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Study links physical activity to greater mental flexibility in older adults

One day soon, doctors may be able to determine how physically active you are simply by imaging your brain. Studies have shown that physically fit people tend to have larger brain volumes and more intact white matter than their less-fit peers. Now a new study reveals that older adults who regularly engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity have more variable brain activity at rest than those who don’t. This variability is associated with better cognitive performance, the researchers say.

Rogue supernovas likely flung into space by black hole slingshots

Rogue supernovas that explode all alone in deep space present an astronomical mystery. Where did they come from? How did they get there? The likely answer: a binary black hole slingshot, according to a new study by Ryan Foley, a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Illinois.

Study links fitness, thinner gray matter and better math skills in kids

A new study reveals that 9- and 10-year-old children who are aerobically fit tend to have significantly thinner gray matter than their “lower-fit” peers. Thinning of the outermost layer of brain cells in the cerebrum is associated with better mathematics performance, researchers report in the journal PLOS ONE.

Simple intervention can moderate anti-vaccination beliefs, study finds

It might not be possible to convince someone who believes that vaccines cause autism that they don’t. Telling skeptics that their belief is not scientifically supported often backfires and strengthens, rather than weakens, their anti-vaccine views. But researchers say they have found a way to overcome some of the most entrenched anti-vaccine attitudes: Remind the skeptics – with words and images – why vaccines exist.

Chill-tolerant hybrid sugarcane also grows at lower temperatures

U.S. farmers have long hoped to extend sugarcane’s growing range northward from the Gulf coast, substantially increasing the land available for sugar and biofuels. Several hybrid canes developed in the 1980s have proved hardy in cooler climes, surviving overwinter as far north as Booneville, Arkansas. But until now, no one had tested whether these “miscanes,” as they are called, actually photosynthesize, and thus continue to grow, when the thermometer dips.

Mowing dry detention basins makes mosquito problems worse, team finds

A study of the West Nile virus risk associated with “dry” water-detention basins in Central Illinois took an unexpected turn when land managers started mowing the basins. The mowing of wetland plants in basins that failed to drain properly led to a boom in populations of Culex pipiens mosquitoes, which can carry and transmit the deadly virus, researchers report.

Yeast byproduct inhibits white-nose syndrome fungus in lab experiments

A microbe found in caves produces a compound that inhibits Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats, researchers report in the journal Mycopathologia. The finding could lead to treatments that kill the fungus while minimizing disruption to cave ecosystems, the researchers say.

Access to big data is crucial for credibility of computational research

Think of a scientist at work, and you might picture someone at a lab bench, doing a physical experiment involving beakers or petri dishes and recording his or her findings, which will eventually form the basis for a scientific paper.

Genomics among the biggest of Big Data, experts say

Each cell in the body contains a whole genome, yet the data packed into a few DNA molecules could fill a hard drive. As more people have their DNA sequenced, that data will require massive computational and storage capabilities beyond anything previously anticipated, says a new assessment from computational biologists and computer scientists at the University of Illinois and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Study: Restaurant meals can be as bad for your waistline as fast food is

When Americans go out to eat, either at a fast-food outlet or a full-service restaurant, they consume, on average, about 200 more calories a day than when they stay home for meals, a new study reports. They also take in more fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium than those who prepare and eat their meals at home.

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