What's the buzz................

What's the buzz................

Listening to music can help alleviate pain

Listening to music can help reduce pain in high-anxiety people, who can easily become absorbed in cognitive activities, a new study has suggested. Researchers from the University of Utah Pain Research Center evaluated the potential benefits of music for diverting psychological responses to experimental pain stimuli.

They hypothesized that music may divert cognitive focus from pain. If true, the key to successful pain control from this method would be the degree of engagement by the patient in the diversion task.

One hundred forty-three subjects were evaluated for the study. They were instructed to listen to music tracks, follow the melodies, and identify deviant tones. During the music tasks, they were given safe, experimental pain shocks with fingertip electrodes.
The findings showed that central arousal from the pain stimuli reliably decreased with the increasing music-task demand.

Music helps reduce pain by activating sensory pathways that compete with pain pathways, stimulating emotional responses, and engaging cognitive attention. Music, therefore, provided meaningful intellectual and emotional engagement to help reduce pain.

Fossils of amoeba hint at evolution of animal kingdom

Scientists have found fossils that shed light on the evolutionary origin of animals from single-cell ancestors.

The fossils preserve stages in the life cycle of an amoeba-like organism dividing in asexual cycles, first to produce two cells, then four, eight, 16, 32 and so on, ultimately resulting in hundreds of thousands of spore-like cells that were then released to start the cycle over again.

The pattern of cell division is so similar to the early stages of animal, including human, embryology that until now they were thought to represent the embryos of the earliest animals.

The researchers studied the microscopic fossils using high energy X-rays at the Swiss Light Source in Switzerland, revealing the organisation of the cells within their protective cyst walls.

The organisms should not have been fossilised, they were just gooey clusters of cells, but they were buried in sediments rich in phosphate that impregnated the cell walls and turned them to stone.

“We used a particle accelerator called a synchrotron as our X-ray source. It allowed us to make a perfect computer model of the fossil that we could cut up in any way that we wanted, but without damaging the fossil in any way. We would never have been able to study the fossils otherwise!” John Cunningham, the study co-author, said.

This X-ray microscopy revealed that the fossils had features that multicellular embryos do not, and this led the researchers to the conclusion that the fossils were neither animals nor embryos but rather the reproductive spore bodies of single-celled ancestors of animals.
Hate sprouts? Blame it on your genes

A certain gene is responsible for peoples’ distaste towards Brussels sprouts, a quintessential part of Christmas dinner, researchers say.

According to spokesman for the Eden Project, the vegetables contain a bitter chemical similar to PTC (Phenylthiocarbamide) which tastes bitter to people that have a variation of a certain gene.

But those with a mutation on that gene do not taste the bitterness.

Almost half of the world’s population have the mutation, which scientists consider beneficial since people with it are more likely to enjoy eating Brussels sprouts, which are high in vitamin C and iron, the Telegraph reported.

The students at the Eden Project in Cornwall are participating in the tests as part of a national programme run by the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) and supported by the Wellcome Trust - which aims to give young people hands-on experience with DNA.

They will extract their own DNA with a cheek swab and amplify it using Polymerase Chain Reaction to test for the gene that is believed to determine whether a person likes their sprouts or not.

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