Science Sunday: “Thought Germs”, Longevity & Aging Drug Class, and Optogenetics

The links in my Science Sunday roundup this week are a mix of some lab research on longevity and aging, social science and mental hygiene as well as futuristic-sounding (but surprisingly practical) proposed solutions for correction and prevention of brain disorders.


“Thought Germs” and Why Those Hot Issues Go So Viral on Social Media

One of the better 5 minute breaks I spent watching Youtube this week comes from user CGP Grey, where he explains why polarizing content spreads so quickly and what this has to do with maintaining your own mental hygiene.  So, next time you see an issue that seems to be popping up everywhere on your Facebook or Twitter newsfeed, you’ll know the power and pattern behind the spread of “thought germs”. Check out the video here!


A New Class of Drugs to Improve Symptoms of Aging

In longevity and aging news this week, a new class of drugs has been found to significantly slow the aging process. As with all life expansion studies, the focus should be upon the improvement of the quality of life along with the extension of it. And it seems that a new class of drugs called “senolytics” focuses on just that. From the article: ” ‘In animal models, the compounds improved cardiovascular function and exercise endurance, reduced osteoporosis and frailty, and extended healthspan,’ said Niedernhofer, whose animal models of accelerated aging were used extensively in the study. ‘Remarkably, in some cases, these drugs did so with only a single course of treatment.’ ” Read more from the article here. I have a particularly special place in my heart reserved for Longevity and Aging studies and look forward to more research emerging in this field of study.


Optogenetics and the Future of Treating Brain Disorders

This Ted X talk from Ed Boyden is a few years old but it seemed particularly relevant to some concepts that I am learning through my current class, The Neurobiology of Everyday Life offered via Coursera with U of Chicago’s Peggy Mason. The brain is a giant electrical system, full of around 200 billion neurons, and those neurons talk amongst themselves using electrical messages. These messages can talk about involuntary and voluntary muscle movements such as breathing and raising a hand, respectively. They can also talk about details that contribute to conscious-level processes such as how we feel emotions, construct memories and perceive through our senses as well as subconscious processes such as maintaining homeostasis in sleep-wake cycles.

Neurons are completely, inextricably and totally necessary for everyday life. The appropriate and complete transportation of this electrical language, both quality of and entirety of message, can be interrupted or garbled by several factors. Specifically in our class, we’ve been learning about what is happening in the messaging process during Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s, as well as different avenues of treatment towards the management of those symptoms. Having this understanding of how crucial it is to protect the entire process around the production, navigation and reception of these electrical messages really highlight just how practical some of Ed Boyden’s proposed solutions using optogenetics are for the future of brain disorder prevention, management and recovery.

Also, I cannot recommend the Coursera class, The Neurobiology of Everyday Life with Peggy Mason, enough. I initially signed up as a refresher of the neuroscience I learned years ago. This class is a wonderful entry class for those who want to understand more about the complexities of the brain or those who remember pieces of basic biology or basics of neuroanatomy, but need a refresher.


That is the round-up for this week!

Be sure to “sneeze” this round-up around on Facebook and Twitter, especially if you love science like I do.

And, as always, if you have any ultra-cool links you’ve stumbled across, leave them in the comments below!

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