Women stay mentally sharp farther into old age than men typically do, and scientists now think they know why. It all has to do with how the brain burns energy. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that women’s brains burn energy in a much more youthful way throughout adulthood. Women’s brains appear to be about three years younger than men’s of the same chronological age, even in their 20’s, and that difference holds for the rest of their lives.
Binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking may trigger a permanent change in a person’s DNA, which results in an even greater desire for alcohol. A study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that among binge and heavy drinkers, two genes are modified that influence drinking behavior—one that influences the body clock and another regulating the stress-response system. Scientists hope the findings may eventually help identify biomarkers for people at risk for alcoholic changes.
And finally, more than half of all American workers say they’ve suffered from job burnout, but most of them won’t take a “mental health day” away from the job to deal with it. The University of Phoenix survey shows only a third of workers have taken time off for mental health, mostly because they say their companies don’t view it as an acceptable reason to be off work.
A new CDC report shows that suicide among veterinarians is much higher than in the general population. Experts discuss the unique stresses that affect these professionals, including financial, compassion fatigue, euthanasia, and online harassment. They also discuss measures being taken to prevent mental health struggles and suicide.
Dr. Jason Sweitzer, veterinarian, Thousand Oaks, CA and board member, Not One More Vet
Dr. Debbie Stoewen, Director of Veterinary Affairs, Lifelearn Animal Health
In the mid-1960s, many Ivy League and Seven Sister colleges as well as prestigious prep schools allowed researchers to photograph incoming students naked as part of work on a now-discredited theory linking physical characteristics to leadership potential. A former student who went through it, now a physician and writer, discusses how research ethics have changed in the last 50 years.
Dr. David Sklar, Professor of Health Solutions, Arizona State University and author, Atlas of Men
Explorers and scientists have been looking for the fountain of youth for thousands of years. Now there’s speculation they may have found an aging inhibitor in a generic HIV drug called Lamivudine. A study in the journal Nature shows that mice who are equivalent to 75 years old in human terms experienced dramatically reduced inflammation and other signs of aging when they received the drug. Lamivudine was approved for treating HIV in 1995. Scientists say they’re anxious to start human anti-aging trials.
Speed limits on highways are usually set as a result of engineering studies. But some local governments override those recommendations, believing that the lower the limit is, the safer the road will be. A new study in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention shows that’s only partially true. Crashes are reduced when a speed limit is set five miles per hour lower than recommendations… but setting the speed limit 10, 15, or 25 miles per hour lower actually increases both total crashes and fatal crashes because so many drivers completely ignore the limit.
And finally… educators have long sought ways to get girls more interested in science. Now a study in the journal Psychological Science has some tips. The study shows that suggesting “let’s do science” is much more effective at getting girls engaged than suggesting “let’s be scientists.” Researchers say pervasive stereotypes, even among the young, torpedo the idea that very many girls ever do become scientists.
Many patients arrive in the emergency room as a result of violence or car crashes—events in which police have an investigative interest. Sometimes, police needs clash with trauma care, and priorities are hashed out case by case. Experts discuss which priorities come first and when, and the procedures needed to smooth out sometimes contentious interaction.
Dr. Sara Jacoby, Assistant Professor of Family and Community Health, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
Dr. Michael Gerardi, emergency physician and Past President, American College of Emergency Physicians
Advancements in genetic science are often clouded in ethical controversy. Often, scientists are accused of “playing God.” Experts discuss a new platform where scientists and public can debate it, and from which education can be disseminated.
Dr. Ting Wu, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
A cancer diagnosis can create stress that goes beyond the breaking point. A new study in the journal Nature Communications shows that people with cancer are more than four times more likely to commit suicide compared to other people. White men and people who receive a diagnosis at a younger age are most likely to complete suicide, along with people who are diagnosed with lung, head and neck, and testicular cancers. Researchers say that even though cancer is a major cause of death in the U.S., most cancer patients survive it and die of other causes.
Electric scooters are a rapidly rising cause of injury, and a new study shows that one in three people involved in an e-scooter accident is injured badly enough to need treatment in the E.R. The study in the journal JAMA Network Open shows that 40 percent of those hurt had head injuries and another 32 percent had fractures. Only four percent of those hurt were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Falls rather than collisions made up nearly three-quarters of the accidents.
And finally… it turns out that people who are good navigators are almost always good at identifying smells as well. A study in the journal Nature Communications finds that the same area of the brain is used for both of these two very different tasks, and that the brain region is bigger in people who are good at them. Scientists admit the finding surprised them.