The world’s oldest desert is to be blessed with one of the most listened-to songs – Africa by Toto. Namibian artist Max Siedentopf has set up a sound installation in the coastal Namib Desert to play on loop, in tribute to the soft rock classic. The 1982 track is quadruple platinum, and was the most streamed song in 2017, with over 440m views on YouTube.

Mr Siedentopf tells the BBC it is set to play forever, with solar batteries “to keep Toto going for all eternity”.

The almost five-minute song has remained popular in today’s pop culture, and has been subject to memes and even entire Reddit pages.

“[I] wanted to pay the song the ultimate homage and physically exhibit ‘Africa’ in Africa,” explains the 27-year-old artist. “Some [Namibians] love it and some say it’s probably the worst sound installation ever. I think that’s a great compliment.”

He has chosen an undisclosed spot in the 55-million-year-old Namib desert to set up six speakers attached to an MP3 player with the single track on it. Mr Siedentopf says he hopes the song will play for another 55 million years. “Most parts of the installation were chosen to be as durable as possible, but I’m sure the harsh environment of the desert will devour the installation eventually.”

Until then, only the most loyal Toto fans will be able to find this “treasure” among the sands, Mr Siedentopf says.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-46861137

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By Fiza Pirani,

A woman in Xiamen, China, unexpectedly developed an ear condition that left her unable to hear male voices, the Daily Mail recently reported citing local AsiaWire reports.

The woman, who has only been identified by her last name (Chen), said she realized something was wrong when she woke up and couldn’t hear her boyfriend’s voice. Before going to bed, she said she heard ringing in her ears and vomited.

When she made it to Qianpu Hospital, doctors diagnosed Chen with reverse-slope hearing loss (RSHL), a rare condition in which lower frequencies become difficult to hear. It’s named for the shape it produces in visualizations — “the graph starts in the lower-left-hand corner and slopes upward steeply,” according to Georgia audiology clinic, Audiology HEARS, P.C.

Chen “was able to hear me when I spoke to her,” treating provider Dr. Lin Xiaoqing, a woman, told the Daily Mail. “But when a young male patient walked in, she couldn’t hear him at all.”

Xiaoqing told local media she believes fatigue and stress played a role in Chen’s condition and expects her patient will make a full recovery.

When humans hear sounds, the tiny hairs inside the ear vibrate. But genetic conditions, injuries or types of drug use may make the hairs “brittle and prone to breakage,” affecting one’s ability to hear higher-pitched sounds, Dr. Michelle Kraskin, an audiologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital who was not involved in Chen’s case, told Live Science. But hearing loss of low-pitched sounds like Chen experienced is less common because the ear’s cochlea, responsible for the lower frequencies, is usually highly protected.

In fact, RSHL only affects an estimated 3,000 people in the United States and Canada. For every 12,000 people with some type of hearing loss, Audiology HEARS states on its website, only one individual has RSHL.

It’s most often caused by genetics, and many people with the condition might not even know they have it. Those with Wolfram syndrome, Mondini dysplasia and inheritance through a dominant gene are at increased risk, according to the clinic.

Other causes of RSHL may include diseases like sudden hearing loss, viral infections or Ménière’s disease, all of which affect the hair cells. Autoimmune disorders that affect the inner ear, also rare, are another potential source. These conditions could also lead to dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Any procedures or conditions that cause a change in pressure of inner ear fluid (or the endolymph) may also cause RSHL. These conditions include spinal or general anesthesia, intracranial hypertension or a perilymphatic fistula.

Some symptoms of RSHL may include difficulty comprehending speech over phones, which largely deliver low and middle frequencies; an inability to hear low-frequency sounds like a running refrigerator or thunder and, as Chen displayed, a difficulty hearing male voices compared to higher-frequency speech of women and children.

It’s best to catch the condition within 48 hours for the best chance of recovery, Kraskin said. Once diagnosed, treatment may involve high doses of steroids.

Though RSHL may go away without any treatment at all, the condition can potentially worsen and become problematic in terms of safety.

“If you can’t hear a car coming, you can’t avoid it. If someone some distance from you is trying to warn you away from something, you might not hear it, because volume is a product of the lower frequencies,” according to Audiology HEARS.

Because general industry standards cater to high-frequency hearing loss, which is much more common, treating worsening RSHL can be quite difficult. Audiologists are encouraged to listen to the patient’s concerns and customize hearing aids and should take the time to determine “channel by channel, frequency by frequency” what patients finds “comfortable, audible, and helpful.”

