Author Archives: John Sanchez

Fast walking can help memory as it makes caffeine

Physical activity can be very useful for developing or maintaining memory capacity and, according to a team of researchers who carried out a study published in Nature Scientific Reports, even 20 minutes of fast walking can be as beneficial to memory capacity as a cup of coffee in the morning.

The same study shows that abstinence from caffeine, a type of abstinence that in some people can also cause headaches, fatigue or irritability, can be reduced with exercises such as fast walking or aerobic exercise.

Researchers have analyzed the effects of movement on so-called “working memory,” i.e. the brain’s ability to store information and manipulate it when needed, which is the basis of memory itself and is essential for multiple brain functions.

Several studies have shown the ability of caffeine to improve or maintain working memory at a certain level, as well as other studies have shown that exercise can improve different aspects of cognition related to the same memory.

This study shows more specifically that even a 20-minute fast walk, for example on a treadmill, can have the same beneficial effects as a cup of coffee with results that can be considered equivalent for both regular caffeine users and non-regular consumers.

According to Anisa Morava, who carried out the study together with Matthew Fagan and Harry Prapavessis, from the University of West Ontario, “Healthy people who drink two cups of coffee a day are generally OK in the sense that this will not adversely affect most physiological functions. However, for special populations, caffeine consumption can be problematic and should be limited or reduced.”

Backpack that generates electricity from walking can also power a smartphone

A backpack that creates electricity from the movement of the body, specifically that of walking, was created by a group of researchers at Queen’s University. Unlike other devices that generate electricity from body movement, this should produce enough electricity to be really useful.

The device, made up of various parts that can be set in a sort of frame which can then be transported just like a backpack by means of two buckles, produces electricity from the sway that the body does when walking. At the top, there is a weight attached to a sort of pendulum that swings back and forth when the person walks.

The lower end of the pendulum is then connected to an electrical module designed to collect the energy of the movement transforming it into electricity. The bigger the weight of the upper part, the more energy the device collects and the more electricity is generated. This means that the backpack can be heavier or less heavy depending on the electricity you want to collect or even on the needs of the carrier.

With a weight of about 9 pounds, the device can generate enough electricity to power an emergency beacon or a GPS receiver. Adding more than 35 liters, the device is then able to generate a sufficient quantity to power a smartphone.

The device could be used for all those people who work in remote areas or who have to explore an area where there is no electricity supply. The same researchers note that there is no need to move any crank or to perform any special gesture to raise electricity: just walking (and of course bear the weight on the shoulders).

The study was published in the Royal Society Open Science.

Scientists find that insects also experience chronic pain

Evidence that insects can also feel pain following injury or injury was found by a scientist at Sydney University, Greg Neely, and his team. This is the first research that shows that even insects experience chronic pain, which is a pain that can last over time, usually those caused by injuries and causing non-fatal damage.

The researchers carried out experiments on Drosophila, the so-called fruit fly, showing that the latter can also perceive a persistent pain that lasts after the wound has healed. In humans, the pain can be of two forms: inflammatory or neuropathic. In the insect, the researchers analyzed the neuropathic one, a pain that can occur in humans, for example, in case of spinal cord injury, neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy or accidental injury.

After damaging the nerve of an insect’s paw, the researchers waited for the wound to heal completely. Following the recovery, the researchers discovered that the other legs and the fly had become hypersensitive. As Neely himself specifies, this is to be explained by the fact that after the wound, the other legs, thanks to hypersensitivity, try to protect themselves so as not to suffer the same kind of damage.

Then, by genetically analyzing the gnat’s reactions, the researchers found that his brain receives painful messages via sensory neurons through the ventral nerve cord, a sort of version of our spinal cord, as Neely explains: “After the injury, the injured nerve discharges all its load into the nerve cord and kills all the pain brakes forever. So the rest of the animal has no brakes on his “pain”. The threshold of “pain” changes and becomes hypervigilant.”

The loss of pain brakes is extremely important for many animals in order to survive in many dangerous situations, the scientist specifies.

This research could serve, as the researchers themselves hope, for the development of new drugs or stem cell-based therapies in the treatment of chronic pain.

Rare and tiny Caribbean bivalve discovered in Brazil

This is not the discovery of a new species because the bivalve mollusc, in itself very rare, had already been reported in the Caribbean areas. However, now new research, published on Check List, indicates that it is also found in Brazil.

It is a bivalve of a few millimeters that for at least half a century had been identified only in Suriname, Guadeloupe, Colombia and French Guyana. It was substantially absent from all zoological records and collections. As part of a project called Pro-Abrolhos and conducted by the Oceanographic Institute from Universidad de Sao Paulo (IO-USP), the researchers discovered several specimens in a new Brazilian site.

This is an important discovery, according to the researchers, because it shows that these bivalve species can cross large ocean waters, something that is difficult for small mollusks like these that do not usually spread so widely when they are endemic to a particular area.

According to the researchers, the discovery of the bivalve mollusc in Brazil will improve our knowledge of the molluscs of the Brazilian coast and in particular of the shoals of the archipelago of Abrolhos, where there is the largest and richest coral reef in the whole southern Atlantic and in general it is considered one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the area.

Researchers analyze Justinian’s plague bacteria

A new study has analyzed in greater detail the effects of the so-called “plague of Justinian,” a pandemic that hit Europe. It is believed that the pandemic broke out in 541 AD and lasted at least until 750 AD.

Analyzing data on 21 archaeological sites in Europe and the Mediterranean area, a group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and Harvard University collected new information on this pandemic. First of all, it seems to have spread to a wider area than previously thought. The effects should have also reached post-Roman England.

The bacterium that caused it is Yersinia pestis, the same one that caused the so-called “black plague,” another pandemic that spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and killed nearly half of the continent’s population. Despite being less known than the black plague, Justinian’s plague was just as lethal, according to the researchers. It is so named because it began during the reign of Emperor Justinian who ruled the empire from Constantinople.

It was precisely the pandemic that began in the areas of Constantinople and spread to Mediterranean ports at the beginning.

Researchers, reconstructing the genomes of Yersinia pestis taken from samples collected from archaeological sites in various European locations, first confirmed that they initially hit coastal areas, probably through ships that docked at ports.

They then discovered that the plague also spread to Great Britain, a new piece of information regarding this pandemic, which among other things shows the profound interconnection of trade between the Mediterranean area and Great Britain itself. They then found some genetic diversity among the analyzed strains that evidently evolved during the two centuries of the duration of the pandemic.

Research is also important because “it shows the potential of paleogenomic research to understand historical and modern pandemics by comparing genomes through millennia,” says Johannes Krause, director of the Max Planck Institute, a method that could lead the way for similar studies in future.