1/1/14

Apr 18, 2014

Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It's Not a Democracy

canadian-communist:

The news: A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.

An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.

For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.

It’s beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.

That might explain why mandatory background checks on gun sales supported by 83% to 91% of Americans aren’t in place, or why Congress has taken no action on greenhouse gas emissions even when such legislation is supported by the vast majority of citizens.

This problem has been steadily escalating for four decades. While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think

(via spirklockcommunity)

Apr 18, 2014

Apr 18, 2014

in-the-horniman:

These sixteen Easter eggs are from Czechoslovakia. Each one is hand blown and painted and then strung onto colourful ribbon so they could be hung up.
We currently have some Romanian Easter eggs on loan at Hall Place, Bexley and Whitstable Museum and Gallery and are definitely worth checking out. The loans are part of a project called Object in Focus, and more information can be found here: http://www.horniman.ac.uk/about/object-in-focus-loans

Apr 18, 2014

Researchers Find Association Between SSRI Use During Pregnancy and Autism and Developmental Delays in Boys

neurosciencestuff:

In a study of nearly 1,000 mother-child pairs, researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public health found that prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a frequently prescribed treatment for depression, anxiety and other disorders, was associated with autism spectrum…

(Source: jhsph.edu)

Apr 18, 2014

fuckyeahfelines:

Rebecca’s Rescues is in DESPERATE NEED of donations to pay off vet bills. We can’t take in new animals until then. 2013 we adopted over 200 animals. Without donations will will not be able to carry on - 
See more at: http://www.petcaring.com/animal-rescue/help-us-help-kitties-find-their-furever-home-/37669#sthash.UGHoQVlD.dpuf
(submitted by sugarbunnyboocakes)

fuckyeahfelines:

Rebecca’s Rescues is in DESPERATE NEED of donations to pay off vet bills. We can’t take in new animals until then. 2013 we adopted over 200 animals. Without donations will will not be able to carry on -

See more at: http://www.petcaring.com/animal-rescue/help-us-help-kitties-find-their-furever-home-/37669#sthash.UGHoQVlD.dpuf

(submitted by sugarbunnyboocakes)

(via foranimalrights)

Apr 18, 2014

humanoidhistory:

Happy birthday to German scientist Petrus Apianus, aka Peter Apian, born in Saxony on April 16, 1495. A mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer, he was a favorite of Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1540, Apian created Astronomicum Caesareum and dedicated it to his imperial benefactor. It was a sumptuous Renaissance instructive manual that explained, in part, how to use an astrolabe to calculate the altitude of the stars and planets. (Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

(via the-actual-universe)

Apr 18, 2014

neurosciencestuff:

Eavesdropping on brain cell chatter
Everything we do — all of our movements, thoughts and feelings – are the result of neurons talking with one another, and recent studies have suggested that some of the conversations might not be all that private. Brain cells known as astrocytes may be listening in on, or even participating in, some of those discussions. But a new mouse study suggests that astrocytes might only be tuning in part of the time — specifically, when the neurons get really excited about something. This research, published in Neuron, was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.
For a long time, researchers thought that the star-shaped astrocytes (the name comes from the Greek word for star) were simply support cells for the neurons.
It turns out that these cells have a number of important jobs, including providing nutrients and signaling molecules to neurons, regulating blood flow, and removing brain chemicals called neurotransmitters from the synapse. The synapse is the point of information transfer between two neurons. At this connection point, neurotransmitters are released from one neuron to affect the electrical properties of the other. Long arms of astrocytes are located next to synapses, where they can keep tabs on the conversations going on between neurons.
In recent years, it has been shown that astrocytes may also play a role in neuronal communication. When neurons release neurotransmitters, levels of calcium change within astrocytes. Calcium is critical for many processes, including release of molecules from the cell, and activation of a host of proteins within the cell. The role of this astrocytic calcium signaling for brain function remains a mystery.
In this study, Baljit S. Khakh, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles and his colleagues wanted to know when astrocytes responded to neuron activity with changes in their internal calcium levels. Using calcium indicator dyes, the researchers were able to image, for the first time, changes in calcium levels in the entire astrocyte. Previously, it was only possible to look at certain areas of the cell at one time, which provided an incomplete picture of what was happening.
Dr. Khakh said one of the most important outcomes of this work was in the methods that were used. “What our use of these calcium indicators shows is that we can image calcium throughout the entire astrocyte. This provides a new set of tools for the research community to use and to extend these findings,” he said.
“There has been intense interest in understanding how astrocytes facilitate communication between neurons, but it is only recently that studies with this level of precision have been possible,” said Edmund Talley, Ph.D., program director at NINDS. “Dr. Khakh’s study is an example of an exciting basic, or fundamental, research project that could have an important contribution to the shifting field of astrocyte biology,” he added.
For these experiments, researchers focused on the mossy fiber pathway, which connects two areas of the hippocampus, the structure involved in learning and memory. “This pathway has a unique architecture and although it has been very well studied, the role of astrocytes in this circuit has not been previously explored. This study provides one of the first really detailed understandings of astrocytes within this particular circuit,” said Dr. Khakh.
Dr. Khakh’s team activated neurons (getting them to release neurotransmitter by a variety of techniques) and then looked for a response in the neighboring astrocyte. As calcium levels rose, the astrocyte would light up quickly. They discovered that two neurotransmitters, glutamate and GABA, triggered the astrocytes to release calcium from their internal stores. Importantly, the researchers discovered that calcium levels increased through the entire astrocyte only if there was a large burst of neurotransmitter being released.
“We found that astrocytes in the mossy fiber pathway do not listen to the constant, millisecond by millisecond synaptic chatter that neurons engage in. Instead, they listen when neurons get excessively excited during bursts of activation,” said Dr. Khakh.
These findings suggest that astrocytes in the mossy fiber system may act as a switch that reacts to large amounts of neuronal activity by raising their levels of calcium. These calcium increases occur over multiple seconds, a relatively long time period compared to that seen in neurons. The spatial extent of the astrocyte calcium increases was also relatively large in comparison to the size of the synapse.
“Astrocytes may be sitting there quietly and when there is excessive activation in the neuronal circuit, they immediately respond with an increase in calcium which we could detect. And the next big question becomes, what they do with that calcium?” said Dr. Khakh.
Dr. Khakh’s results in the mossy fiber system differ from those others have described in other brain regions. This raises the intriguing possibility that astrocytes are not all the same and may serve various roles throughout the brain.
“It would be really interesting and important to find that astrocytes function differently in different areas of the brain, in a circuit-specific manner. This study gives a hint that this might be true,” said Dr. Talley.