Approximately 25 percent of people in the United States between ages 55 and 64 have some degree of hearing loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. It becomes increasingly common as you age. In fact, hearing loss affects 1 in 2 people older than age 65. Anyone who experiences sudden hearing loss, particularly in one ear, should seek medical attention immediately.

https://www.ajc.com/news/health-med-fit-science/china-woman-unable-hear-men-voices-due-rare-medical-condition-what-rshl/Tvz8PBiFhrDJNrp8Dn01rI/


Dr. Lewis L. Judd led the National Institute of Mental Health from 1988 to 1990. (National Library of Medicine)

By Emily Langer

Lewis L. Judd, a nationally known psychiatrist who helped turn the focus of his profession from psychoanalysis to neuroscience, an approach that sought to destigmatize mental illness by treating it as cancer, heart disease or any other medical problem, died Dec. 16 in La Jolla, Calif. He was 88.

The cause was cardiac arrest, said his wife, Pat Judd.

For decades, psychiatrists were schooled in the theories of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, who posited that mental disturbances could be treated through dialogue with a therapist. Practitioners sought to interpret their patients’ dreams, giving little attention to the physical functioning of the brain or the chemicals that regulate it.

Dr. Judd agreed, he once told the Associated Press, that a physician must look at patients as a “whole individual,” with all their “worries, concerns, aspirations and needs,” and not resort to simply “popping a pill in their mouth.” But he found the long-prevailing psychoanalytic approach too limiting to explain or treat afflictions such as depression, bipolar disorder, severe anxiety and schizophrenia — “these serious mental disorders that have defied our understanding for centuries,” he once told the Chicago Tribune.

Instead, he advocated a biological approach, starting at the molecular level of the brain. As director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md. — a post he held from 1988 to 1990, during a hiatus from his decades-long chairmanship of the psychiatry department at the University of California at San Diego — he helped launch a federal research initiative known as the “Decade of the Brain.”

“He was obsessed with educating the public and the profession . . . that mental illnesses were biological illnesses, that schizophrenia and depression were diseases of the brain,” Alan I. Leshner, Dr. Judd’s deputy at NIMH and later chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said in an interview. “At the time, that was a heretical thought.”

Today, the biological component of many mental illnesses is widely accepted. When Dr. Judd led NIMH, it was not; he once cited a survey in which 71 percent of respondents said mental illness was a result of personal weakness and a third attributed it to sinful behavior. Poor parenting was another common alleged culprit.

Dr. Judd argued that the biological approach to psychiatry held the promise not only of deepening understanding of the body’s most complex organ but of improving lives: If mental disorders could be shown to be a result of brain chemistry or of physical dysfunction, patients might feel less stigmatized and therefore more willing to seek treatment.

“We look at the homeless and feel that if they only got their act together, they could lift themselves up,” Dr. Judd told the Los Angeles Times in 1988, discussing the prevalence of mental illness among homeless people. “We would never believe that about someone who has cancer or some other physical disease.”

As head of NIMH, which is an arm of the National Institutes of Health and the chief federal agency for research on mental illness, Dr. Judd oversaw more than $500 million in research money. He described the Decade of the Brain — a designation conferred by Congress and President George H.W. Bush — as a “research plan designed to bring a precise and detailed understanding of all the elements of brain function within our own lifetimes.”

During his tenure at NIMH, scientists for the first time successfully grew brain tissue in a laboratory. Dr. Judd was among those scientists who touted the potential of medical imaging, such as MRIs and PET scans, to reveal the inner workings of the brain and the potential causes of diseases such as schizophrenia.

Almost 30 years after the Decade of the Brain began, much about the organ remains elusive. Leshner credited the initiative with helping bring attention to the importance of brain research as well as inspiring the Brain Initiative, a public-private research effort advanced by the Obama administration.

“The brain is really the last frontier for scientists,” Dr. Judd said.

Lewis Lund Judd was born in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 1930. His father was an obstetrician-gynecologist, and his mother was a homemaker. Dr. Judd’s brother, Howard Judd, also became an OB/GYN and a noted researcher in women’s health at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Dr. Judd received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Utah in 1954 and a medical degree from UCLA in 1958. In the early years of his career, he served in the Air Force as a base psychiatrist.

