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Oxytocin in babies is influenced by the behaviour of the mother

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A new study analyzes the development of oxytocin in the body of children, a development that can be influenced by the behavior of mothers themselves. Oxytocin is an important hormone linked mainly to social interaction and plays this role in many mammals. This same hormone, as reported in the press release presenting the study on the Max Planck Society website, elaborates trust levels and relationships and can also be triggered with a simple visual contact or a touch.

In the new epigenetic study, conducted by researchers Kathleen Krol and Jessica Connelly of the University of Virginia and Tobias Grossmann of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Cerebral Sciences, researchers show that mothers’ behavior itself can have a significant influence on the development of oxytocin in children.

As Grossmann himself explains, it is already known that oxytocin is involved in the first social processes of the child and may in the long run also influence social behavior later, the more complex ones. The researcher himself explains the meaning of the research they produced: “However, in this study, we asked ourselves whether the mother’s behavior could have a decisive influence on the development of the child’s oxytocin system. The advances in molecular biology, in particular epigenetics, have recently allowed us to study the interaction between nature and breeding, in this case, the care of children, down to the smallest detail. This is exactly what we did here.”

The researchers analyzed various saliva samples taken from the mother and child when he was five months old and then a year later when he was 18 months, all while observing free play interactions between the mothers and the children themselves. According to Krol, the results show that “The oxytocin receptor is essential for the hormone oxytocin to exert its effects and the gene can determine how many are produced.”

In general, the results of this study show that people do not interact with each other simply based on genetics but that the same interaction is based on a balance between genetics and experiences. This means that the first social interactions that the child may have, even with a breeder who is not a parent, can strongly influence biological and psychological development through changes in oxytocin.

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New small crustacean living in the depths of the Pacific discovered by researchers

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A new species of crustacean that frequents the deepest depths of the North Pacific has been discovered by two researchers, Torben Riehl, from the Senckenberg Naturmuseum, a German natural history museum, and Bart De Smet, from the University of Ghent.
The new species has been named Macrostylis metallicola (the second term is due to the rock band Metallica, of which Riehl is a fan).

This crustacean was discovered in the Clipperton fracture zone, a marine area off the coast of Mexico. It lives at great depths, between 4000 and 5000 meters, a marine area where the pressure is over 400 meters higher than we experience on the surface.
It is a small crustacean that does not exceed 6.5 mm in length and lives almost in absolute darkness. This is precisely why it has not developed eyes and its body has no colour.

It lives in an environment where manganese nodules dominate, metal elements often millions of years old that can vary greatly in size and contain precious elements such as copper, cobalt, manganese, nickel and rare earths.
In fact, it is expected that the seabed area of the Clarion-Clipperton fracture zone (CCFZ) in the Eastern Central Pacific Ocean may be exploited in the future because of its wealth of manganese nodules.

It is precisely with regard to the exploitation of environments that until a few decades ago no one would ever have thought to reach to extract minerals that the researcher Riehl intends to carry out a form of awareness raising: “Very few people are aware that the vast and largely unexplored depths of the oceans are home to bizarre and unknown creatures, just like our new crustacean Metallica. These species are part of the Earth’s system on which we all depend. The deep sea plays a role in this system linked to the climate and food networks of the oceans. While we cannot prevent mining, we must ensure that the exploitation of the manganese nodule is carried out in a sustainable manner by implementing appropriate management plans and protected areas designed to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

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Bilingualism can counteract dementia because it stimulates the alternation between languages.

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Bilingualism, i.e. the ability to understand and speak two languages at the same time, can act to combat dementia according to a study conducted by researchers at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona together with colleagues from other Spanish institutions.
The researchers analysed more than 100 bilingual or monolingual patients with mild cognitive deficits with an average age of 73 years. The subjects spoke both Spanish and Catalan.

According to César Ávila, one of the authors of the study, the alternative use of these two languages simultaneously on a cognitive level is complex precisely because there are many similarities between them and therefore one needs to be more vigilant and more attentive in order not to get confused.
After following the evolution of the patients during seven months, the researchers found that the bilingual ones showed a lower loss of brain volume while maintaining generally better cognitive abilities.

According to the researchers “there is a cognitive reserve of bilingualism” and this mechanism exists thanks to the cognitive stimulation that is fostered by the alternation of use between languages.
These are interesting results, according to the authors themselves, because it is one of the first studies that shows the possibility that there is in fact a kind of protection by bilingualism against dementia and that explains its mechanism.
The possibilities of therapies to stimulate patients suffering from dementia on a cognitive level through practical exercises in the use of different languages are now becoming more concrete.

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Dangerous cigarette compounds “travel” in every environment clinging to smokers’ clothes

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A further study focuses on so-called “third-hand smoke”, i.e. that type of second-hand smoke in which the injured party is in an environment, usually closed, where someone has smoked. The most striking example may be the interior of a car in which someone has smoked and there are still cigarette butts and ashes in the ashtrays.

This new study confirms that the remains of smoked cigarettes can cling to the bodies or clothes of smokers and then be released into non-smoking environments.
The team of researchers, led by Drew Gentner of Yale, shows in this study that these cigarette compounds can literally travel, and even in abundant quantities, in indoor environments frequented by non-smokers transported by smokers themselves.

According to the researchers, a person, even if he or she is in a room where no one has smoked, can still be exposed to many of the chemical compounds found in a cigarette if a person who had previously smoked has entered that room.
As Gentner explains, “People are substantial carriers of third-hand smoke contaminants in other rooms. Therefore, the idea that someone is protected from the potential health effects of cigarette smoke because they are not directly exposed to second-hand smoke is not right”.

To reach these conclusions, the researchers analysed the traces of cigarette compounds in a movie theatre. The researchers found that the amounts of these substances left by smokers, for example through their clothes on armchairs or in the air, increased dramatically after the screening of R-rated films, i.e. films for adults who naturally saw more smokers in the cinema.

The quantities of these dangerous substances, of which nicotine was the largest representative, were not even to be overlooked, according to the researchers: they were comparable to those of exposure to second-hand smoke.
These compounds continue to make their way into enclosed spaces despite strong bans and numerous regulations in many states around the world prohibiting people from smoking not only inside public places but also near entrances or near air vents.

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