Monday, April 12, 2010

Dumb Israeli smokers, Smart Israeli rats, and more Science News

[This week’s Haveil Havalim is here]

I'm having a very busy few days as the kollel resumes programming and as my counterparts at various shuls and organizations return to normal business.

I'm also into "Do it Yourself" season - I've recently dismantled and cleaned my car brakes, re-hinged a door, washed my entire stock of white shirts by hand (long story), re-potted a few plants and replaced all of the buttons on my davening jacket.

Bottom line: I'm short of time to write. Nonetheless, here’s a round-up of some recent scientific stories I have found interesting:

Smoking Is Dumb: Young Men Who Smoke Have Lower IQs, Study Finds
A study led by Prof. Mark Weiser of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychiatry and the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital has determined that young men who smoke are likely to have lower IQs than their non-smoking peers. Tracking 18- to 21-year-old men enlisted in the Israeli army in the largest ever study of its kind, he has been able to demonstrate an important connection between the number of cigarettes young males smoke and their IQ.
The average IQ for a non-smoker was about 101, while the smokers' average was more than seven IQ points lower at about 94, the study determined. The IQs of young men who smoked more than a pack a day were lower still, at about 90. An IQ score in a healthy population of such young men, with no mental disorders, falls within the range of 84 to 116.

New, Inexpensive Way to Predict Alzheimer's Disease
Your brain's capacity for information is a reliable predictor of Alzheimer's disease and can be cheaply and easily tested, according to scientists.
"We have developed a low-cost behavioral assessment that can clue someone in to Alzheimer's disease at its earliest stage," said Michael Wenger, associate professor of psychology, Penn State. "By examining (information) processing capacity, we can detect changes in the progression of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Simple Test Can Detect Signs of Suicidal Thoughts in People Taking Antidepressants
While antidepressant medications have proven to be beneficial in helping people overcome major depression, it has long been known that a small subset of individuals taking these drugs can actually experience a worsening of mood, and even thoughts of suicide. No clinical test currently exists to make this determination, and only time -- usually weeks -- can tell before a psychiatrist knows whether a patient is getting better or worse.
Now, UCLA researchers have developed a non-invasive biomarker, or indicator, that may serve as a type of early warning system.
Reporting in the April edition of the peer-reviewed journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, Aimee Hunter, an assistant research psychologist in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry, and colleagues report that by using quantitative electroencephalographic (QEEG), a non-invasive measurement of electrical activity in the brain, they were able to observe a sharp reduction of activity in a specific brain region in individuals who proved susceptible to thoughts of suicide -- within 48 hours of the start of treatment.

Inkjet-like device "prints" cells right over burns
Inspired by a standard office inkjet printer, U.S. researchers have rigged up a device that can spray skin cells directly onto burn victims, quickly protecting and healing their wounds as an alternative to skin grafts.
They have mounted the device, which has so far only been tested on mice, in a frame that can be wheeled over a patient in a hospital bed, they reported Wednesday.
A laser can take a reading of the wound's size and shape so that a layer of healing skin cells can be precisely applied, said the team at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
"We literally print the cells directly onto the wound," said student Kyle Binder, who helped design the device. "We can put specific cells where they need to go."

And one more:
Why Israeli Rodents Are More Cautious Than Jordanian Ones
Is a border line simply a virtual line appearing on the map? If so, why is it that Israeli rodents are more cautious than Jordanian rodents? Why is it that there are more ant lions in Israel than in Jordan? And how come there are more reptile species in Jordan than in Israel? A series of new studies at the University of Haifa's Department of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology and the University of Haifa-Oranim's Faculty of Sciences and Science Education are exploring the answers.


  1. The Israeli rodents are more cautious for a very simple reason. They know that if a cat starts chasing them and they get away, they will then be hauled up in front of a tribunal of cats, dogs, wolves, etc., and judged the aggressors!

  2. Anonymous,

    That is pretty good. :)

  3. Science Daily doesn't know how to read, apparently. The article (which I can access at, although if you're not on a university network that link might work) uses "QEEG cordance", not QEEG. A term ended in -ic sounded wrong, which prompted me to look it up.

  4. Hi Michael-
    Good catch; looking at it again, I spotted the 'electricencephalographic' giveaway as well. Thanks.