The Socially-Aware Bat (Abstract Science: June 15-21)
Also: body fat and prostate cancer, robots in your colon, and an eye-opening look in canine evolution
(Carrie Arnold, National Geographic, 6/17/19)
According to psychologist Juliane Kaminski and her colleagues, dogs’ ability to move their eyebrows upward and inward has evolved in order to better communicate with humans. The look, which is known generally as “puppy dog eyes,” has a psychological effect on humans while not being of any use for inter-dog communication. For example, the look had a measurable impact on how quickly dogs were adopted from shelters. The muscles needed to create this look are not present in grey wolves - dogs’ nearest evolutionary ancestor - despite the similarity in the rest of the facial muscles of dogs and wolves.
(Nicholas Bakalar, New York Times, 6/17/19)
Many studies have found that obesity is associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer. Now a new study suggests that the degree of risk may depend on where in the body the fat is. Researchers found that subcutaneous fat in the thighs was associated with fatal disease, and that higher body mass index and waist circumference were associated with increased risk of both advanced and fatal cancer.
(University of Leeds, 6/19/19)
Engineers have shown it is technically possible to guide a tiny robotic capsule inside the colon to take micro-ultrasound images. Known as a Sonopill, the device could one day replace the need for patients to undergo an endoscopic examination, where a semi-rigid scope is passed into the bowel – an invasive procedure that can be painful.
(Laura Sanders, Science News, 6/20/19)
When animals are together, their brain activity aligns. These simpatico signals, described in bats and mice, bring scientists closer to understanding brains as they normally exist — enmeshed in complex social situations. Now two studies published June 20 in Cell offer more details about how synced brains might influence social behavior.
—Stories compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Mary Parker and Communications Intern Katie Hartford