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A Few Odds & Sods from the Newspapers - In the Shadow of Leaves
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A Few Odds & Sods from the Newspapers


Hand mix-up a left-over from the caveman times
October 11, 2003
The proportion of left-handers has remained the same since the Stone Age. The discovery was made by studying "negative hands", outlines made by holding paint in one hand and blowing pigments on the other hand as it rests on a cave wall.

From 343 examples, which date back to Palaeolithic times (10,000-30,000 years ago), the proportion of left-handers was compared by Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond of the Universite Montpellier II with that of 179 French students performing the same task.

"No difference was detected between the two proportions of left-handers, separated by more than 10,000 years," they reported in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. In both cases, the percentage of left-handers was 23.

The study is the first to document the evolution of handed-ness, which is related to brain organisation and language. The researchers found the stability in the number of left-handers "surprising".

Dr Faurie said: "The frequency of left-handers is highly variable from place to place in the present world, ranging from 3 per cent among Inuit people to 27 per cent of the Eipo people of New Guinea."

The Telegraph, London


Snubs hurt more than your ego
By Maggie Fox in Washington
October 11, 2003

The feeling is familiar to anyone who has been passed over in picking teams or snubbed at a party - a sickening, almost painful feeling in the stomach.

Well, it turns out that "kicked in the gut" feeling is real, US scientists say.

Brain imaging studies show that a social snub affects the brain precisely the way visceral pain does. "When someone hurts your feelings, it really hurts you," said Matt Lieberman, a social psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who worked on the study ...
Naomi Eisenberger, a graduate student who did much of the work. "Now we see that there is good reason for this."

With Kipling Williams, a psychology professor at Macquarie University, Mr Lieberman and Ms Eisenberger set up a brain imaging test of 13 volunteers to find out how social distress affects the brain.

They used functional magnetic imaging - a type of scan that allows the brain's activity to be viewed "live". The 13 volunteers were given a task that they did not know related to an experiment in social snubbing.

Writing in the journal Science, Mr Lieberman and Ms Eisenberger said the volunteers' brains lit up when they were rejected in virtually the same way as a person experiencing physical pain ...
The area affected is the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain known to be involved in the emotional response to pain ...
But there also seems to be a defence mechanism to prevent the pain of rejection from becoming overwhelming.

"We also saw this area in the prefrontal cortex. The more it is active in response to pain, the less subjective pain you feel," Mr Lieberman said. "This part of the brain inhibits the more basic response."
It seemed to be involved in consciously thinking about the pain, Mr Lieberman said.


Butter feat spread over landscape

October 11, 2003
A Swedish couple hunting on a remote mountain in Sweden's far northern region of Jaemtland this week found 70 pairs of shoes, each shoe stuffed with half a kilogram of butter, spread out across the landscape.

"If we knew who had done this we could make them clean this mess up," Alf Kjaellstroem, a spokesman for the region, said on Thursday. "It's not going to be pretty when the butter starts to rot. And we have to wait for the snow so we can get up there with the snowmobile."


Feeling betrayed by Nobel process, MRI pioneer lets rip in full-page ad
October 11, 2003
Raymond Damadian thinks the members of the Nobel prize committee in Stockholm who gave out an award for medical imaging have an image problem of their own, and he let them know it - very publicly.

Dr Damadian, a pioneer of magnetic resonance imaging and chairman of a company that owns a key patent on MRI machines, took out a full-page ad on Thursday in The Washington Post that denounced the panel for not giving him a share of the 10 million kronor ($1.9 million) prize for medicine, awarded this week, and accused the panel of "attempting to rewrite history".

The advertisement, which shows an inverted Nobel prize medal, says the committee "did one thing it has no right to do: it ignored the truth." The ad says Dr Damadian made the "breakthrough" that led to the MRI.

Additionally, the ad says the two scientists who won the prize - Paul Lauterbur of the University of Illinois and Peter Mansfield of the University of Nottingham in Britain - "later made technological improvements" based on Dr Damadian's discovery ... In 1971, an article Dr Damadian published in the journal Science showed that cancer cells and normal cells would emit different magnetic resonance signals. His work was considered important because it brought magnetic resonance technology from a tool of chemists to a tool of doctors ...
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