Smoking Out Mice to Study Memory; Human Ancestor Found

David Wagner
Smoking Out Mice to Study Memory; Human Ancestor Found

Discovered: glial cells play a role in memory formation; you can control a computer with your eyes; we've unearthed a long-lost relative; asteroids brought water to Earth. 

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Wait, what? Some people get small animals high for fun. We call these people stoners. Others get small animals high to study the brain. We call them scientists. By studying the effects of THC on short-term memory in lab mice, Giovanni Marsicano and his colleagues at the University of Bordeaux have found that astrocytes—a type of glial cell—play a crucial role memory formation. Previously, scientists believed that neurons alone were responsibly for forming conscious memories. “It's very likely that astrocytes have many more functions than we thought,” says Marsicano. “Certainly their role in cognition is now being revealed.” [Scientific American

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Ocular computing on the way. Do you like using computers, but get tired of all that strenuous mousing? Well good news is here at last: now you can control your computer's cursor using only your eyes. On a serious note, such developments could mean a lot to people suffering from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and other debilitating conditions. The eye-tracking device created by researchers from Imperial College London comes at a very low-cost (about $60) and interfaces with any computer running Windows or Linux. Here's a cool video of someone using the technology to play Pong:

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[Institute of Physics]

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Roll over, Lucy. Last month Justin Mukanku, a student at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, noticed a sharp object sticking out of a boulder retrieved from a cave in South Africa. It turned out to be a tooth—one belonging to "the most complete early human ancestor skeleton ever discovered," according to anthropologist Lee Berger. The Australopithecus sediba specimen dates back two million years. [National Geographic]

Thanks for the water, asteroids! Astronomers haven't known for sure whether comets or asteroids were responsible for bringing water to Earth billions of years ago. Conel Alexander and his colleagues from the Carnegie Institution of Washington believe they've ruled out comets, though. The researchers analyzed the composition of meteorites, and their findings suggest that the water did not originate in the outer solar system. [New Scientist]