He joined UC-San Diego in 1970 and became department chairman in 1977, helping grow his faculty into one of the most respected the country. He stepped down as chairman in 2013 and retired in 2015.

Dr. Judd’s first marriage, to Anne Nealy, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 45 years, the former Patricia Hoffman, who is also a psychiatry professor at UC-San Diego, of La Jolla; three daughters from his first marriage, Allison Fee of Whidbey Island, Wash., Catherine Judd of Miami and Stephanie Judd of Chevy Chase, Md.; and four grandchildren.

Ever exploring the outer reaches of his field, Dr. Judd participated in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama in 1989 about life and the mind.

“Our model of mental health is mostly defined in terms of the absence of mental illness,” Dr. Judd told the New York Times, reflecting on the Tibetan Buddhist leader’s discussion of wisdom and compassion. “They may have more positive ones that might be worth our study.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/lewis-judd-psychiatrist-who-probed-the-science-of-the-brain-dies-at-88/2019/01/11/271e1f48-1549-11e9-b6ad-9cfd62dbb0a8_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.18ed788ae8b3

By Rafi Letzter

A 210-foot-long (64 meters) monster made from grease and used baby-wipes has clogged up a sewer in Sidmouth in southwestern England. British officials said in a statement they expect that removing the gooey blob, which will happen in “exceptionally challenging work conditions,” could take up to eight weeks.

“Fatbergs” like this one have become unpleasantly familiar in the United Kingdom. As Live Science reported back in 2017, workers used high-pressure water jets to slowly break down an 820-foot-long (250 m), 143-ton (130,000 kilograms) “rancid blob” that formed in a London sewer. Eventually, that mass was converted to biofuel, but it took workers months to fully restore function in the affected area.

Part of the problem seems to be the British public’s habit of flushing used baby wipes down the toilet, as these can clump together and form the scaffolding for fatbergs. The issue has become serious enough that the government has proposed banning the wipes altogether.

https://www.livescience.com/64447-fatberg-part-deux.html?utm_source=notification


Patterns of gene expression unite the prairie vole Microtus ochrogaster with other monogamous species, including certain frogs, fish, and birds. YVA MOMATIUK AND JOHN EASTCOTT/MINDEN PICTURES

By Kelly Servick

In the animal world, monogamy has some clear perks. Living in pairs can give animals some stability and certainty in the constant struggle to reproduce and protect their young—which may be why it has evolved independently in various species. Now, an analysis of gene activity within the brains of frogs, rodents, fish, and birds suggests there may be a pattern common to monogamous creatures. Despite very different brain structures and evolutionary histories, these animals all seem to have developed monogamy by turning on and off some of the same sets of genes.

“It is quite surprising,” says Harvard University evolutionary biologist Hopi Hoekstra, who was not involved in the new work. “It suggests that there’s a sort of genomic strategy to becoming monogamous that evolution has repeatedly tapped into.”

Evolutionary biologists have proposed various benefits to so-called social monogamy, where mates pair up for at least a breeding season to care for their young and defend their territory. When potential mates are scarce or widely dispersed, for example, forming a single-pair bond can ensure they get to keep reproducing.

Neuroscientist Hans Hofmann and evolutionary biologist Rebecca Young at the University of Texas in Austin wanted to explore how the regulation of genes in the brain might have changed when a nonmonogamous species evolved to become monogamous. For example, the complex set of genes that underlie the ability to tolerate the presence of another member of one’s species presumably exists in nonmonogamous animals, but might be activated in different patterns to allow prolonged partnerships in monogamous ones.

“We wanted to be bold—and maybe a little bit crazy” in the new experiment, Hofmann says. Instead of doing a relatively straightforward genetic comparison between closely related species on either side of the monogamy divide, he and colleagues wanted to hunt down a gene activity signature associated with monogamy in males across a wide variety of species—frogs, mice, voles, birds, and fish. So in each of these groups, they selected two species, one monogamous and one nonmonogamous.

Rounding up the brains of those animals took an international team and years of effort. Hostile regional authorities and a complicated permitting system confronted the team in Romania as they tried to capture two types of a native songbird. Hofmann donned scuba gear and plunged into Africa’s Lake Tanganyika to chase finger-length cichlid fish into nets. Delicately debraining them while aboard a rocking boat, he says, was a struggle.

