The urge to rebel against control over one’s decisions is associated with the connectivity between parietal and frontal brain regions (shown in color). The stronger the synchronous activation was in these regions, the more likely were the participants to show defiant behavior.

Control aversion — the urge to rebel against control over one’s decisions — can be explained by connectivity between two regions of the brain as well as behavioral measures of distrust and lack of understanding, according to a study of university students published in JNeurosci.

Individual differences in control aversion are well-documented and can interfere with important decisions, such as whether or not to vaccinate a child. To understand what drives these differences, Sarah Rudorf, Daria Knoch, and colleagues had participants play a game in which they divided money between themselves and another player, who could decide to restrict the participant’s choice by asking for a minimum amount. Participants were informed that they would be compensated based on a randomly selected trial.

Connectivity between the parietal lobule and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex predicted the average difference in the chosen allocation level between the free choice and controlled conditions. Control aversion was also predicted by participants’ reported feelings about the other player’s trust in them and understanding of the other player’s request for a minimum amount of money. By combining a social decision-making task with real consequences, this neuroimaging research provides new insight into the influence of choice restriction on personal decisions.

Journal Reference:

Sarah Rudorf, Katrin Schmelz, Thomas Baumgartner, Roland Wiest, Urs Fischbacher, Daria Knoch. Neural mechanisms underlying individual differences in control-averse behavior. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2018; 0047-18 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0047-18.2018

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180515081753.htm

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Police captured a pig after a man called 911 to report the animal following him. (North Ridgeville Police Department)

Police officers in Ohio were convinced a man who called 911 about a pig following him was drunk and hallucinating — but turns out the caller was telling the truth, and “very sober.”

North Ridgeville police officers received a call just before 5:30 a.m. Saturday from a man who said a pig was following him while he was walking home from the Amtrak train station in Elyria, located about 30 miles west of Cleveland. The caller added that he “didn’t know what to do,” the department wrote in a Facebook post.

Police officers were skeptical to believe the man and thought he was intoxicated and walking home from the bar.

“Night shift responded to the obviously drunk guy walking home from the bar at 5:26 in the morning. He was at least drunk enough to call the police on himself while hallucinating,” the police department said.

But the officers’ theory was actually wrong. Not only was the man very sober and walking home from the train station (like he said), a pig was actually following him.

“Yes, a pig,” the department added.

One of the officers managed to get the pig into the police cruiser and take him to the city’s dog kennel — that doubled as a pig pen for a few hours.

By 8:23 a.m. Saturday, the pig was returned to its owner, whose identity was not revealed, police said.

“You’d have thought we would have learned our lesson after the kangaroo incident,” the police department said, referencing to a 2015 incident when a “runaway kangaroo” was located in the town.

North Ridgeville officers corral kangaroo on Lorain Road early Friday morning

The police department posted a photo of the pig in the police cruiser on Facebook, which received more than 21,000 reactions, 11,500 shares and more than 2,000 comments as of Sunday morning.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/05/20/ohio-man-calls-police-to-report-hes-being-followed-by-pig.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

By David Burkus

“I’m an introvert,” someone inevitably tells me when I speak about building a professional network. “Networking is just not for me.” These people assume networking belongs solely in the domain of the extroverts.

Presumably, extroverts are more excited by going to mixers and events and meeting new people. But recent research from the world of network science suggests that introverts might actually be the better networkers.

To understand why, we first have to debunk a common misconception about introverts: They don’t hate people. They just prefer to interact with them differently than extroverts do. The series of small chit-chat conversations that are so common at networking events might, for an introvert, be draining. Instead, introverts crave deep and meaningful conversations. And this preference can actually be an advantage when it comes to networking.

Research from the domain of network science, psychology, and other social sciences implies that we prefer relationships where there is more than one context for connecting with other people. We want to know more about them than we learn from superficial questions such as “who are you and what do you do?” We want to know more than their thoughts on the weather. We want to know their back stories, their motivations, their passions, and so much more. We want multiple points of connection. In network science, relationships where there are multiple contexts for connection are referred to as multiplex ties.

