Scientific Method Evolves

first_img(Visited 20 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 The so-called “scientific method” (if there is such a thing) has undergone dramatic changes throughout history, but there is one constant that can be relied upon: the myth of scientism.Scientism is the belief that the “scientific method” is a disinterested formula that, provided a bias-free scientist follows the steps, is guaranteed to lead to knowledge that progresses toward understanding of nature that invariably improves over time.  Philosophers of science, historians of science and sociologists of science know that this simplistic description is a myth.  On the 50th anniversary of Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions this year, and the “Science Wars” that ensued in the decades following its publication in 1962, one would think that scientism went out with logical positivism and vinyl records, but some reporters remain stuck in that groove.  A recent example is found on Live Science, where Robert Roy Britt and and Kim Ann Zimmermann provided a definition straight out of the 1950s:Science is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is derived from the Latin word “scientia,” which translates to knowledge. Unlike the arts, science aims for measurable results through testing and analysis. Science is based on fact, not opinion or preferences. The process of science is designed to challenge ideas through research. It is not meant to prove theories, but rule out alternative explanations until a likely conclusion is reached.This definition, followed by a step-by-step “recipe” for the Scientific Method, reveals none of the complexities of real-world science.  For instance, not all scientists  follow this method, if indeed any do.  Different fields of science use different methods.  It overlooks tacit knowledge, hunches and social pressures that short-circuit the method.  It mentions nothing of the scientific culture or consensus, Kuhn’s paradigms and scientific revolutions.  It conflates scientific discovery with scientific understanding, yet it distinguishes facts from theories as if facts cannot be theory-laden.  It ignores profound differences between operational sciences (which can be replicated) and origins sciences (which cannot, but rely on inference).  And it creates an either-or fallacy that segregates “science” from all other forms of inquiry, some of which are not only just as systematic and logical, but may be even more measurable, reliable, and amenable to knowledge.  Those are just a few of the questions that arise from the Live Science article.Even the article’s ending section, “brief history of science,” overlooks the fact that what was considered “knowledge” in the past is often considered foolishness today.  Almost everything that was believed about the universe, the earth and life back in 1900 has been debunked.  We have no guarantee, therefore, that scientists of the future will not look on today’s “scientific” beliefs as foolishness.  The phrase “now we know” is often the prelude to collapse (for an interesting example from geology, read a quote posted by Uncommon Descent).Britt and Zimmermann also neglected to address how scientific knowledge is manufactured.  There was nothing about peer review, for instance.  Yet even Nature this past week acknowledged that a revolution is underway in peer review with new internet resources that may render traditional print journals obsolete.  On June 12, Richard van Noorden explored some of the radical new initiatives like PeerJ (an outgrowth of the inventors of PLoS ONE) that will allow scientists to pay one price for unlimited online publishing.  Notice his explosive metaphor:PeerJ is just one of a flurry of experiments, encouraged in part by the gathering momentum of open access, that might shape the future of research publishing. “We are seeing a Cambrian explosion of experiments with new publishing models. It’s going to be an interesting period for the next few years,” says Binfield.The metaphor implies no clear connection between the old way and several radical new ways of publication.  This example shows that one aspect of the “scientific method,” peer review, is undergoing a dramatic change before our eyes after decades — even centuries — of standard operating procedure.Another example from Nature confesses  that there may be limits to our understanding.  Climate change certainly looms large in scientific discussions these days.  Just  as the latest global climate change conference is concluding in Rio, Maslin and Austin said in Nature June 14 (486, pp. 183–184, doi:10.1038/486183a) that climate models may have reached their limits:For the fifth major assessment of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be released next year, climate scientists face a serious public-image problem. The climate models they are now working with, which make use of significant improvements in our understanding of complex climate processes, are likely to produce wider rather than smaller ranges of uncertainty in their predictions. To the public and to policymakers, this will look as though the scientific understanding of climate change is becoming less, rather than more, clear….…. Why do models have a limited capability to predict the future? First of all, they are not reality. This is perhaps an obvious point, but it is regularly ignored. By their very nature, models cannot capture all the factors involved in a natural system, and those that they do capture are often incompletely understood. Science historian Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego, and her colleagues have argued convincingly that this makes climate models impossible to truly verify or validate. Surprisingly, they stated that ignorance is no reason for inaction:Scientists need to decide how to explain this effect. Above all, the public and policymakers need to be made to understand that climate models may have reached their limit. They must stop waiting for further certainty or persuasion, and simply act.This statement appears to be naked advocacy for political action in spite of scientific understanding.  Regardless of one’s views on human-caused global warming, the quote illustrates powerful influences between politics and science.  It also reveals that scientists, like other fallible human beings, are not necessarily bias-free, but are subject to motivations and collective beliefs.Update 6/19/2012: Pallab Ghosh, writing for the BBC News, reported on the growing trend toward open-access journals on the internet, away from traditional subscription-based journals.  One of the arguments in favor of open access is that if the public is paying for the research, they ought to be able to read about it.  Some scientists are strongly in favor of the movement, seeing it as the democratization of science.  “Critics have argued that commercial publishers have made excessive profits from scientific research that has been paid for from public money,” Ghosh wrote.  “Critics also say that denying access to publicly-funded research is immoral.”  One significant upshot of the trend is that leading journal editors will have less veto power over what gets published, and less control over what kind of research is deemed significant.Don’t ever be fooled into assuming that scientists, and especially science reporters, have been educated out of scientism.  Many scientists never took a philosophy of science course.  Some of them, influenced by their science professors, were trained to distrust philosophers of science.  But the question “What is science?” is not a question of science.  It is a question of philosophy about science.  Scientists therefore, operating within the scientific culture, are the least qualified to answer the question.It’s time to suggest again two Teaching Company lecture series that explore in detail the philosophical issues of the “scientific method.”  Here are links to them.  Take note that the courses periodically go on sale.Kasser, Philosophy of ScienceGoldman, Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know ItNotice that neither professors are friendly to intelligent design; they both accept Darwinian evolution.  But after listening to them explain the many difficulties in verifying even the simplest scientific concepts, and hearing about the welter of contradictory opinions about what science is, and how misguided previous “now we know” claims have been, no reader of Creation-Evolution Headlines should remain vulnerable to the fallacy of scientism.last_img read more