neurosciencestuff:

Eavesdropping on brain cell chatter

Everything we do — all of our movements, thoughts and feelings – are the result of neurons talking with one another, and recent studies have suggested that some of the conversations might not be all that private. Brain cells known as astrocytes may be listening in on, or even participating in, some of those discussions. But a new mouse study suggests that astrocytes might only be tuning in part of the time — specifically, when the neurons get really excited about something. This research, published in Neuron, was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

For a long time, researchers thought that the star-shaped astrocytes (the name comes from the Greek word for star) were simply support cells for the neurons.

It turns out that these cells have a number of important jobs, including providing nutrients and signaling molecules to neurons, regulating blood flow, and removing brain chemicals called neurotransmitters from the synapse. The synapse is the point of information transfer between two neurons. At this connection point, neurotransmitters are released from one neuron to affect the electrical properties of the other. Long arms of astrocytes are located next to synapses, where they can keep tabs on the conversations going on between neurons.

In recent years, it has been shown that astrocytes may also play a role in neuronal communication. When neurons release neurotransmitters, levels of calcium change within astrocytes. Calcium is critical for many processes, including release of molecules from the cell, and activation of a host of proteins within the cell. The role of this astrocytic calcium signaling for brain function remains a mystery.

In this study, Baljit S. Khakh, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles and his colleagues wanted to know when astrocytes responded to neuron activity with changes in their internal calcium levels. Using calcium indicator dyes, the researchers were able to image, for the first time, changes in calcium levels in the entire astrocyte. Previously, it was only possible to look at certain areas of the cell at one time, which provided an incomplete picture of what was happening.

Dr. Khakh said one of the most important outcomes of this work was in the methods that were used. “What our use of these calcium indicators shows is that we can image calcium throughout the entire astrocyte. This provides a new set of tools for the research community to use and to extend these findings,” he said.

“There has been intense interest in understanding how astrocytes facilitate communication between neurons, but it is only recently that studies with this level of precision have been possible,” said Edmund Talley, Ph.D., program director at NINDS. “Dr. Khakh’s study is an example of an exciting basic, or fundamental, research project that could have an important contribution to the shifting field of astrocyte biology,” he added.

For these experiments, researchers focused on the mossy fiber pathway, which connects two areas of the hippocampus, the structure involved in learning and memory. “This pathway has a unique architecture and although it has been very well studied, the role of astrocytes in this circuit has not been previously explored. This study provides one of the first really detailed understandings of astrocytes within this particular circuit,” said Dr. Khakh.

Dr. Khakh’s team activated neurons (getting them to release neurotransmitter by a variety of techniques) and then looked for a response in the neighboring astrocyte. As calcium levels rose, the astrocyte would light up quickly. They discovered that two neurotransmitters, glutamate and GABA, triggered the astrocytes to release calcium from their internal stores. Importantly, the researchers discovered that calcium levels increased through the entire astrocyte only if there was a large burst of neurotransmitter being released.

“We found that astrocytes in the mossy fiber pathway do not listen to the constant, millisecond by millisecond synaptic chatter that neurons engage in. Instead, they listen when neurons get excessively excited during bursts of activation,” said Dr. Khakh.

These findings suggest that astrocytes in the mossy fiber system may act as a switch that reacts to large amounts of neuronal activity by raising their levels of calcium. These calcium increases occur over multiple seconds, a relatively long time period compared to that seen in neurons. The spatial extent of the astrocyte calcium increases was also relatively large in comparison to the size of the synapse.

“Astrocytes may be sitting there quietly and when there is excessive activation in the neuronal circuit, they immediately respond with an increase in calcium which we could detect. And the next big question becomes, what they do with that calcium?” said Dr. Khakh.

Dr. Khakh’s results in the mossy fiber system differ from those others have described in other brain regions. This raises the intriguing possibility that astrocytes are not all the same and may serve various roles throughout the brain.

“It would be really interesting and important to find that astrocytes function differently in different areas of the brain, in a circuit-specific manner. This study gives a hint that this might be true,” said Dr. Talley.

Apr 18, 2014

"Want of care does us more damage than want of knowledge"

—Benjamin Franklin, in his Poor Richard’s Almanac (via historical-nonfiction)

(Source: futilitycloset.com, via historical-nonfiction)

Apr 18, 2014

Methinks, personally, that you can’t be human if you aren’t also kind.

Methinks, personally, that you can’t be human if you aren’t also kind.

(Source: onevoiceforanimalrights, via onevoiceforanimalrights)

Apr 18, 2014

onevoiceforanimalrights:

onevoiceforanimalrights:

(Source: purely-vegan)