual susceptibility to developing the disease.
The genetic findings come from the I-GAP (International Genomics Alzheimer’s Project)—the largest international study ever conducted on Alzheimer’s disease. I-GAP collected genetic data on more than 74 thousand patients and controls from 15 countries.
The newly associated genes confirm numerous biological pathways involved in Alzheimer’s and suggest that the immune system is involved in developing the disease.
Findings also reinforce the need for global-scale collaboration of research in order to better understand the causes of Alzheimer’s, which may lead to the development of more effective treatments.
The newly identified genes are “definitely associated with Alzheimer’s,” researchers said, but much more research is needed to better understand how exactly the genes work within the disease.
Obesity linked to "hunger gene"
New research points to a genetic reason behind why some people gain more weight than others regardless of what they eat.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK have found that the mutation of a particular gene (called KSR2) may cause slow down metabolism and increase feelings of hunger in people who are obese.
Researchers have known that the KSR2 gene plays a role in regulating energy balance and metabolism, as previous studies in mice have shown that the absence of the KSR2 gene may lead to obesity.
In the new study, researchers found that children with KSR2 mutations had increased appetite, slower metabolism and lower heart rate than children with normal KSR2 genes.
The findings don’t suggest that a healthy diet and exercise should be discarded as effective methods for preventing obesity; however, these findings do suggest that there are genetic factors that can contribute to obesity.
Further studies on the KSR2 gene may lead to the development of new treatment options for obesity and type 2 diabetes, researchers said.