Back the lab, the researchers then grouped roughly comparable genes across all 10 species based on similarities in their sequences. For each of these cross-species gene groups, they measured activity based on how much the cells in the brain transcribed the DNA’s proteinmaking instructions into strands of RNA.

Among the monogamous animals, a pattern emerged. The researchers found certain sets of genes were more likely to be “turned up” or “turned down” in those creatures than in the nonmonogamous species. And they ruled out other reasons why these monogamous animals might have similar gene expression patterns, including similar environments or close evolutionary relationships.

Among the genes with increased activity in monogamous species were those involved in neural development, signaling between cells, learning, and memory, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They speculate that genes that make the brain more adaptable—and better able to remember—might also help animals recognize their mates and find their presence rewarding.

It makes sense that genes involved in brain development and function would underlie a complex behavior like monogamy, says behavioral neuroscientist Claudio Mello of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. But because the researchers didn’t dissect out specific brain regions and analyze their RNA production independently, they can’t describe the finely tuned patterns of gene expression in areas that are key to reproductive behavior. “It seems to me unlikely that by themselves these genes will be able to ‘explain’ this behavior,” he says.

“The fact that they got any common genes at all is interesting,” adds Lisa Stubbs, a developmental geneticist at the University of Illinois in Urbana. “It is a superb data set and an expert analysis,” she says, “[but] the authors have not actually uncovered many important biological insights into monogamy.”

The study did turn up a curious outlier. Some of the genes with decreased expression in most of the monogamous species showed increased expression in one of them—the poison dart frog Ranitomeya imitator. Young notes that in this species’s evolutionary history, fathers cared for the young before cooperative parenting evolved. As a result, these frogs may have had a different evolutionary starting point than other animals in the study, later tapping into different genes to become monogamous.

Hoekstra, who has studied the genetics of monogamy in mice, sees “a lot of exciting next steps.” There are likely mutations in other regions of DNA that regulate the expression of the genes this study identified. But it will take more work to show a causal relationship between any particular genetic sequence and monogamous behavior.

People also often opt for monogamy, albeit for a complicated set of social and cultural reasons. So, do we share the gene activity signature common to monogamous birds, fish, and frogs? “We don’t know that,” says Hofmann, but “we certainly would speculate that the kind of gene expression patterns … might [show up] in humans as well.”

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/monogamy-may-have-telltale-signature-gene-activity

By Sara G. Miller

Gluten has been implicated in a number of symptoms related to celiac disease that go beyond the digestive system, including rashes, anemia and headaches. But according to a recent case report, the wheat protein played a role in one woman’s severe psychosis.

The 37-year-old woman, whose case was described in the report, was studying for her Ph.D. when she started having delusions. Her symptoms began with a belief that people were talking about her as part of a conspiracy in which friends, family members and strangers were acting out scenes for her in a “game,” the doctors who treated the woman wrote in their report, published May 12 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

After making threats against her family, the patient was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, the doctors wrote. She was prescribed anti-psychotic medications to help control her symptoms, but they did not work very well, according to the report.

During the woman’s stay at the psychiatric hospital and at follow-up appointments after she was released, doctors noticed that she had several vitamin and mineral deficiencies, had lost a lot of weight and also had thyroid problems, according to the report.

These symptoms led doctors to suspect that the woman had celiac disease, said Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and one of the doctors who treated the woman. It was at that point that the doctors who wrote the case report got involved, he said.

The doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed that the woman had celiac disease, according to the report. However, her delusions led her to believe that the doctors were being “deceitful,” and she refused to follow a gluten-free diet, they wrote.

The woman lost her job, became homeless and attempted suicide, the doctors wrote. Eventually, she was rehospitalized at a psychiatric facility, where she was successfully placed on a gluten-free diet, they wrote.

When the woman was on a gluten-free diet, her symptoms improved, Fasano said. She was once again functional and aware of what gluten was doing to her, he said. She knew that being exposed to gluten caused her to lose control of her life, and she wanted people to understand that the gluten was causing this bizarre behavior, he added.

The differences between how the woman behaved on a gluten-free diet and after being exposed to gluten was like “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Fasano said. “This was a bright young lady on her way to [getting] a Ph.D., and all of sudden,” something changed and she would do things that were harmful to herself and people around her, he said.

During the time the doctors were working with the woman, she inadvertently consumed gluten on several occasions, Fasano said. When this would happen, she would become completely lost, he said. But when she was gluten-free, she was well aware that she needed to avoid gluten because “she [didn’t] want to go to ‘that place,'” Fasano said.