Social scientists and network scientists have been studying multiplex ties for a number of decades. They have found that a multiplex relationship between individuals dramatically increases trust (presumably because it raises more opportunities to demonstrate trustworthy behavior). It also makes it more likely that new ideas and fresh information will be shared. Compared to those with more uniplex networks, individuals and organizations with high degrees of multiplexity in their total network are better able to validate ideas, they have access to greater resources, and they can think more critically and gather more diverse information. So when you find out you do a similar job, grew up in the same area, or have children in the same grade as someone else, you may end up knowing, liking, and trusting them more.

But you will only discover any of if you’re willing to have a deeper conversation—the kind that introverts want.

Small talk might seem like a way to stay professional in business settings by avoiding overly personal topics. But the truth is, when it comes to networks, business is better when it is personal. In one study of employees at an insurance firm, researchers examined the development of multiplex relationships inside of companies to determine if they were helpful or harmful to performance. The researchers surveyed employees to establish their work-related and personal ties to other employees, as well as overlap. Then, they gathered performance data from each employee’s supervisor four to six weeks after talking to employees.

The researchers found that having more multiplex relationships, while more emotionally taxing than work-only relationships, significantly increased employees’ performance (as judged by their supervisors).

Multiplex ties make for better connections and better performance. Better connections come from deeper conversations. And those deeper conversations are more welcomed by introverts. So while they might not feel like “working the room,” introverts may be better networkers over the long-term than their extroverted counterparts precisely because they don’t work the room. Instead, they stick to just a few conversations and go deeper.

https://work.qz.com/1277113/networking-events-why-introverts-might-actually-be-better-at-them/

Synthetic nanoparticles used to fight cancer could also heal sickly plants.

The particles, called liposomes, are nanosized, spherical pouches that can deliver drugs to specific parts of the body (SN: 12/16/06, p. 398). Now, researchers have filled these tiny care packages with fertilizing nutrients. The new liposomes, described online May 17 in Scientific Reports, soak into plant leaves more easily than naked nutrients. That allows the nanoparticles to give malnourished crops a more potent pick-me-up than the free-floating molecules in ordinary nutrient spray.

Each liposome is a hollow sphere about 100 nanometers across, and is made of fatty molecules extracted from soybean plants. Once a plant leaf absorbs these nanoparticles, the liposomes spread to cells in the plant’s other leaves and its roots, where the fatty envelopes break down and release their molecular cargo.

Researchers first exposed tomato plants to either liposomes packed with a rare earth metal called europium, or free-floating europium molecules. Europium doesn’t naturally exist in plants or soil, so it’s easy to trace how much of this element plants soaked up after treatment. Three days after exposure, plants treated with liposomes had absorbed up to 33 percent of the nanoparticles. Plants exposed to free-floating europium took in less than 0.1 percent of the molecules

The researchers then spritzed iron- and magnesium-deficient tomato plants with either a standard spray containing iron and magnesium, or a solution containing liposomes packed with those nutrients. Two weeks later, the leaves on plants treated with free-floating nutrients were still tinged yellow and curled. Plants that received liposome treatment sported healthy, green leaves.

Avi Schroeder, a chemical engineer at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, and colleagues don’t know exactly why liposomes are more palatable to plants than plain nutrients. But sprays that contain nutrient-loaded liposomes could help farmers rejuvenate frail plants more efficiently than existing mixtures, Schroeder says.

Liposome-based spray would need to be tested on a variety of vegetation before it could enter widespread use, says Ramesh Raliya, a nanobiotechnology researcher at Washington University in St. Louis not involved in the work. That’s because the pores on leaves where liposomes are assumed to enter plants can range from 50 to 150 nanometers across. If a plant’s pores are smaller than 100 nanometers, the liposomes can’t squeeze inside.

Mariya Khodakovskaya, a biologist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is wary of the potential cost of this new technique. Fashioning liposomes is expensive. That’s not a problem for making liposome-based medication, which requires only a small amount of nanoparticles. But for any new agricultural practice to take root, she says, “it has to be massive, and it has to be cheap.”

