Videogames are just what the doctor ordered for some kids in physiotherapy

When we think about children with disabilities we easily imagine doctors, nurses and physiotherapists as part of their team of caregivers, but how about engineers and videogame designers? At Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital it seems engineers are a bit like magical fairies creating possibilities for kids to overcome barriers to do things we take for granted. They design devices that help disabled kids communicate or do cartwheels and they design videogames that make physiotherapy fun.…

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Groundhogs help virologists more than meteorologists

Groundhogs in meteorology may not be very scientific, but in virology, the scientific merit of using groundhogs is quite sound.  They’ve become the perfect animal model to study hepatitis B and how it might be better detected and treated in humans. These groundhogs did not need to be genetically engineered in the lab like many animal models for human diseases. In nature they get infected by the woodchuck hepatitis virus. [Groundhog or woodchuck are different…

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GMOs and Thier Lack of Appeal

This month Campbell Soup Co. announced that it will put GMO ingredients on its label in the U.S. while other food makers are dragging their feet. It will be interesting to see how consumers respond. Similarly high proportions of Americans (92%) and Canadians (nearly 90%) want GMO labelling but it is questionable how such labels can help consumers make rational decisions about whether GMO labelled products are good for them or not. For one thing…

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Here is how AquAdvantage salmon are made. Will Canadians want to make it for dinner?

“For the first time anywhere in the world, a genetically engineered animal has been approved for human consumption” announced Peter Mansbridge on CBC news on November 20. Members of society do not agree on how genetically modified fruits and vegetables should be labelled, if at all, but we are already moving on to genetically modified animals for human consumption. The AquAdvantage salmon by the US company AquaBounty can grow quicker and go to market twice…

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Who reads science blogs, eh?

I've teamed up with Science Borealis, Dr. Paige Jarreau from Louisiana State University and 20 other Canadian science bloggers, to conduct a broad survey of Canadian science blog readers. Together we are trying to find out who reads science blogs in Canada, where they come from, whether Canadian-specific content is important to them and where they go for trustworthy, accurate science news and information. Your feedback will also help me learn more about my own…

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Rett syndrome mice improve with deep brain stimulation

Parents love to watch their babies grow, learn new things and celebrate their milestones. Unfortunately, the parents of 1/10000 baby girls, which carry a mutation in a gene on their X chromosome, will witness their child reach their walking and talking milestones, only to lose those abilities. People living with Rett syndrome are severely intellectually disabled. It was once thought that the brain degenerated but it does not. Rett syndrome mouse models can be rescued…

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Pandiculate Much? The Stretching and Yawning Instinct

Stretching your body while waking up from a good sleep can feel fabulous. As you yawn you open your mouth wide for 4-6 seconds, stretch your respiratory tract and diaphragm and inflate your lungs. In your body the opposing muscle groups contract together tighter and tighter until joints, limbs and trunk are fully extended and then you reach that peak in tension. The release of the tension coincides with a sense of pleasure. This coordinated stretching and…

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Early-life stress goes from brain to gut to microbiota and back

Childhood traumas are associated with both psychiatric diseases and bowel disorders later in life. Like in humans, early-life stress in mice can lead to abnormal behaviour in adults. Maternal separation is a well-established model for early-life stress in mice. At McMaster University researchers wondered how the intestinal microbiota (community of microorganisms living in the intestine) were involved in the anxiety-like and depression-like behaviour seen in mice that had experienced this early-life stress. Comparing regular and…

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Colour-changing caterpillars in my backyard

Chameleon researcher Michel Milinkovich was sorry to break it to us in The Guardian that chameleons do not actually change colour to blend in with their surroundings – they do it for communication. While that might be disappointing to some, including myself, there are still plenty of animals that do change colour to match their surroundings, like geckos, fish, cuttlefish, crabs, and I witnessed a master of disguise myself with a caterpillar from my own…

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The fly shows why sleep loss and Alzheimer’s disease are connected

People with Alzheimer’s have trouble sleeping and poor sleep seems to promote Alzheimer’s disease in those at risk genetically. Both poor sleep and Alzheimer’s disease cause increases b-amyloid to accumulate in the brain. b-amyloid deposits are the main component of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease that damage nerve cells. Under normal conditions b-amyloid, a by-product of processing of a larger amyloid protein, doesn’t stick around. What is it about sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s disease that…

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