New Fugard play takes to stage

first_imgMembers of Isango Portobello theatre company at work in the rehearsal room of the Fugard Theatre. The building’s former incarnations are still in evidence, giving its various spaces a creative “industrial” feel. Eric Abraham MEDIA CONTACTS • Gilly Hemphill +27 21 886 4900 +27 82 820 8584 • Georgina Rae +27 83 442 7000 +27 21 696 3646 RELATED ARTICLES • Opera for and from Africa• South African theatre• SA songbird wins top opera prize• SA-set sci-fi satire huge hit in USChris ThurmanIt’s true that the arts can flourish in poverty. The stereotype of the starving artist in a tiny garret is, however, a notion cherished only by the privileged, and perpetuated by films such as Moulin Rouge.The reality is that few artists – actors, musicians, visual artists, even writers – could survive, let alone create, without patronage. But sponsorship of the arts is not always a priority in developing countries such as South Africa, where government funding is limited and big companies tend to regard spending on the arts as charity, not investment.Nonetheless, usually with a little bit of start-up capital and a lot of imagination, South Africa’s artists manage to produce world-class material. Imagine the possibilities, then, when substantial sums are spent on new arts projects.One such possibility recently became realised in February 2010, when the R18-million (US$2.5-million) Fugard Theatre in Cape Town’s District Six area opened its doors to audiences.The theatre is named for South Africa’s legendary Athol Fugard, the playwright, actor, director and academic who was a pillar of the anti-apartheid theatre movement from the late 1950s to the 1980s.Now a professor of drama at the University of California San Diego, Fugard’s novel Tsotsi was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie. His new play, The Train Driver, had its world premiere at the Fugard Theatre on 24 March.Demolition and District SixThe story starts back in the early 1900s, with the demolition of a Congregational Church building that stood a few hundred metres from the Castle of Good Hope, near what was then Cape Town’s foreshore. The location’s proximity to the harbour made it convenient for storage, and for the next hundred years or so the church hall – which had not been destroyed – was incorporated into the Sacks Futeran Building as a textile warehouse.During that time, a history that is all too familiar to Capetonians was played out in the surrounding area. Land was reclaimed from the sea to the north and the foreshore extended to its present limit. The suburb of District Six, climbing the lower mountain slopes to the south, grew into a vibrant multiracial area. In 1966 the apartheid government declared it to be a whites-only area, and thousands of people were forcibly removed to the bleak Cape Flats 25 kilometres from the city. Since then, District Six was more or less neglected, even into the democratic era.But fast forward to the present and you’ll see a process of urban regeneration underway. A fine example can be found on the block where the old church once stood: from the gabled stone façade of the church hall, between the Gothic arch forms of its windows, hangs a sign bearing a name that demands attention: The Fugard Theatre.Inside, you’ll find a remarkable feat of architectural renovation. The lower level of the former church hall has been converted into a theatre foyer and bar area. Upstairs, there’s a bright and airy – but soundproof – rehearsal room that can also be used for functions.The building’s former incarnations are still in evidence – the walls have been left as they were found, materials such as floorboards and fire-doors have been recycled, and stained-glass windows have been restored – all lending the various spaces a creative “industrial” feel. Climb another storey and you’re on the roof, with an exquisite 360° view of Cape Town’s City Bowl and