Brain shape matters

Why are some people able to use cocaine without becoming addicted? A new study suggests the answer may lie in the shape of their brains. Sporadic cocaine users tend to have a larger frontal lobe, a region associated with self-control, while cocaine addicts are more likely to have small frontal lobes, according to the study, which was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

The scientists at the University of Cambridge collected brain scans and personality tests from people who had used cocaine over several years — some addicted, some not. While the non-addicts shared a penchant for risk-taking behaviour, the increased grey matter seemed to help them resist addiction by exerting more self-control and making more advantageous decisions.

 “They could take it or leave it,” said Karen Ersche, the lead author. The researchers believe the differences in brain shape predated the drug use.

Douglas Quenqua
New York Times News Service

Ebola everywhere

For the first time, scientists have found evidence of the African ebola virus in Asian fruit bats, suggesting that the virus is far more widespread around the world than previously known. That does not mean that outbreaks of haemorrhagic fever are inevitable, said Kevin J Olival, leader of the bat-hunting team at EcoHealth Alliance.

But the possibility exists. Bats are believed to drink out of jars attached to trees to collect tasty date palm sap, and fatal outbreaks in Bangladesh of Nipah virus, not related to Ebola, have been blamed on fresh sap contaminated with bat saliva, urine or faeces. For the study, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Olival’s team caught 276 bats in Bangladesh. Five of them reacted to tests for antibodies to Zaire Ebola virus. The researchers did not find any virus itself, so it was not possible to see exactly how close the match to the African strain was.

A related virus, ebola reston, which is not known to sicken humans, has been found in Philippines fruit bats, and an ‘Ebola-like’ virus has been found in insect-eating bats in Spain. But the match in Bangladesh was closest to Zaire Ebola.

Donald G Mcneil Jr
New York Times News Service

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