When Fasano last saw the woman, around January 2016, he reported that she was doing very well. She was completely avoiding gluten, and her symptoms had gone away, he said. In fact, the woman was planning to participate in an experiment with her doctors so that they could study what happened to her when she consumed gluten, he said.

The plan was to do the experiment in a very controlled environment so that the patient would not do anything harmful, he said. The experiment would give the doctors the opportunity to study the inflammatory process that potentially caused these symptoms. They also planned to do some brain scans, he said.

But before the doctors could do the experiment, the woman accidentally ate some gluten, Fasano said. Her delusions returned, and she was put in jail after trying to kill her parents, he said.

https://www.livescience.com/55166-celiac-disease-gluten-psychosis.html

By Ben Tinker

There’s no shortage of things people swore to leave behind in 2018: bad jobs, bad relationships, bad habits. But chances are, you’re beginning 2019 with something you didn’t intend: a few extra pounds.

Every January, one of the top New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. And if you’re looking to be successful, there’s something you should know: Diet is far more important than exercise — by a long shot.

“It couldn’t be more true,” nutritionist and CNN contributor Lisa Drayer said. “Basically, what I always tell people is, what you omit from your diet is so much more important than how much you exercise.”

Think of it like this: All of your “calories in” come from the food you eat and the beverages you drink, but only a portion of your “calories out” are lost through exercise.

According to Alexxai Kravitz, an investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases — part of the National Institutes of Health, “it’s generally accepted that there are three main components to energy expenditure”:

(1) Basal metabolic rate, the amount of energy it takes just to keep your body running (blood pumping, lungs breathing, brain functioning)

(2) Breaking down food, scientifically referred to as “diet-induced thermogenesis,” “specific dynamic action” or the “thermic effect of food”

(3) Physical activity

For most people, basal metabolic rate accounts for 60% to 80% of total energy expenditure, Kravitz said. He cited a study that defines this as “the minimal rate of energy expenditure compatible with life.” As you get older, your rate goes down, but increasing your muscle mass makes it go up.

About 10% of your calories are burned digesting the food you eat, which means roughly 10% to 30% are lost through physical activity.

“An important distinction here is that this number includes all physical activity: walking around, typing, fidgeting and formal exercise,” Kravitz said. “So if the total energy expenditure from physical activity is 10% to 30%, exercise is a subset of that number.

“The average person — professional athletes excluded — burns 5% to 15% of their daily calories through exercise,” he said. “It’s not nothing, but it’s not nearly equal to food intake, which accounts for 100% of the energy intake of the body.”

What’s more, as anyone who’s worked out a day in their life can tell you, exercising ramps up appetite — and that can sabotage even the best of intentions.

According to calculations by Harvard Medical School, a 185-pound person burns 200 calories in 30 minutes of walking at 4 miles per hour (a pace of 15 minutes per mile). You could easily undo all that hard work by eating four chocolate chip cookies, 1½ scoops of ice cream or less than two glasses of wine.

Even a vigorous cycling class, which can burn more than 700 calories, can be completely canceled out with just a few mixed drinks or a piece of cake.

“It’s so disproportionate — the amount of time that you would need to [exercise] to burn off those few bites of food,” Drayer said.

The sentiment here is that you’ve “earned” what you eat after working out, when instead — if your goal is to lose weight — you’d be better off not working out and simply eating less.

Of course, not all calories are created equal, but for simplicity’s sake, 3,500 calories equal 1 pound of fat. So to lose 1 pound a week, you should aim to cut 500 calories every day. If you drink soda, cutting that out of your diet is one of the easiest ways to get there.

“The other thing is that exercise can increase your appetite, especially with prolonged endurance exercise or with weight lifting,” Drayer said. “It’s another reason why I tell people who want to lose weight to really just focus on diet first.”

It is cliché — but also true — that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to weight loss. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “evidence shows that people who lose weight gradually (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off.”

“All this is not to say that exercise doesn’t have its place,” Drayer said. “It’s certainly important for building strength and muscle mass and flexibility. It can help to manage diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. It can improve your mood. It can help fight depression. But although exercise can help with weight loss, diet is a much more important lifestyle factor.”

As the saying goes: Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/04/health/diet-exercise-weight-loss/index.html