Table Mountain.And the actual theatre? This extends at a right angle to the old church hall, in what used to be a separate building that backs onto a different street (often enough, if you stand on the pavement below an open window, you can hear deep baritones harmonising with crystal-clear sopranos as performers warm up in the dressing rooms). A quick tour backstage reveals impressive facilities. But, of course, it is inside the narrow, three-tiered, 270-seater auditorium itself that the magic happens.Impressive as it may be, a performance space is no good without performers. The Fugard will have no problems here: it was designed specifically to be the permanent home of theatre company Isango Portobello, which was formed three years ago through an unusual fusion of South African and British creativity and capital.Apartheid exileThe Isango Portobello story also starts some time ago, but only as far back as the 1970s, when a young student named Eric Abraham fell foul of the apartheid authorities for his work as a journalist and anti-apartheid activist. He was placed under house arrest but escaped to England, where he became involved in theatre, film and television, founding the successful production company Portobello Pictures in 1985.More recently he and his wife, well-known philanthropist Sigrid Rausing, expanded into the world of publishing with the establishment of Portobello Books and the acquisition of Granta in 2005.In 2007, Abraham joined forces with Mark Dornford-May, Pauline Malefane and colleagues from the company Dimpho di Kopane (DDK) – Sesotho for “combined talents” – to form Isango Portobello.DDK already had an international reputation through the award-winning film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha and the West End stage hit The Mysteries: Yiimimangaliso. Isango Portobello follows the same recipe that made DDK a social, commercial and artistic success: it draws performers predominantly from underprivileged backgrounds to create innovative fusions of Western and African cultural forms.U-Carmen was an adaptation of Bizet’s opera to a South African township setting; The Mysteries revised and Africanised the medieval mystery plays once used to tell Bible stories to wider, illiterate audiences. The year 2007 saw the launch of The Magic Flute: Impempe Yomlingo and iKrismas Kherol, new versions of Mozart’s opera and Dickens’s novel respectively.Of the two, The Magic Flute was the better received, and the achievement of Isango Portobello’s musical director Mandisi Dyantyi (along with Malefane, Nolufefe Mtshabe and Mbali Kgosodintsi) in reformulating the grand operatic score has been widely lauded. The orchestra consists of marimbas, drums and makeshift instruments such as glass bottles, and the magic flute becomes a trumpet. The production has toured internationally, garnering awards in the UK and France.The Fugard opened in February with The Mysteries and The Magic Flute as a double-billing, to such success the run was extended into March. After this, the hydrolic stage, custom-built to accommodate Dornford-May’s signature style of directing his performers on a steeply raked stage, was lowered to prepare for the much-anticipated world premiere of the latest theatre offering from the eponym himself: Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver, starring Sean Taylor and Owen Sejake.In the post-apartheid era, Fugard’s new plays – such as Victory and Coming Home – have been less well received than the clutch of iconic theatre pieces he produced from the 1950s to the 1980s. Local audiences are no doubt eager to see that trend reversed, and enthusiastic responses to the preview performances suggest that it will be. Yet Fugard doesn’t owe anything to South African theatre; if anything, the debt is the other way around.The R18-million investment that is The Fugard Theatre goes some way towards paying an appropriate tribute.last_img read more

