Love May Be As Good As a Pain Reliever

STANFORD, Calif., Oct. 14 (UPI) — The brain systems involved with intense, passionate feelings of love are the same as those feeling pain, and U.S. researchers say they want to modulate both.

Dr. Sean Mackey, chief of the division of pain management at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Arthur Aron, a professor of psychology who has studied love at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, met several years ago at a neuroscience conference.

“Art was talking about love,” Mackey says in a statement. “I was talking about pain. He was talking about the brain systems involved with love. I was talking about the brain systems involved with pain. We realized there was this tremendous overlapping system.”

Researchers recruited 15 undergraduates — eight women and seven men — who were in the first nine months of a romantic relationship, who were feeling euphoric, energetic, obsessively thinking about their beloved and craving their presence.

The researchers asked each to bring a picture of their beloved and a photo of an equally attractive acquaintance.

The pictures were flashed before the subjects while their hands were subjected to mild pain and their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The study subjects were also tested for levels of pain relief while being distracted with word-association tasks.

The study, published in PLoS ONE, showed both love (looking at the picture of their beloved) and distraction (word games) equally reduce pain, but at much higher levels than focusing on the attractive acquaintance. But both methods of pain reduction used very different brain pathways.

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Ancient Petroglyphs Defaced

WILLIAMS, Ariz., Oct. 3 (UPI) — A vandal defaced a remote rock wall containing ancient petroglyphs in Arizona which had stood unaltered for at least 1,000 years, a local archaeologist said.

The preserved cultural record in Keyhole Sink in northern Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest contained etchings depicting people, animals and a blazing sun — an archaeological treasure which was defaced when someone painted “ACE” on top of the glyphs in sloppy, dripping lettering, The Arizona Republic reported Sunday.

“It’s beyond words,” Kaibab archaeologist Neil Weintraub said of the damage. “It feels like an attack on this site. What has it done except give people pleasure for years?”

There is an ongoing attack on ancient archaeological sites in Arizona and across the Southwest, the newspaper said. They are defaced with paint, bullet marks, paintball stains and messages scratched into rocks.

Professional thieves remove pottery, hack out chunks of ancient art-covered rock and dislodge anything they can carry away, the newspaper said.

The sites are vulnerable and operated on the, apparently erroneous, assumption people are decent and won’t indulge in the kind of behavior going on, officials said.

“We can’t monitor them all, and neither can the land managers,” said Nicole Armstrong-Best, interim coordinator for Arizona’s Site Stewards program which oversees a group of 800 volunteers who monitor about 3,000 of the most significant sites in the program, the Republic reported.

“It hurts us emotionally, because this is just such a special place,” Margaret Hangan, Kaibab National Forest’s heritage-program manager said. “It’s really hard to see that not everybody feels the same way we do about it.”

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Particle Physics Pioneer Charpak Dies

PARIS, Oct. 1 (UPI) — Nobel Prize-winning physicist Georges Charpak, who revolutionized the study of high-energy particle physics, has died in Paris, officials said.

Charpak, inventor of a particle detector that improved the way scientists conducted high-energy particle physics experiments, was 86.

No cause of death was given, The Washington Post reported.

Charpak was born to Jewish parents in Poland. His family moved to France when he was 7. When the Germans invaded in 1940, Charpak was a French resistance fighter but was arrested by Vichy officials in 1943. Transferred to German custody in 1944 he spent a year in the Dachau concentration camp until it was liberated by Allied forces.

After the war, Charpak received a doctorate in nuclear physics from the College de France in Paris.

In 1968, Charpak was a physicist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where he developed the multiwire proportional chamber, a particle detector that used computers to collect data 1,000 times faster than previous devices.

Charpak called it “a little thing which propagated in a couple of years like a fire in the experiments of my colleagues.”

“My very modest contribution to physics has been in the art of weaving in space thin wires detecting the whisper of nearby flying charged particles produced in high-energy nuclear collisions,” Charpak said at his Nobel Prize ceremony.