A. Karny et al. Therapeutic nanoparticles penetrate leaves and deliver nutrients to agricultural crops. Scientific Reports. Published online May 17, 2018. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-25197-y.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/nanoparticles-could-help-rescue-malnourished-crops


Analysis of Hurricane Harvey, which drowned Houston, confirms predictions that the storms are likely to get bigger, be more intense and last longer.

By Mark Fischetti

Hurricane Harvey, which inundated the Houston area with up to 60 inches of rain last August, was one of the most outlandish storms ever to hit the U.S. Ironically, it crossed a Gulf of Mexico that had been calm for days and quickly quieted again afterward. This rare situation allowed scientists to obtain unusually specific data about the ocean before and after the hurricane, and about the storm’s energy and moisture.

Last week researchers published that data in Earth’s Future. The numbers indicate the amount of energy Harvey pulled from the ocean, in the form of rising water vapor, equaled the amount of energy it dropped over land in the form of rain—the first time such an equivalence has been documented. Investigators say this revelation supports assertions climate change is likely to make Atlantic hurricanes bigger, more intense and longer-lasting than in the past. The researchers calculate climate change caused Harvey’s rainfall to be 15 to 38 percent greater than it would have been otherwise.

Kevin Trenberth, a senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, led the team. Scientific American asked him why Harvey behaved so strangely, how it confirms predictions about changing hurricanes and what the U.S. and other nations prone to the storms should prepare for in the future.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows:]

You say hurricanes will get bigger, and last longer. Why?

As climate change makes oceans hotter there is more heat—more energy—available, so there is likely to be an increase in hurricane activity. That can be the size of the storms, their duration and their intensity.

So hurricane dynamics are really driven by ocean energy?

Right. The way that energy moves around is transporting water vapor in the atmosphere—in this case, pulled up into the storm and dumped over the land in Texas. As the water vapor condenses it releases the latent ocean heat into the atmosphere. Our study was the first time anyone has been able to match up these two numbers.

Is moving energy a hurricane’s main role in the climate system? Why do we even have them?

A hurricane moves heat out of the ocean rapidly. It keeps the oceans cooler. A hurricane is actually a relief valve for the tropical ocean.

Why does it need a relief valve?

In general, the global weather system doesn’t like to have big temperature contrasts. If it’s hot in one place and cold in another, that produces wind that blows the warm air toward the cold and the cold air toward the warm. The atmosphere is always trying to remove those temperature gradients.

Similarly, thunderstorms move heat upward from a hot ocean to a cooler atmosphere but they don’t have the strong winds that a hurricane does, which produce the very large evaporating out of the ocean into the atmosphere. A hurricane is a collection of thunderstorms, but having the same number of thunderstorms without hurricane winds doesn’t cool off the tropical ocean to the same extent. Without hurricanes the tropical ocean would get really hot and the contrast between there and the middle latitudes would create different weather systems than we have now.

Warmer oceans mean more intense hurricanes. But you note that the number of large storms might actually decrease. Why?

By pulling up an ocean’s heat, a hurricane leaves a colder ocean in its wake. One big storm creates more cooling than, say, four smaller storms. It leaves a cooler ocean that is less favorable for a new storm.

That explains why Harvey got so big; your paper notes that the Gulf of Mexico water temperature was several degrees hotter than usual for late August. But why did Harvey stay big?

Over the ocean a hurricane’s circulation typically reaches about 1,000 miles in all directions, grabbing moisture and bringing it into the storm. Once over land the storm dries and weakens. But even when two sides of Harvey were over land, the spiral arm bands reached well out over the Gulf, which was still very warm. That kept the storm going.

After several days the storm moved back over the Gulf before it came inland again, and then moved north. We don’t attribute that movement to climate change. But the fact that when it did come back over the Gulf it reintensified is very much related to climate change. Despite the fact that Harvey had taken a lot of energy from the Gulf and cooled the waters in the upper 100 meters in particular, the deeper Gulf was still warm enough to well up and sustain hurricane-force winds.

