Thomas R. O'Donnell

Rats on the brain: U of I researchers chase a stress-memory connection

In University research on July 2, 2014 at 6:30 am
A brain diagram from the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, published in Russia,1890-1907.

A brain diagram from the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, published in Russia, 1890-1907. Credit: Double–M via photopin cc

When I talked with Jason Radley, he was nearly back home in Iowa City after a weekend trip to Minnesota with his wife and two children, ages seven and 10.

Fortunately, the kids were riding in another car with grandma and grandpa, so Radley was feeling pretty good. The grandparents are “probably the ones who are stressed,” he said.

Given their ages, “we probably put them in undue risk, if you extrapolate my work” to humans, joked Radley, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Iowa.

That work, done in rats, suggests stress may cut into cognitive ability – specifically memory – as people age.

The research, published last month in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that older rats showing signs of stress – that is, elevated levels of a stress-related hormone – not only performed more poorly on memory tests; they also had structural changes in a key brain region responsible for short-term memory.

The report follows other research with similar conclusions, making chronic stress a likely addition to the cast of health villains that contribute to declining brain function late in life.

But don’t tell your significant other you’re spending your days playing video games and drinking beer, all in the name of reducing your stress to preserve your memory. There are caveats to the study, which included a fascinating experiment involving a T-shaped maze.

Talkin’ science talks and Cyclone Survivor

In STEM on June 12, 2014 at 8:11 am
Gray wolves looking cute.

Canis lupus: the gray wolf, once roamed Iowa. Credit: Steve Jurvetson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Compfight cc

A quick post to spread the word about two lecture series now in progress for folks living in Central Iowa. If you have a Friday night or Saturday afternoon free, they’re great destinations for engaging talks on wildlife, astronomy, biology and more. They’re at no charge and in beautiful settings.

I’ll also note the accomplishments of a Williamsburg FIRST LEGO League team in this year’s Global Innovation Award competition.

Materials roundup: disappearing antennae, metal molding, tiny cubes and pond scum

In University research on May 13, 2014 at 6:43 am

 

As I was messing around with arctic research, zombie tractors and NGSS – and doing my taxes – there was a burst of materials science news out of Iowa State University and its on-campus Department of Energy facility, the Ames Laboratory.

It’s all about putting stuff together in new ways for new purposes – whether it’s electronics that (maybe) melt in your mouth, a machine that spits out metal objects, minuscule building blocks that line up just right, or tiny, powerful catalysts to create diesel from relatives of common pond scum. (That last bit isn’t a reference to your Uncle Purvis, the one who lives in that crappy mobile home.)

Almost all the work is fundamental, but some projects are easier to grasp and have more immediate applications than others.

Indie Omnibus

A blog about research and STEM in the Hawkeye state

Paul Krugman

A blog about research and STEM in the Hawkeye state

Aetiology

A blog about research and STEM in the Hawkeye state

Deixis Online

A blog about research and STEM in the Hawkeye state

The Buttry Diary

Steve Buttry, Lamar Visiting Scholar, LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication

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