(TMU) — According to a new paper published in Current Biology, a team of neuroscientists from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN) found that male and female rats show harm aversion, a trait more commonly associated with humans.
Researchers previously found that harm aversion depends on the same brain region associated with empathy in humans. This indicates that harm aversion is deeply ingrained in human biology, and paves the way to future work on increasing harm aversion in psychiatric conditions, according to Phys.org.
Scientists gave rats a choice to press two levers so they could receive sucrose pellets.
After the rats had formed an inclination for one of the two levers, the scientists rewired the delivery system so that pressing the preferred lever also delivered an unpleasant electric stimulation to the floor of other rats. The shocked next-door-neighbors reacted by squeaking in protest.
According to the study, the rats stopped using their favorite lever as soon as they learned that obtaining the pelts meant hurting their neighbor. This was true whether the neighbor was a rat they had shared their home cage with or a total stranger.
“Much like humans, rats thus actually find it aversive to cause harm to others,” Dr. Julen Hernandez-Lallement, author of the study said.
Researchers further explored whether there was a relationship between harm aversion in rats and humans by observing the rat’s brains. In humans, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments show that the anterior cingulate cortex, a region between the two hemispheres of the brain, ignites when humans empathize with the pain of each other. Researchers had previously shown that the same region in rat brains contains emotional mirror neurons—neurons that map the witnessed pain of another rat onto the witness’ own pain neurons.
The scientists then reduced brain activity in the same region in the rat by injecting an anesthetic and observed that rats suddenly stopped avoiding harming each other.
“That humans and rats use the same brain region to prevent harm to others is striking. It shows that the moral motivation that keeps us from harming our fellow humans is evolutionary old, deeply ingrained in the biology of our brain and shared with other animals,” said Dr. Valeria Gazzola.
Are rats sentient and do they care about other rats? According to the researchers, we don’t know if rats had a selfish or altruistic motivation.
“Perhaps a rat stops pressing the harmful lever because it doesn’t like to hear another rat squeak—just as we do not like to hear a crying baby on a transatlantic flight. Perhaps they do so because they really feel sorry for their neighbor. We don’t know whether our rats had a selfish or altruistic motivation. But I would argue that we don’t always know the motives behind the good deeds of humans either,” adds Prof. Christian Keysers, group leader at the NIN. “Whatever the motive, that we share a mechanism that prevents antisocial behavior with rats is extremely exciting to me. We can now use all the powerful tools of brain science to explore how to increase harm aversion in antisocial patients.”
It is suggested that only humans have moral sentiments, while animals are selfish. However, this study and stories like this one out of Australia where Wombats dug a waterhole for thirsty animals displaced by the fires, prove that to be false.
Other studies have expressed that animals are able to experience physical and psychological pain similar to humans. As a result, some countries even forbid various forms of animal testing declaring experimentation on our furry friends illegal and punishable by prison time and fines.
Humans May Have Found a Way To Not Only Stop Aging – But To Reverse It as Well
Humans have long to reverse the effects of aging and prolong their lives. Whether this was due to a love of power, a love of wealth or simple human anxiety about the loss of youth, tales about immortality can be found in the folk tales of countless cultures.
And while aging is a wholly natural process, humans have always struggled to fight against it – be it through science and medicine or through the search for supposed cures such as the mythical Fountain of Youth.
And now, Israeli scientists have claimed to have figured out a solution not only to the process of biological aging – but to reverse it as well, simply by administering pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber.
In a study published Nov. 18 in the peer-reviewed journal Aging, the scientists claim to have showed how aging could be reversed in two key biological clocks in humans related to aging and illness by administering high-pressure oxygen in a pressurized chamber.
When humans grow olders and their cells divide, the sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes – known as telomeres – grow shorter with time. After the telomeres become too short, the cell is unable to replicate and eventually dies.
While telomere shortening can keep rogue cancerous cells from multiplying rapidly, this also results in genetic aging. As a result, geriatric cells that aren’t able to divide – also known as senescent cells – accumulate throughout our lives, and are one of the key causes of aging.
In the clinical study, 35 people aged 64 or older were given hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOT) for 90 minutes a day, five times a week over the course of three months. Blood samples were collected from subjects prior to the treatment, after after the first and second months of the trial, and two weeks after the trial ended.
The patients didn’t have any lifestyle, diet, or medication changes during the study. However, their blood revealed major increases in the telomere length of their cells and a decrease in the number of their senescent cells.
For the researchers, the results of the study offered proof that the process of aging is reversible.
“Researchers around the world are trying to develop pharmacological and environmental interventions that enable telomere elongation,” Prof. Shai Efrati of Tel Aviv University told the Jerusalem Post. “Our HBOT protocol was able to achieve this, proving that the aging process can in fact be reversed at the basic cellular-molecular level.”
