An Unintended MRI Effect; Geeky Science Tattoos

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Discovered: geeky-looking scientist tattoos, an unintended MRI effect, the mediterranean ideal, legitimacy for hysteria patients and measuring the Earth's dwindling resources.

  • An MRI scan as a possible, unintended antidepressant. This Scientific American-reported research linking an MRI to better scores on a depression scale isn't meant to tout a scan as a way to feel better, but does appear to add evidence to the notion that magnets do something to the brain. According to a study conducted by a researcher at  Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran, "MRI machines do, in fact, manipulate brain activity--and they change the brain in a way that helps treat depression." The first part of that statement seems worrisome (manipulate brain activity?), but the article focused on the supposed antidepressant effects of an MRI, finding that the researchers surmised this could be due to a placebo effect (i.e. getting treatment of any kind makes one feel better, the news outlet notes) or the magnetic field did something to these participants brains that made them score less-depressed after being scanned. If only airport back-scatter technology could help ease migraines. [Scientific American]
  • The latest state of the Earth's resources doesn't paint a bountiful picture.  Sound the alarm, once again. Timed conveniently to prod the climate change conference hosted in South Africa to action (hopefully), the "first ever" United Nations report appraising the entire world's resources finds that "25 percent of the world's land is now 'highly degraded,' with soil erosion, water degradation and biodiversity loss," the Associated Press reports. In other words, we can see some researcher penning the U.N. report gasping, "We. need. more. sustainable. agricultural. practices. now." [Associated Press]
  • Scientists like to get obscure, geeky-looking tattoos with hidden meanings.  Just like the rest of us. Still, it's not often that we see an anecdotal trend story about the habits of researchers--especially one that purports a tattoo-loving culture among academia's finest and takes a stab at unraveling the psychology of scientists with inked up arms featuring DNA strands that took pains to encode a spouse's initials. That's what Carl Zimmer did, giving an overview of his recent exploration (see examples here) that turned into a new book, Science Ink, in a Guardian article this weekend. He writes: "Most scientists keep their tattoos to themselves. Some say they'll wait until they get tenure before rolling up their sleeves at work. But science tattoos are often obscure not just in location but in their very nature. ... Scientists get tattoos in order to mark themselves with an aspect of the world that has marked them deeply within."  [The GuardianDiscover]
  • Seeking legitimacy for a hysteria or conversion disorder diagnosis. In the latest Newsweek, author Casey Schwartz gives an overview for understanding the frightening world of a hysteria or conversion disorder patient (who typically suffers from "sudden seizures, partial paralysis, and temporary blindness"). Since it's a condition whose "symptoms seemingly come from nowhere" there are many doctors who aren't receptive, or don't know what to do, about treatment. Patients "are vulnerable to the implied message they often get from doctors: there is nothing physically wrong with you, so you must be faking it." Which seems like an awful predicament for both parties.  While Schwartz points to new brain-scanning research probing possible reasons for the condition, she doesn't end her analysis on a hopeful note for understanding the disorder.  [Newsweek]
  • Just aim to eat a Mediterranean diet, already.  Reuters knows that you're not eating a Mediterranean diet, even though it has written about researchers finding that this is the best way for you to be eating many times. So, as if to give you an excuse for slacking off a little, the latest study in this vein that the news outlet highlights is touting the benefits of a "Mediterranean-ish" diet. Ideally, you'd like to eat all the "fish, healthy fats like olive oil, whole grains and vegetables" like recent studies suggest. But, according to a new study, the "closer their diets were to the spirit of Mediterranean eating ... the lower their risk of death from vascular problems including heart attacks." [Reuters]

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