“It is easy for computers to transform these whispers into a symphony understandable to physicists.”

Almost every experiment in the study of subatomic particles today uses detectors based on Charpak’s design.

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Miami Moves Ahead with Science Museum Plan

MIAMI, Sept. 24 (UPI) — Miami says it has cleared a major hurdle in its plans to create a major science museum downtown intended as a magnet for tourists.

The City Commission approved a sleekly contemporary, environmentally friendly design Thursday for the Miami Science Museum that supporters say will transform a bleak corner of Biscayne Boulevard into a tourist destination, the Miami Herald reported.

In a 4-1 vote, the commission set aside objections from activists who claimed violates city rules limiting development on flood-prone coastal land and who threatened a lawsuit to stop it, the newspaper said.

City planners and lawyers assured commissioners the rules do not apply to the government-sponsored museum project.

“Sometimes you have to dream,” Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff said.

The $275 million science museum — along with the adjacent new Miami Art Museum — would help transform near-derelict Bicentennial Park into “Miami’s Central Park,” he said.

The five-level museum will incorporate an aquarium, a high-tech planetarium, science exhibits focusing on technology and the environment, as well as wildlife exhibits and educational facilities, officials said.

“It will make downtown a destination in the way that great cities like Baltimore and Sydney are grouped around the harbor,” science museum Director Gillian Thomas said.

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Tunnel Under San Francisco Bay Begun

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 24 (UPI) — A project to create a 5-mile-long tunnel under San Francisco Bay to carry billions of gallons of water to Bay Area communities has begun, officials said.

When the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s $4.6 billion project to overhaul the area’s water system is completed in 2015, the Bay Division Pipeline 5 will replace two decaying pipelines that now traverse the bay on wooden trestles, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

“These pipelines are old, and they leak,” commission general manager Ed Harrington said. “The question is, do we really want to depend on them in a major earthquake? We really count on this system working, even if others fail.”

The current water network serves 2.5 million customers in San Francisco, the East Bay and the Peninsula. A failure at the trans-bay pipeline during an earthquake could cut off water to businesses, homes and public service agencies for weeks or even months, officials warn.

“This infrastructure was built in the 1920s and 1930s — it wasn’t meant to last this long,” Bob Mues, tunnel project construction manager, said.

“This is state of the art,” he said of the new project.

The underground pipeline won’t cross any major fault lines, but will lie between the San Andreas and Hayward faults.

Because earthquakes cause more shaking at ground level than below it, experts say the pipeline’s location is considered more secure.

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Career May Affect Site of Dementia Onset

BOSTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) — A study of U.S., Canadian and European patients with a form of dementia suggests one’s career may influence where the disease begins in the brain.

The study — led by Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in collaboration with the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, and several U.S. and European clinical sites conducted — was a multi-center review of brain imaging and occupation data from 588 patients diagnosed with frontotemporal lobar degeneration, or frontotemporal dementia.

Dr. Nathan Spreng, who conducted the study while a psychology graduate student at Baycrest and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, says this type of dementia often strikes in middle age and manifests on either the left or the right side of the brain, while Alzheimer’s tends to affect both sides of the brain equally.

“The disease appeared to attack the side of the brain that was the least used in the patient’s professional life,” Spreng says in a statement.

Patients who had jobs rated highly for verbal skills, such as a school principal or chief executive, showed greater tissue loss on the right side of the brain — which is not specialized for language or verbal skills. Patients with jobs rated lower for verbal skills, such as art director or flight engineer, showed greater atrophy on the left side of the brain.

Further research will be needed to determine how strong a predictor occupation may be for hemispheric localization of the disease, Spreng says.

The findings are published in the journal Neuropsychologia.

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Fitter Children Have Better Test Scores

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Sept. 16 (UPI) — U.S. researchers link brain development in children ages 9-10 to physical fitness.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Champaign say fit children tend to do better than their less fit peers on memory tests. Those who were most fit also tended to have a bigger hippocampus — a structure deep in the brain important in learning.

