Summary of “Does Your Gut Hold the Secret to Performance?”

Hyde manages the American Gut Project at the university’s Knight Lab, which is five years into a deeply ambitious effort to map the average American’s bacterial makeup-what scientists call the human microbiome.
How to Boost Your Microbiome Wondering how to ensure that your gut is healthy? We’re here to answer your most pressing questions.
“People call the microbiome the forgotten organ,” says Erica Sonnenburg, a micro­biologist at Stanford University who has made big strides connecting the microbiome and the immune system.
Thus far the American Gut Project has found our digestive tracts to be so diverse in microbial content, and so unique to us and our individual lifestyles, that researchers really can’t yet say what a “Normal” gut should look like-let alone an elite athlete’s gut.
Shanahan’s colleague Mick Molloy had been a team doctor for the national rugby team, and in 2011 Shanahan asked him, “What do you suppose the microbiome of a professional athlete looks like?” Molloy made some calls, and the team agreed to help the researchers find out.
“I can’t do that here,” said Gilbert, of the University of Chicago’s Microbiome Center, adding, “There’s a lot of snake oil out there.” Ixcela, like many of the new microbiome companies, has not yet published peer-reviewed papers ­attesting to its products’ efficacy, though it does plan to publish a study about Team USA’s results.
Hyde and her team at the American Gut Project will analyze your microbiome for about a hundred bucks, but she stresses that the test is not diagnostic.
In Australia, Nicholas West, a researcher at Queensland’s Griffith University, has been meticulously testing publicly available probiotics on national-team athletes, based on their personal microbiomes, to help ward off pre-competition illness.

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Summary of “Bacteria living in our gut are hijacking and controlling our genes”

Your gut microflora isn’t just sitting silently waiting for you to wolf down your next meal – it turns out there’s a constant conversation going on between these bacteria and your body’s genetic code.
New research has found a chemical produced by ‘good’ bacteria in our digestive system has an unusual effect on the chromosomes in nearby cells, a discovery that could help us better understand links between our diet and the development of one of the world’s most deadly cancers.
Specifically, SCFAs produced by the kinds of bacteria found in a healthy human colon promote crotonylation by preventing an enzyme called histone deacetylase 2 from removing the markers.
To confirm bacteria were indeed responsible, the researchers dosed mice with a cocktail of antibiotics to wipe out most of the bacterial microflora in their guts.
Not only did the SCFAs drop, so too did the crotonylation of the histones in their gut lining.
Exactly what benefits the bacteria might get – if any – wasn’t addressed by the study.
The research could have implications in how our genes are affected by our diet, which could go some way to help flesh out the links between dietary fibre and bowel cancer.
“Our intestine is the home of countless bacteria that help in the digestion of foods such as plant fibres,” says the study’s lead scientist, Patrick Varga-Weisz.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to see a memory”

Chen is among a growing number of researchers using brain imaging to identify the activity patterns involved in creating and recalling a specific memory.
Using techniques for labelling active neurons, for example, teams have located circuits associated with the memory of a painful stimulus in rodents and successfully reactivated those pathways to trigger the memory.
Such findings could one day help to reveal why memories fail in old age or disease, or how false memories creep into eyewitness testimony.
Only in the past decade have new techniques for labelling, activating and silencing specific neurons in animals allowed researchers to pinpoint which neurons make up a single memory.
As new techniques provide a glimpse of the engram, researchers can begin studying not only how individual memories form, but how memories interact with each other and change over time.
In a follow-up study, Preston has started to probe the mechanism behind memory linking, and has found that related memories can merge into a single representation, especially if the memories are acquired in close succession13.
The researchers showed that neurons encoding one memory remained more excitable for at least five hours after learning, creating a window in which a partially overlapping engram might form.
“We actually build concepts, and we link things together that have common threads between them.” The cost of this flexibility could be the formation of false or faulty memories: Silva’s mice became scared of a harmless cage because their memory of it was formed so close in time to a fearful memory of a different cage.

The orginal article.