The related question is why did Harvey remain over Houston so long? Some experts say it had to do with climate change altering the nature of the jet stream—giving it bigger bends, causing it to meander more slowly from west to east across the U.S.— which can help weather systems get stuck in one place.

Some people suggest that may have played a role. I’m inclined to think it didn’t. The storm track does depend on the weather; a high-pressure system blocked Harvey from moving north or northeast over land as it normally would have. But that high wasn’t part of a big jet steam wave structure. Also, the idea of a slow jet stream, because of changing conditions in the Arctic, is still a controversial topic. I and others think the bigger factor is the tropical Pacific—systems like El Niño and so on. We need to research this more, but I think the effect of the tropics is much greater than the effect of polar regions.

The end of the paper addresses what society needs to do to prepare for stronger hurricanes. It’s commentary, which is unusual. Why did you decide to include this?

Physical scientists often do not talk about impacts and consequences. They often leave that to social scientists or economists. But we need to connect the physical and social effects much more. The Earths’ Future journal is designed to help bridge that divide. Our study is relevant to a lot of policy. And it’s especially relevant to the current administration, whose operational rule seems to be to do away with regulations even when they make sense and are based in science.

You also recommended actions hurricane-prone regions should take. What is the most crucial?

The hurricane damage last season in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas shows that infrastructure should have been hardened for such storms, which were certainly going to come sooner or later. There were many meetings—I was at some of them—in which politicians, heads of countries and states, were very aware of two main threats: sea level rise and intense hurricanes. But they haven’t done much to prepare.

In Texas, after Hurricane Ike in 2008, there were proposals to add flood control measures in Houston, and they were voted down. In contrast, places like Taiwan, in the typhoon belt, hardened their infrastructures: drainage systems, building codes to withstand category 4 and 5 storms, emergency systems. In 2015 Taiwan had four typhoons that caused flooding and damage—but each time, within about four days they were back up and fully operational because they had built-in resilience and were prepared. Places in the U.S. need to make that kind of investment.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-data-hurricanes-will-get-worse/


A NASA artist visualized what Earth would look like if it entered the “snowball state” predicted by new research from the University of Washington

By Chelsea Gohd

Earth-like planets with severe tilts and orbits could enter abrupt “snowball states,” in which entire oceans freeze and surface life cannot survive, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have found a new reason why, just because a planet is located in a “habitable zone” — meaning it’s close enough to its host star to sustain liquid water — it isn’t necessarily habitable. The team found that the axial tilt and orbital dynamics of planets in the habitable zone around “G dwarf” stars like our own sun can lead to “snowball states,” which are essentially extreme ice ages.

This new research looked at how a planet’s obliquity, or the angle at which a planet’s rotation axis tilts, and its orbital eccentricity, a parameter that determines the amount that an orbit deviates from a perfect circle, could affect that planet’s potential to be habitable.

Previous research suggested that planets in a habitable zone with a sun-like star that had a severe axial tilt or tilting orbit would be warmer, according to the statement. The team’s research found that the opposite holds true, which was quite a shock, they said.”We found that planets in the habitable zone could abruptly enter ‘snowball’ states if the eccentricity or the semi-major axis variations — changes in the distance between a planet and star over an orbit — were large or if the planet’s obliquity increased beyond 35 degrees,” Russell Deitrick, lead author of the new work and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bern who completed this research at UW, said in a statement.

Luckily, Earth’s axial tilt varies ever so slightly, leaving Earth “a relatively calm planet, climate-wise,” co-author Rory Barnes, an astronomer at UW, said in the statement. But, as it pertains to exoplanets, Deitrick “has essentially shown that ice ages on exoplanets can be much more severe than on Earth, that orbital dynamics can be a major driver of habitability and that the habitable zone is insufficient to characterize a planet’s habitability,” Barnes said.

A planet’s position in the habitable zone is typically a major factor in considering whether it may be habitable. However, this new research shows that even if a planet seems Earth-like and is orbiting at the right distance from its star, if “its orbit and obliquity oscillate like crazy, another planet might be better for follow-up with telescopes of the future,” Deitrick said.