RLD seeks Congress help for coalition

first_imgThe Congress will have to be “most accommodating” and give respect and support to the smaller parties for a “true rainbow coalition” to emerge, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) vice-president Jayant Chaudhary said Sunday.He, however, expressed confidence that a series of State-specific alliances, where like-minded parties would come together on an anti-BJP platform, was likely for the 2019 general election. “Farm distress will be a key issue in our campaign,” Mr. Chaudhary, son of RLD president Ajit Singh, said. RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan, who was supported by the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress, had routed her BJP rival in the Kairana bypoll in Uttar Pradesh earlier this year. The RLD has been advocating a “grand alliance” in U.P. in the 2019 poll.last_img read more

10 months agoNewcastle boss Benitez raps Man Utd: No excuses for top 4 failure

first_imgAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Newcastle boss Benitez raps Man Utd: No excuses for top 4 failureby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveNewcastle United boss Rafael Benitez says Manchester United have no excuses if they fail to finish in the top four.United travel to St James’ Park to face Benitez’s Newcastle on Wednesday.”It’s a team that has to be easily in the top four, that is very clear,” said the Newcastle boss.”They can compete against Manchester City, Liverpool, anyone. We are talking about one of the biggest clubs in the world in terms of everything.”The players they have, they are so good that if you want to win or get points against them you have to perform really well.”When you are a top side like Manchester United, spending millions every year, you have to be in the top four and you have to win the title.”For them, that’s the pressure. Not just now, they had it before, and for sure they will feel the pressure in a few weeks when they will be there fighting with Tottenham, Chelsea, City, Liverpool and Arsenal.” last_img read more

9 months agoZenit midfielder Leandro Paredes agrees Chelsea contract terms

first_imgTagsTransfersAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Zenit midfielder Leandro Paredes agrees Chelsea contract termsby Paul Vegas9 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveZenit St Petersburg midfielder Leandro Paredes has agreed terms, it has been revealed.Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, after victory over Newcastle United on Saturday, declared he wanted to see a replacement for Cesc Fabregas after his departure for AS Monaco.Gazzetta dello Sport says Paredes has been lined up by the Blues and already settled personal terms.Now Chelsea must reach an agreement with Zenit over a fee for the Argentine.An opening offer of £27m has already been lodged. last_img read more