Summary of “I Was A Skeptic Of Mindfulness Until I Tried To Make My Case”

I was especially distrustful because mindfulness and meditation have been having a moment – meditation apps occupy some of the top spots on the App Store’s rankings of most popular health and fitness apps; Anderson Cooper has profiled the merits of mindfulness on “60 Minutes”; mindfulness is being used in schools as a way to help manage classrooms.
As FiveThirtyEight’s science team assembled the junk science we wanted to shed in 2018, I started to wonder whether mindfulness really was bunk.
Apps like Headspace, which offers as little as three minutes a day of directed meditation, are a far cry from the eight-week, 20-plus-hour mindfulness training that is used in the best studies.
The 2014 meta-analysis was careful to note that “Any firm claims about whether meditation truly causes differences in brain structure are still premature.” Mindfulness research is also easily misrepresented.
So where does all this leave a skeptic like me? I’ve tried mindfulness, and I think it has plenty to teach me about how to fight life’s undertow and come up for air.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy has made my panic attacks almost nonexistent, and the science doesn’t suggest that mindfulness as a dedicated practice is necessarily better than talk therapy anyway.
Plus, it’s not clear that the brief, app-led mindfulness I’d do at home would replicate the longer, more integrated mindfulness that most studies have tested.
After looking at the research, I’ve come to realize that my dismissal of mindfulness was premature – and likely informed by my own biases against any number of things: science fads, non-Western medicine, things that could actually make me stop having panic attacks, etc.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What Self-Awareness Really Is”

Four years ago, my team of researchers and I embarked on a large-scale scientific study of self-awareness.
In 10 separate investigations with nearly 5,000 participants, we examined what self-awareness really is, why we need it, and how we can increase it.
Analyzing the results of nearly 800 existing scientific studies to understand how previous researchers defined self-awareness, unearth themes and trends, and identify the limitations of these investigations.
Surveying thousands of people across countries and industries to explore the relationship between self-awareness and several key attitudes and behaviors, like job satisfaction, empathy, happiness, and stress.
Conducting in depth interviews with 50 people who’d dramatically improved their self-awareness to learn about the key actions that helped them get there, as well as their beliefs and practices.
Surveying hundreds of managers and their employees to learn more about the relationship between leadership self-awareness and employee attitudes like commitment, leadership effectiveness, and job satisfaction.
The second category, external self-awareness, means understanding how other people view us, in terms of those same factors listed above.
In our interviews, we found that people who improved their external self-awareness did so by seeking out feedback from loving critics – that is, people who have their best interests in mind and are willing to tell them the truth.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Do We Need to Sleep?”

An hour north of Tokyo at the University of Tsukuba, with funding from the Japanese government and other sources, the institute’s director, Masashi Yanagisawa, has created a place to study the basic biology of sleep, rather than, as is more common, the causes and treatment of sleep problems in people.
Whatever sleep gives to the sleeper is worth tempting death over and over again, for a lifetime.
In particular, this need to make up lost sleep, which has been seen not just in jellyfish and humans but all across the animal kingdom, is one of the handholds researchers are using to try to get a grip on the bigger problem of sleep.
Why we feel the need for sleep is seen by many as key to understanding what it gives us.
Biologists call this need “Sleep pressure”: Stay up too late, build up sleep pressure.
Chiara Cirelli and Giulio Tononi, sleep researchers at the University of Wisconsin, suggest that since making these connections, or synapses, is what our brains do when we are awake, maybe what they do during sleep is scale back the unimportant ones, removing the memories or images that don’t fit with the others, or don’t need to be used to make sense of the world.
Depriving mice specifically of REM sleep by shaking them awake repeatedly just as they’re about to enter it causes serious REM sleep pressure, which mice have to make up for in their next bout of slumber.
Whether the mice get away totally unscathed is another question-the team is testing how REM sleep affects their performance on cognitive tests-but this experiment suggests that where dreaming sleep is concerned, these cells, or some circuit they are part of, may keep the records of sleep pressure.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Researchers Discover Two Major Flaws in the World’s Computers”