With this research in mind, orbital dynamics should be considered an important part of determining a planet’s habitability, Deitrick added.

The work will be published in The Astronomical Journal, according to the statement.

https://www.space.com/40606-exoplanets-sudden-ice-age-snowball-states.html

Brown University researchers studying the biology of aging have demonstrated a new strategy for stimulating autophagy, the process by which cells rebuild themselves by recycling their own worn-out parts.

In a study published in the journal Cell Reports, the researchers show that the approach increased the lifespans of worms and flies, and experiments in human cells hint that the strategy could be useful in future treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and other age-related neurodegenerative conditions.

“Autophagy dysfunction is present across a range of age-related diseases including neurodegeneration,” said Louis Lapierre, an assistant professor of molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry at Brown who led the work. “We and others think that by learning how to influence this process pharmacologically, we might be able to affect the progression of these diseases. What we’ve shown here is a new and conserved entry point for stimulating autophagy.”

Autophagy has become a hot topic in recent years, earning its discoverer the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2016. The process involves the rounding up of misfolded proteins and obsolete organelles within a cell into vesicles called autophagosomes. The autophagosomes then fuse with a lysosome, an enzyme-containing organelle that breaks down those cellular macromolecules and converts it into components the cell can re-use.

Lapierre and his colleagues wanted to see if they could increase autophagy by manipulating a transcription factor (a protein that turns gene expression on and off) that regulates autophagic activity. In order for the transcription factor to switch autophagic activity on, it needs to be localized in the nucleus of a cell. So Lapierre and his team screened for genes that enhance the level of the autophagy transcription factor, known as TFEB, within nuclei.

Using the nematode C. elegans, the screen found that reducing the expression of a protein called XPO1, which transports proteins out of the nucleus, leads to nuclear accumulation of the nematode version of TFEB. That accumulation was associated with an increase in markers of autophagy, including increased autophagosome, autolysosomes as well as increased lysosome biogenesis. There was also a marked increase in lifespan among the treated nematodes of between about 15 and 45 percent.

“What we showed was that by blocking the escape of this transcription factor from the nucleus, we could not only influence autophagy but we could get an increase in lifespan as well,” Lapierre said.

The next step was to see if there were drugs that could mimic the effect of the gene inhibition used in the screening experiment. The researchers found that selective inhibitors of nuclear export (SINE), originally developed to inhibit XPO1 to treat cancers, had a similar effect — increasing markers of autophagy and significantly increasing lifespan in nematodes.

The researchers then tested SINE on a genetically modified fruit fly that serves as a model organism for the neurodegenerative disease ALS. Those experiments showed a small but significant increase in the lifespans of the treated flies. “Our data suggests that these compounds can alleviate some of the neurodegeneration in these flies,” Lapierre said.

As a final step, the researchers set out to see if XPO1 inhibition had similar effects on autophagy in human cells as it had in the nematodes. After treating a culture of human HeLa cells with SINE, the researchers found that, indeed, TFEB concentrations in nuclei increased, as did markers of autophagic activity and lysosomal biogenesis.

“Our study tells us that the regulation of the intracellular partitioning of TFEB is conserved from nematodes to humans and that SINE could stimulate autophagy in humans,” Lapierre said. “SINE have been recently shown in clinical trials for cancer to be tolerated, so the potential for using SINE to treat other age-related diseases is there.”

Future research, Lapierre said, will focus on testing these drugs in more clinically relevant models of neurodegenerative diseases. But this initial research is a proof of concept for this strategy as a means to increase autophagy and potentially treat age-related diseases.

Lapierre is a faculty member in the newly approved Center on the Biology of Aging within the Brown Institute for Translational Science. This center, led by Professor of Biology John Sedivy, studies the biological mechanisms of aging. The center’s mission is to expand biomedical research and education programs in the emerging discipline of biogerontology, and to bring forth scientific discoveries related to aging and associated disorders.