Trump Saudi king firmly denies any role in Khashoggi mystery Pompeo en

first_imgWASHINGTON – Donald Trump appeared to be taking Saudi Arabia at its word Monday as he described how King Salman “firmly” and “strongly” issued a “flat denial” that he or his crown prince had any knowledge of or role in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.In describing his morning phone conversation with the king, the U.S. president repeatedly emphasized the strenuous nature of the ruler’s denials — even as he confirmed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national and Washington Post columnist, who vanished inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.Khashoggi — a “Saudi Arabian citizen,” Trump noted, although he lived in the U.S. — was last seen entering the consulate two weeks ago. Turkish officials have said they have audio recordings that prove the journalist, a known critic of the Saudi regime, was killed inside, his body dismembered for easy disposal.“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it,” Trump said. “He didn’t really know — maybe, I don’t really want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows. We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon. But his was a flat denial.”Before day’s end, media reports citing anonymous sources began to appear saying Saudi officials were considering issuing a public statement that would indeed say that Khashoggi died in Saudi custody, a consequence of an interrogation gone wrong. But it was unclear Monday when — or even if — such a statement would be released, according to the reports.Turkish and Saudi investigators began Monday what Turkish officials call a joint “inspection” of the consulate — but not before a cleaning crew walked in armed with mops, trash bags and cartons of milk, said to be good for removing bloodstains.American lawmakers have threatened tough punitive action against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain have jointly called for a “credible investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted a link to that statement Sunday, adding, “Canada strongly supports our allies on this important issue.”Freeland said she spoke Monday with Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, and remains in close contact with her U.S., German and British counterparts as the global community awaits more answers.“Canada and our government has a strong record of standing up for human rights around the world, very much including in Saudi Arabia, and we’re going to continue to do that,” she said outside the House of Commons.“It’s important to establish clear facts about what has happened, and it’s important for the international community to be clear that those facts need to be established in a clear and transparent manner.”Turkish officials allege a Saudi hit team that flew into and out of Turkey on Oct. 2 killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who had written Washington Post columns that were critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS. The kingdom has called such allegations “baseless” but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.If the allegations prove true, experts fear it would be just one more example of autocratic rulers feeling emboldened by the slow disintegration of the international world order, thanks in large part to a White House that’s willing to look the other way.“I do think the norms have eroded and the guardrails (have) come down under Donald Trump,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and foreign policy expert who serves as vice-president and fellow at the Calgary-based Canadian Global Affairs Institute.Robertson cited the brazen poisoning in March of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia, an attack attributed to but denied by the Russian government, as just one instance of international malfeasance that seems to be filling the breach left by a lack of strong U.S. foreign policy.“Autocrats are taking liberties — Skripal, drug hit squads, poison gas, trolls and bots and fake news, prison without trial. They believe they can get away with it because for the new sheriff it’s ‘America First,’ full stop.”Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Monday that Canada won’t shy away from taking up the cause.“Canada will always be very firm … about standing up for human rights all around the world because Canadians expect it of our government,” Trudeau said in an interview as part of the Fortune Global Forum in Toronto.“But the world also expects it of Canada — to be the clear voice saying, ‘You know what, this is right,’ or ‘This is wrong and you need to do better.’ And we don’t take kindly … to having people try (to) punish us for believing what we say.”That appeared to be a direct reference to Saudi Arabia, which lashed out at Canada — recalling its ambassador, freezing trade, pulling students out of Canadian schools and even cancelling flights to Toronto — after a tweet from Freeland calling for the immediate release of detained activists, including Samar Badawi, a champion of women’s rights and the sister of detained blogger Raif Badawi.The kingdom flexed its rhetorical muscles Sunday, saying that if it “receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy.”In the U.S., the Post has been publishing full-page ads in its front section in an effort to keep the pressure up.“On Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 1:14 p.m. Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul,” reads the ad, which features an ominous-looking depiction of the consulate’s imposing double doors, adorned with the twin swords of the kingdom’s emblem.“He has not been seen since. Demand answers.”International business leaders have also been bailing en masse out of the kingdom’s glittering big-ticket investment forum, the Future Investment Initiative, including the CEO of Uber, billionaire Richard Branson, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon and Ford executive chairman Bill Ford.last_img read more

Former Canal Plus chief Pierre Lescures report on

first_imgFormer Canal Plus chief Pierre Lescure’s report on the adaptation of France’s cultural policies to the digital age has suggested that a new tax be levied on laptops, smartphones and tablets to help support the content industry’s migration to digital, that the Hadopi commission be abolished and that the strict rules governing video content distribution windows be relaxed.The report, which was delivered to minister of culture Aurélie Filippetti yesterday, said that manufacturers of computers, smartphones, tablets and connected TVs could be subject to a tax of up to 1% to compensate the transfer of the value of content. Former Canal Plus chief Lescure also envisages that a current tax on private copies could be merged with other taxes or replaced.Lescure has also proposed that the powers of the Hadopi, the organisation set up to combat internet piracy through a controversial ‘three strikes’ regime, should be transferred to media regulator the CSA. The Hadopi’s controversial power to cut off the internet connection of persistent infringers of copyright would be abolished.The report also recommends that France’s system of content windowing should be relaxed, with a possible reduction of the time after which movies can be shown on video-on-demand services reduced from 36 months after their theatrical release to 18 months.Hadopi president Marie-Françoise Marais welcomed the report as broadly justifying the legitimacy and usefulness of the body’s mission and said that their consolidation within the framework of a “more global strategy” would give them a solid footing.last_img read more