Though security tools and protocols are intended to separate customers’ data, the recently discovered chip flaws would allow bad actors to circumvent these protections.
According to the researchers, the Meltdown flaw affects virtually every microprocessor made by Intel, which makes chips used in more than 90 percent of the computer servers that underpin the internet and private business operations.
The researchers who discovered the flaws voiced similar concerns.
A so-called ransomware attack that hit computers around the world last year took advantage of machines that had not received a patch for a flaw in Windows software.
The researchers who discovered the flaws notified various affected companies.
As is common practice when such problems are identified, they tried to keep the news from the public so hackers could not take advantage of the flaws before they were fixed.
So the researchers released papers describing the flaws on Wednesday, much earlier than they had planned.
The chip giant then heard from other researchers who had also discovered the flaw, including Werner Haas and Thomas Prescher, at Cyberus Technology; and Daniel Gruss, Moritz Lipp, Stefan Mangard and Michael Schwarz at the Graz University of Technology.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Neuroscience of Intelligence: An Interview with Richard Haier”

Richard Haier is a Professor Emeritus at the University of California Irvine and is the author of the Neuroscience of Intelligence published by Cambridge University Press.
You’ve spent forty years studying intelligence and have compiled your knowledge into a new book accessible to the general reader called The Neuroscience of Intelligence, which looks fascinating from its précis.
Firstly, can you tell us how you became interested in intelligence research, and how you came about studying intelligence through neuroimaging?
This is why neuroscience is starting to focus attention on intelligence.
Our first PET study and many subsequent studies suggest that high intelligence is associated with more efficient brains; there are also indications that more gray matter in certain brain areas and more connections among brain areas are associated with more intelligence.
Since the first neuroimaging studies of intelligence, researchers have been trying to predict intelligence test scores from images.
Can the same methods to study intelligence through neuroimaging also be used to study personality traits and creativity?
Neuroscience approaches have already made intelligence research more mainstream and ready for inclusion in policy discussions.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Scientists Are Designing Artisanal Proteins for Your Body”

Today scientists are still looking for ways to harness proteins.
Some researchers are studying proteins in abalone shells in hopes of creating stronger body armor, for instance.
The proteins found in nature represent only a minuscule fraction of the “Protein universe” – all the proteins that could possibly be made with varying combinations of amino acids.
New proteins do not just pop into existence; they all evolve from ancestral proteins.
The researchers went beyond proteins that already exist to proteins with unnatural sequences.
To see what these unnatural proteins looked like in real life, the scientists synthesized genes for them and plugged them into yeast cells, which then manufactured the lab’s creations.
Dr. Baker wants to design proteins that trigger a response only after they lock onto several kinds of proteins on the surface of cancer cells at once.
ATP synthase harnesses that energy to build a fuel molecule called ATP.It should be possible to build other such complex molecular machines as scientists learn more about how big proteins take shape, Dr. Baker said.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Politics Moves Fast. Peer Review Moves Slow. What’s A Political Scientist To Do?”

On aggregate, 100 studies that have been peer-reviewed are going to produce higher-quality results than 100 that haven’t been, said Justin Esarey, a political science professor at Rice University who has studied the effects of peer review on social science research.
That creates dueling incentives for political science: Is it more important to get work into the public while it is most relevant, or is it more important to go through the often slow process of peer review and hope that makes the work more accurate? Ten or 15 years ago, the answer would have clearly been to wait for peer review, said Nicholas Valentino, professor of political science at the University of Michigan.
Both involved research that is deeply relevant to current political news, and – according to researchers I spoke with – both are flawed in ways that peer review might have caught.
“If you waited until an article has actually been published you’re talking about a year and a half, maybe two years before the information is out there.” Political science isn’t the only field where publication before peer review is increasingly common: Biologists now “Pre-publish” more than 1,000 new articles every month, more than 10 times the monthly average of a decade ago.
Nor is political science the only field where researchers can struggle with long wait times before their work is published through the traditional peer review process.
This issue with timing, combined with the desire to make research results available when they are most relevant to the public discourse, helps explain why there doesn’t seem to be a strong consensus within political science about whether releasing data before peer review is a good idea.
They told me that bypassing peer review was sometimes necessary, enabling scientists to get publicly funded research to the public when it was most important and even improving research by allowing peers to weigh in, critique one another and craft better papers before a formal peer review.
Most of those same scientists also believed there were serious risks to bypassing peer review, and that those risks were particularly relevant for political science.

The orginal article.