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NOAA: January-April 2010 warmest on record

WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says this year’s first quarter was the warmest of any January-April period since records have been kept.

Officials said 2010′s combined global land and ocean surface temperature during the quarter set all-time-high records.

The period was the warmest on record for both April and for the January through April period, NOAA said. Additionally, last month’s average ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for any April, and scientists said the global land surface temperature was the third warmest on record.

The analysis from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center is based on records going back to 1880.

Among other things, NOAA said:

– Arctic sea ice was below normal for the 11th consecutive April, covering an average of 5.7 million square miles. That’s 2.1 percent below the 1979-2000 average extent and the 15th smallest April extent since records began in 1979. It was, however, the 18th largest April Arctic sea ice extent since 2001.

– The North American snow cover extent for the fourth month was the smallest on record. It also was the largest negative anomaly, meaning difference below the long-term average, on record for any month.

– Based on NOAA satellite observations, snow cover extent was the fourth-lowest since 1967 and below the 1967-2010 average for the Northern Hemisphere for the seventh consecutive April.

Tanning salon visits may cause wrinkles

CHICAGO, May 17 (UPI) — A U.S. study suggests the best way to discourage college-age women from using tanning salons is to remind them the treatments can cause wrinkled skin.

Although previous studies showed the use of indoor tanning devices can increase the risk of melanomas — the deadliest form of skin cancer — by 75 percent, young women often refuse to cut back on indoor tanning.

“They’re not worried about skin cancer, but they are worried about getting wrinkled and being unattractive,” said Northwestern University Professor June Robinson of the Feinberg School of Medicine and the study’s senior author. She led investigators in determining the best strategy to wean college-age women who are frequent tanners from using tanning salons.

“The fear of looking horrible trumped everything else,” Robinson said.

She said the study’s findings showed warning young women about the effects on their appearance caused a 35 percent drop in their indoor tanning visits.

East Tennessee State University Professor Joel Hillhouse, lead author of the paper, noted some women in the study eventually stopped tanning. “It was a progressive kind of thing,” he said. “At first the women said they tried sunless tanning as an alternative, but over time they gave up tanning altogether.”

The research is reported in the journal Archives of Dermatology. Robinson — the editor of the journal — was not involved in the editorial evaluation or decision to accept the article, officials said.

Study suggests newborns learn while asleep

NEW YORK, May 17 (UPI) — A U.S. study suggests newborn infants are capable of a simple form of learning while they are sleeping.

Researchers led by William Fifter at Columbia University said their finding might one day lead to a test that can identify infants at risk for developmental disorders that do not become apparent until later in childhood.

The scientists recorded each sleeping infant’s electrical brain wave activity and used a video camera to record facial expressions.

They then played a tone, while a machine blew a faint puff of air at each sleeping infant’s eyelids. In response to the air puff, the infants reflexively squeezed their closed lids tighter.

That was repeated nine times. For the 10th time, however, the researchers played the tone without the air puff. That sequence was repeated over and over again.

After roughly 20 minutes, most of the infants (24 out of 26) would scrunch their faces in response to the tone that was not accompanied by the air puff. Moreover, the scientists said they detected changes in brain wave activity occurring simultaneously with the tone, which the researchers interpret as further evidence the infants had learned to associate the tone with the air puff.

“The current experiment is the first to demonstrate newborn infants are capable of learning about relationships between stimuli while asleep,” the researchers said.

The study appears in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists create mouse grimace scale

MONTREAL, May 17 (UPI) — Canadian researchers say they’ve created a mouse grimace scale that shows mice, as do humans, express pain through their facial expressions.

The researchers at the University of British Columbia and McGill University said their scale will help identify pain in animals and in humans.

McGill Professor Jeffrey Mogil and UBC Professor Kenneth Craig and their teams said they discovered that when subjected to moderate pain stimuli, mice showed discomfort through facial expressions in the same way humans do. They said the Mouse Grimace Scale they subsequently developed might inform better treatments for humans and improve conditions for lab animals.

Because pain research relies heavily on rodent models, an accurate measurement of pain is paramount in understanding the most pervasive and important symptom of chronic pain, namely spontaneous pain, Mogil said.

“The Mouse Grimace Scale provides a measurement system that will both accelerate the development of new analgesics for humans, but also eliminate unnecessary suffering of laboratory mice in biomedical research,” Mogil said. “There are also serious implications for the improvement of veterinary care more generally.”

He said the research marks the first time scientists have successfully developed a scale to measure spontaneous responses in animals that resemble human responses to the same painful states.

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Categorized | Animals, Other
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