The study, published in Brain Research, determined fitness by measuring how efficiently oxygen was used while running on a treadmill.

“The physically fit children were much more efficient than the less-fit children at utilizing oxygen,” study leader Art Kramer said in statement.

Kramer and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the relative size of specific structures in the brains of 49 child subjects.

“This is the first study I know of that has used MRI measures to look at differences in brain between kids who are fit and kids who aren’t fit,” Kramer says in statement. “Beyond that, it relates those measures of brain structure to cognition.”

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Retailer: Condoms Make the Perfect Gift

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 15 (UPI) — About 19 million people in the United States will be infected with a sexually transmitted disease this year but new condoms may help curb STDs, a retailer says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said about 50 percent of all sexually active people will get an STD by the time they are in their mid-20s.

Adam Glickman, president and chief executive officer of Condomania and “ooo” boutique partner, says the “ooo” boutique want to revolutionize the way people think about condoms by packaging them in ways that fun-loving people will want to carry, use and give as gifts.

The boxed condoms and gift sets represent a significant departure from other condoms available in the retail market, Glickman says.

The boxes feature photographs of whimsical erotic locales for the “take me” line, the “Kung Fu Sutra” packaging features pen-and-ink artwork and “art of lust” packaging features limited edition series from up-and-coming artists.

All of the “ooo” boutique condoms are available in gift sets and as singles. All the condoms are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are tested, and exceed all international standards for quality and reliability, Glickman says.

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Evidence of Ancient Antibiotic Use Found

ATLANTA, Sept. 2 (UPI) — The making of antibiotics, officially dated to 1928 and the discovery of penicillin, was common practice more than 1,400 years ago, U.S. researchers say.

An Emory University anthropologist and a medicinal chemist say chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Nubians shows they regularly consumed tetracycline, most likely in beer, a university release said Wednesday.

Anthropologist George Armelagos and chemist Mark Nelson published their study in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Armelagos, a bioarcheologist and expert on prehistoric and ancient diets, said he discovered what appeared to be traces of tetracycline in human bones from Nubia, in present-day Sudan, dated between 350 and 550.

Armelagos tied the source of the antibiotic to the Nubian beer, made from grain that contained the soil bacteria streptomyces, which produces tetracycline.

Nelson did tests on the bones to extract the antibiotic and says he was stunned by the results.

“The bones of these ancient people were saturated with tetracycline, showing that they had been taking it for a long time,” he says. “I’m convinced that they had the science of fermentation under control and were purposely producing the drug.”

The ancient Egyptians and Jordanians used beer to treat gum disease and other illnesses, Armelagos says, and the complex art of fermenting antibiotics was probably widespread in ancient times and handed down through generations.

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Scientists 'listen' to Paint Pigments

MONTREAL, Sept. 2 (UPI) — A new technique that can “hear” the sound of colors may help art restorers identify the pigments in centuries-old paintings, researchers say.

Canadian scientists at McGill University in Montreal say a technique called photoacoustic infrared spectroscopy can cause the pigments used in artists’ colors to emit sounds when light is shone on them, a university release said Wednesday.

“The chemical composition of pigments is important to know, because it enables museums and restorers to know how the paints will react to sunlight and temperature changes,” said Ian Butler, a professor at McGill’s Department of Chemistry.

The spectroscopy method is based on Alexander Graham Bell’s 1880 discovery that solids could emit sounds when exposed to sunlight, infrared radiation or ultraviolet radiation.

The McGill researchers are the first to use it to analyze typical inorganic pigments that most artists use.

The researchers have classified 12 historically prominent pigments by the infrared spectra they exhibit – in other words, the range of noises they produce – and hope the technique will be used to establish a pigment database.

“Once such a database has been established, the technique may become routine in the arsenal of art forensic laboratories,” Butler said.

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