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     Volume 4 Issue 63 | September 16, 2005 |

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Odd Behaviour MAY Lead to Creativity
Researchers say they've found a quirky or socially awkward approach to life might be key to becoming a great artist, composer or inventor. Psychologists say new research in individuals with schizotypal personalities -- people characterised by odd behaviour and language, but who are not psychotic or schizophrenic -- offers the first neurological evidence such people are more creative than normal or fully schizophrenic people. Vanderbilt psychologists Brad Folley and Sohee Park said it's long believed that some famous creative luminaries, including artist Vincent Van Gogh and physicist Albert Einstein, had schizotypal personalities. The idea that schizotypes have enhanced creativity has been out there for a long time, but no one has investigated the behavioural manifestations and their neural correlates experimentally, Folley said. "Our paper is unique because we investigated the creative process experimentally and we also looked at the blood flow in the brain while research subjects were undergoing creative tasks."

Symbols Help Children
Psychologists investigating how self-control develops in children have found abstract symbols can lead youngsters toward more optimal decisions. The theory was demonstrated when researchers gave 3-year-olds the choice of a tray with two pieces of candy or one with five. Even when told the tray they picked would be given away, most youngsters still picked the tray with the most candies. However, when abstract symbols, such as dots or animal pictures were used to represent the candy, many of the children chose the symbol representing the smaller amount of candy, leading to the larger reward. Many 3-year-olds are compelled to point to larger rewards even though in this game that means they will get a smaller reward, said Stephanie Carlson, a University of Washington associate psychology professor and lead author of the study. When you remove the real reward and substitute it with symbols, it enables children to control their response.

The Human Brain Evolution
University of Chicago researchers say they've discovered the human brain is apparently still evolving. In two related papers published in an issue of Science, they show that two genes linked to brain size are rapidly changing in humans. Our studies indicate the trend that is the defining characteristic of human evolution -- the growth of brain size and complexity -- is likely still going on, said lead researcher Bruce Lahn, an assistant professor of human genetics. Meanwhile, our environment and the skills we need to survive in it are changing ... (and) I would expect the human brain, which has done well by us so far, will continue to adapt to those changes, said Lahn. Evolution, he said, doesn't occur at the species level. Rather, some individuals acquire a specific genetic mutation, and, because that variant confers on those who bear it a greater likelihood of survival, it then spreads in the population. We're seeing two examples of such a spread in progress, he said. In each case, it's a spread of a new genetic variant in a gene that controls brain size. This variant is clearly favoured by natural selection.

British Scientists to Create Human Embryo
Scientists in Britain have gained permission to create a human embryo that will have genetic material from two mothers for new research that aims at preventing genetic diseases being passed on from mothers to their unborn babies. The team from Newcastle University, in northern Britain, will transfer genetic material created when an egg and sperm fuse into another woman's egg. The groundbreaking work aims at putting a stop to mothers from passing certain genetic diseases on to their unborn babies. Such diseases, known as mitochondrial diseases, arise from Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) found outside the nucleus and thus inherited separately from DNA in the nucleus. If this DNA is faulty, the mitochondrial diseases occur. At present, no treatment for mitochondrial diseases exists. The British research, permitted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, will check that transplanting the pro-nuclei works and is safe. The resulting egg would never be allowed to develop into a baby. But even if it did, the offspring would still resemble their mother and father because the mitochondrial DNA do not dictate things like hair colour. The researchers stress that the work is only the very first step in a difficult process, which they hope will lead to techniques that might prevent the transmission of mitochondrial DNA disease. About one in 5,000 children and adults are at risk of developing a mitochondrial disease.

Mobiles will soon come with a PC's memory!
How about a mobile phone with the memory of a desktop computer? Well, if researchers from the Imperial College, London, Durham University and the University of Sheffield are to be believed it may soon be a reality, as they claim to have invented a new microchip that could be the key to expanding mobile phone memory. Scientists have said that their new invention would enable the chip to store large amounts of data in small volumes, the similar way the human brain stores data. By using a using a complex interconnected network of nanowires, with computing functions and decisions performed at the nodes where they meet, an approach to neurons and axons in the human brain, the chip is capable of storing huge amount of data. The new chip architecture is based on a three dimensional concept, rather than the two dimensional flat structure of conventional microchips, and uses nanotechnology to reproduce key functions of semiconductor electronics in microchips using only the 'spin' of electrons, rather than the conventional 'charge' of traditional microchips. Presently, the memory chips of mobile phones have a very limited capacity, making it impossible to store the videos that the new generation of phones can record. Miniature hard drive disks, though a possible solution, are very expensive, and mobile phone companies have ruled out using them. The new microchip is however, both, cost effective and efficient. With the cost of a memory card, and storage capacity of a hard drive, which can be increased 200 times from an average of 500 MB to 100 GB, scientists believe that their new invention will transform mobiles into full functioning video cameras. Lead researcher Russell Cowburn, Professor of Nanotechnology in Imperial's Department of Physics, said: "The new video mobile phones are very popular, but they desperately need more memory so that people can take longer videos and store them. This technology has the potential to transform mobiles into fully functioning video cameras, in addition to a range of other applications." "Traditionally we have used electronics for microchips and magnetism for hard disk drives. This discovery allows us to combine these two approaches to make a new generation of 3D microchips that can store so much more information than a flat two dimensional surface," Prof Cowburn added.

Source: Science and Webindia123

Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN


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