Samsung is to launch the first commercially availa

first_imgSamsung is to launch the first commercially available Higher Dynamic Range (HDR) video content as part of a new UHD video pack, possibly as early as next month, according to a report in Forbes magazine.According to the report, Samsung will air two full-length Hollywood movies at a native UHD resolution, the titles of which have yet to be confirmed. The two titles will be complemented by non-HDR UHD content as part of the package, according to the report. Titles have yet to be confirmed.Samsung last year launched a UHD video pack to highlight the capabilities of its TVs, available via an external device, with movies that included GI Joe: Retaliation, X-Men Origins, Night at the Museum and Life of Pi.News of Samsung’s HDR plans follows its trial broadcast, with satellite operator SES, of HDR UHD TV over DVB at SES’s Industry Days event in Luxembourg earlier this month.Samsung and SES used technology developed by the BBC to broadcast HDR content to its new SUHD TV devices simultaneously with other UHD TV content to existing UHD screens. HDR technology is designed to bring greater contrast to the screen, making colours appear richer, brighter and more lifelike.Last month Amazon announced that it would bring HDR content to its Prime Instant Video service in the UK, Germany and the US later this year via Amazon Originals.last_img read more

IVI and MCRI to coordinate global push for developing vaccine against Strep

first_imgThe World Health Organization prioritized a vaccine for Strep A in 2014, and in 2018 unanimously passed a resolution calling for action against rheumatic heart disease, including a vaccine against Strep A.MCRI’s Head of Infection and Immunity, Prof Andrew Steer, said there were concerns in the scientific community about the effectiveness of antibiotics to treat Strep A in the future as groups of Strep A had evolved to be resistant to the antibiotics azithromycin and clarithromycin.Related StoriesNew shingles vaccine reduces outbreaks of painful rash among stem cell transplant patientsNovel vaccine against bee sting allergy successfully testedScripps CHAVD wins $129 million NIH grant to advance new HIV vaccine approach”Already invasive Strep A infections like the notorious ‘flesh-eating bacteria’ and ‘toxic shock’ kill 150,000 people around the globe each year,” said Prof Steer, who is also an honorary fellow with the University of Melbourne.”But there is little awareness of Strep A among the public, policymakers, and even scientists – and so there has been little incentive for major vaccine manufacturers to get behind vaccine development.””IVI and MCRI have set up an international consortium to pool wisdom and resources to embark on an overdue process to develop one of the vaccines the world most urgently needs and most terribly underfunds.”Work to raise awareness and build global support for the development of a Strep A vaccine is supported by the new Wellcome grant. “We will create the means to advocate internationally for increased vaccine research and develop the cases for investment in Strep A vaccines at business and policy levels,” Dr Kim said. “By the end of the project, we also hope to have identified a major vaccine manufacturer.”Head of Vaccines at the Wellcome Trust, Dr Charlie Weller, said that vaccines are hugely powerful in preventing the spread of infectious disease globally.”Strep A bacteria causes many serious infections, including scarlet fever and rheumatic heart disease,” Dr Weller said.”It is among the top 10 causes of death worldwide, and concerns are growing about the effectiveness of the antibiotics we have to treat patients. With a Strep A vaccine huge numbers of lives could be protected, but this cannot happen without international collaboration and support.”We hope to accelerate development of the investment case for a Strep A vaccine and better understanding of the impact it would have on global public health.”Source: University of Melbourne Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)May 31 2019The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) and Australia’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) will coordinate a global push to free the world of Group A Streptococcus (Strep A), the contagious bacteria that kills half a million people every year and is developing resistance to antibiotics.The British biomedical research foundation, the Wellcome Trust, has granted $2.25 million to IVI and MCRI to coordinate world efforts to develop a vaccine against Strep A and find manufacturers.Director General of IVI, Dr Jerome Kim, said that Strep A, a bacterial pathogen, is one of the most deadly infectious diseases – ranking with tuberculosis (TB), HIV, and malaria but globally very little had been invested in Strep A research. Strep A is one of the main causes of death from infectious diseases, claiming 500,000 lives per year; however few people are aware of it.Strep A usually begins with a sore throat, but if left untreated it causes the immune system to become overactive, resulting in rheumatic heart disease, which damages heart valves and over time causes heart failure and death. This affects more than 33 million people around the world, and the vast majority of deaths are in low-and-middle-income countries. A vaccine would be the most effective and cost-effective way to control infection.”Dr Jerome Kim, Director General of IVIlast_img read more

