What's The Buzz

What's The Buzz

Peer pressure is hardwired in brain

A new study has revealed that the human brain places more value on winning when one is in a social setting as opposed to when one is winning alone. Georgio Coricelli of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences led a multinational team of researchers that measured activity in the regions of the brain associated with rewards and social reasoning while participants in the study participated in lotteries.

Researchers found that the striatum – a part of the brain associated with rewards, showed higher activity when a participant beat a peer in the lottery, as opposed to when the participant won while alone and the medial prefrontal cortex – a part of the brain associated with social reasoning, was more activated as well.

The researchers also saw that the participants who won in a social setting also tended to engage in more risky and competitive behaviour in subsequent lotteries. “These findings suggest that the brain is equipped with the ability to detect and encode social signals, make social signals salient, and then, use these signals to optimise future behaviour,” Coricelli said.

Coricelli also explained that losing without social support network, a bad gamble can spell doom, whereas rewards tend to be winner-takes-all in group environments. “Among animals, there are strong incentives for wanting to be at the top of the social ranking,” Coricelli stated.

“Animals in the dominant position use their status to secure privileged access to resources, such as food and mates.” Coricelli concluded.

Firing laser beams into the sky could create rainfall
Rain can be called upon by firing laser beams into the air, a new study has claimed. Intense pulses of laser light create nitric acid particles in the air that behave like atmospheric glue, binding water molecules together into droplets and preventing them from re-evaporating, the report said.

Researchers from the University of Geneva believe that the development could eventually lead to man-made weather systems. Although the technique, known as laser-assisted water condensation, does not work in dry air, scientists were able to generate the droplets in very humid conditions over the Rhone river in Switzerland.

The drops created - just thousandths of a millimetre across - were nowhere near heavy enough to fall as rain but the experts hope that by making them hundreds of times larger they will be able to create or prevent rainfall in the right conditions, reports the Telegraph.

If the process is repeated in air currents that are blowing towards mountains, the researchers hope the air will cool enough that the droplets grow large enough to fall as rain. In contrast, using the method to saturate the air with tiny water particles could ensure that none grow big enough to fall, meaning that rain could be prevented.

Insecticide-treated nets cut child mortality from malaria
A new study has found that children who live in households that own at least one insecticide-treated bed net are less likely to be infected with malaria and less likely to die from the disease. By controlling other factors that might contribute to child mortality, researchers found clear evidence that bed nets reduce the number of child deaths from malaria.

Ownership of at least one insecticide-treated bed net was associated with a 23 percent reduction in mortality in children under the age of 5. The researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Zambia, examined data from 29 health surveys conducted over the past decade in 22 sub-Saharan African countries to test the benefits of bed nets.

“Most of the studies that have examined the relationship between bed nets and health outcomes have been limited to a handful of countries,” said Dr. Stephen Lim, Associate Professor of Global Health at IHME and the study’s lead author.

“We now can say with confidence that bed nets reduce mortality substantially and that the efforts to distribute these bed nets across the region are working,” he stated.