The News – 7 Oct 2014

Overview

  • Hay fever sufferers in Melbourne may be breathing a little easier this spring as some of the city’s trees are injected with hormones in a bid to make them less irritating.
  • There is a 75% chance the Ebola virus could reach Europe before the end of the month, scientists have predicted.
  • Being curious fires up the brain’s reward circuits, enhancing your ability to learn, MRI scans reveal. The finding, reported in the journal Neuron, provides the first scientific evidence to help explain why it is easier learn about something that you’re interested in.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 7th October 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-06/hopes-tree-injection-trial-will-reduce-hay-fever-pain/5792124

Hay fever sufferers in Melbourne may be breathing a little easier this spring as some of the city’s trees are injected with hormones in a bid to make them less irritating.

A Melbourne City Council trial will target the hair-producing London Plane trees in the busy cafe precinct of Lygon Street.

It is hoped the injections will stop the tree from producing seed pods, which are often blamed for causing nasal, throat and eye irritations.

The council’s urban landscape manager, Ian Shears, [said]…concerns had been raised by cafe owners about the discomfort caused to customers.

“If you look around the [CBD] around 75 percent of the trees are London planes, and Lygon Street in the cafe strip in particular is where probably most of the concerns from the community come from,” he said.

About three quarters of the city’s trees are London Planes.

Mr Shears said a range of methods were being trialled to reduce the trees’ “anti-social” effects.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-06/scientists-say-high-risk-ebola-could-reach-europe-by-end-of-mon/5791804

There is a 75 per cent chance the Ebola virus could reach Europe before the end of the month, scientists have predicted.

Virus experts have used Ebola spread patterns and airline traffic data to predict that by October 24, there is a 75 per cent chance Ebola will have spread to France and a 50 per cent likelihood it will have been imported into Britain.

“It’s really a lottery,” Derek Gatherer from Britain’s Lancaster University said.

He has based the predictions on the airline capacity remaining the same but even if the number of travellers is cut by 80 per cent to reflect flights to the region stopping, France’s risk is still 25 per cent and Britain’s is 15 per cent.

The deadly Ebola haemorrhagic fever virus has killed more than 3,400 people since it began in West Africa in March and has now started to spread faster, infecting almost 7,200 people so far.

In recent weeks it has spread to Nigeria, Senegal and the United States – where the first case was diagnosed on Tuesday in a man who flew in from Liberia – by unwitting travellers carrying the virus.

The scientific data suggests France is among countries most likely to be hit next because the worst-affected countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – include French speakers and have busy travel routes back.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has not placed any restrictions on travel and has encouraged airlines to keep flying to the worst-hit countries while British Airways and Emirates airlines have suspended some flights.

But the professor who led the research said the risks change every day the epidemic continues.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/10/03/4099204.htm

Being curious fires up the brain’s reward circuits, enhancing your ability to learn, MRI scans reveal.

The finding, reported in the journal Neuron, provides the first scientific evidence to help explain why it is easier learn about something that you’re interested in, than if you’re bored stiff.

Importantly, it seems that the enhanced learning ability is not limited to the thing that excites your curiosity: the curious state enables you to better learn about unrelated things too, says study co-author Professor Charan Ranganath of the University of California, Davis.

The researchers say their findings could point to ways to enhance learning in the classroom and may help understand memory problems in elderly people.

The study looked at 19 university students aged between 18 and 31. The students were asked trivia questions. When they didn’t know the answer, they were asked to rate how curious they were about the answer on a scale from 1 to 6.

The researchers then put each student into a scanner which could measure the activity of various brain regions using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

While in the scanner, the students were asked only the questions that they were most or least curious about, in a random order.

They had to wait 10 seconds for the answer, during which time they were distracted by being shown a photo of a person’s face, and asked how likely that person was to know the answer to the question.

Afterwards they were tested on their memory for the answers to the trivia questions. They were much better at recalling answers to questions they found interesting, than answers to questions they were not curious about.

The researchers also tested how well the students could remember the faces they had been shown.

Surprisingly, the students were more likely to remember the face of someone that they were shown while pondering a question that they were curious about.

“This work has obviously got implications for teachers and how to teach adolescents,” he adds. “The key thing is to make things interesting and increase people’s curiosity and then they learn naturally.”

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