Neuroscientists find anatomical link between cognitive and perceptual symptoms in autism

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jun 20 2019Neuroscientists at the RIKEN Center for Brain Science (CBS) and University College London have found an anatomical link between cognitive and perceptual symptoms in autism. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the study identified a posterior region of the brain whose size–amount of gray matter–is related to both cognitive rigidity and overly stable visual perception, two symptoms of autism that until now were only conceptually related.Mental inflexibility is a hallmark symptom of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is best seen in restricted and repetitive behaviors, which are required for an ASD diagnosis. These behaviors can range from stereotyped and repetitive movements to repetitive thoughts. Perception in people with ASD can also be less flexible than in others. This can be understood by considering a line drawing of a transparent cube (called a Necker cube, see Figure). When looking at this drawing, the 3-D structure of the cube seems to spontaneously invert; the front becomes the back and then becomes the front again. This type of perceptual switching is called “bistable” perception. In the case of autism however, perception is often overly stable, and does not switch back and forth as often as it does in others.The team of researchers sought to find a physical neuroanatomical link between these two characteristics of autism. They recruited people with and without ASD to perform two simple computer-based tests and an MRI scan. The first computer test assessed perceptual stability. Participants viewed a bistable image in which the front and back of a cylindrical shape switch back and forth. The second test evaluated cognitive rigidity, and was designed specifically for this study. Participants were shown shapes on a display and asked to choose a rule to follow: select the brightest shape or a specific shape. The researchers counted the numbers of times each participant reported a switch in perception during the first test and the number of times they spontaneously switched rules in the second test. These measures allowed the researchers to quantify perceptual stability and cognitive rigidity for each participant.Related StoriesNew therapy shows promise in preventing brain damage after traumatic brain injuryRush University Medical Center offers new FDA-approved treatment for brain aneurysmsDon’t Miss the Blood-Brain Barrier Drug Delivery (B3DD) Summit this AugustAs expected, they found that perception of the bistable image switched much less frequently in people with ASD than in the control participants. They also found that people with ASD repeated the same rule choice–brightness or shape–for longer periods of time before switching rules. A control switching test in which participants were told to switch rules did not differ between groups, meaning that switching rules was not difficult for those with ASD, but that when acting freely, they chose to switch less often than the other participants.The results from the rule-switching task were particularly encouraging.First Author, Takamitsu Watanabe from RIKEN CBS: Cognitive rigidity in high-functioning autism is known to be difficult to detect and quantify in conventional psychological paradigms. Here, we overcame this issue with a new spontaneous task-switching test.” With these results, the team was confident that their tests were good measures of perceptual stability and cognitive rigidity.The team then took these individual scores and tested whether they correlated with the brain anatomy seen on the MRI scans. They found that one part of the brain in particular was related to both perceptual stability and cognitive rigidity. Lower density of neurons in the posterior superior parietal lobule was associated with both less frequent perceptual switching and less frequent rule switching, and was also associated with the severity of the participant’s restricted and repetitive behaviors.”We think that the posterior superior parietal lobule is the neural basis for both overly stable perception and cognitive inflexibility, two seemingly different symptoms in autism,” says Watanabe. “Knowing the importance of this brain region, we can now work to identify how it produces its effects and test whether manipulating its neural activity can mitigate these ASD symptoms.” Source:RIKENJournal reference:Watanabe, T. et al. (2019) A neuroanatomical substrate linking perceptual stability to cognitive rigidity in autism. Journal of Neuroscience. read more