The groundbreak study, he added, “gives hope and opens the door for a lot of young scientists to target aging as a reversible disease.”
The oxygen treatment also improved subjects’ attention, ability to process information, as well as subjects’ executive functions, the researchers said.
While attempts to halt aging through modifying one’s lifestyle or intensively exercising can provide “some inhibiting effect on telomere shortening”, the hyperbaric oxygen treatment is more effective, said Efrati’s partner at the Shamir Medical Center, Chief Medical Research Officer Amir Hadanny.
“In our study, only three months of HBOT were able to elongate telomeres at rates far beyond any currently available interventions or lifestyle modifications,” Hadanny said.
The study could open the door to a radical new approach to medical problems and medicine in general.
“Today telomere shortening is considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of the biology of aging,” Prof. Shai Efrati of Tel Aviv University told the Jerusalem Post. “We are not [just] slowing the decline – we are going backwards in time.”
Scientists: The Human Brain And the Entire Universe Have Odd Similarities
An astrophysicist at the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon at the University of Verona have claimed that the brain resembles the universe. The two Italian researchers came up with the galaxy-brain theory that is out of this world: The structures of the perceptible universe, they say, are astonishingly comparable to the neuronal networks of the human brain.
University of Bologna astrophysicist Franco Vazza and University of Verona neurosurgeon Alberto Feletti document the extraordinary similarities between the cosmic network of galaxies and the complex web of neurons in the human brain. The detailed study was published in the journal Frontiers in Physics showcasing the human brain has roughly 27 orders of magnitude separated in scale, while similarly, the composition of the cosmic web shows comparable levels of complexity and self-organization, according to the researchers.
The brain itself contains an estimated 69 billion neurons, while the visible universe is comprised of at least 100 billion galaxies, strung together like a mesh network. Even more intriguing both galaxies and neurons only account for about 30 percent of the total masses of the universe and brain. Further, both galaxies and neurons arrange themselves like pearls on a long string.
Beginning from the shared features of the two systems, the two researchers examined a simulation of the network of galaxies in comparison to sections of the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum. Their purpose was to inspect how matter variations propagate.
In the case of galaxies, the remaining 70 percent of mass is dark energy. The equivalent in the human brain, the pair said was water.
“We calculated the spectral density of both systems,” Vazza said in a statement about the experiment. “This is a technique often employed in cosmology for studying the spatial distribution of galaxies. Our analysis showed that the distribution of the fluctuation within the cerebellum neuronal network on a scale from 1 micrometer to 0.1 millimeters follows the same progression of the distribution of matter in the cosmic web,” he added, “but, of course, on a larger scale that goes from 5 million to 500 million light-years.”
The amount of interwoven connections originating from each node also were strangely alike sparking further interest to the researchers.
“Once again, structural parameters have identified unexpected agreement levels,” Feletti said in the statement. “Probably, the connectivity within the two networks evolves following similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical powers regulating galaxies and neurons.”
The team is anticipating that their preliminary research could lead to new analysis procedures advancing knowledge about both cosmology and neurosurgery. Which would enable scientists to better comprehend how these compositions have developed over time.
Scientists Splice Monkey Brains With Human Genes to Make Them Smarter in Bizarre Experiment
Scientists have spliced monkey brains with human genes in a bizarre “Planet of the Apes” experiment.
The experiments were conducted by the Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany and the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Japan. Japanese and German researchers jointly injected a gene called ARHGAP11B — which directs stem cells in the human brain — into the dark matter of marmoset fetuses, according to a release about the historic research.
After the process, the scientists discovered that the primates’ brains had become more human-like by developing larger, more advanced neocortexes in the area that controls cognition and language, according to the study published in the journal Science earlier this year in June.
According to pictures published by the team, the modified monkey brains almost doubled in size at around 100-days into development.
“We found indeed that the neocortex of the common marmoset brain was enlarged and the brain surface folded,” said study author Michael Heide.
The neocortex is the newest part of the brain to develop a potential sign that ARHGAP11B may have been what caused brain maturity during human evolution, the researchers expressed.
Eventually, the scientists decided to abort the monkey fetuses due to “unforeseeable consequences,” according to the study.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time that scientists have injected monkeys with human genes. Previously last year researchers in southern China and U.S. scientists jointly reported similar experiments creating 11 transgenic rhesus monkeys (eight first-generation and three second-generation) with extra copies of another human gene MCPH1 suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence. Except during the prior experiment they allowed them to fully develop.
The researchers in that study found that the transgenic monkeys carrying the human gene were important for brain development, and the monkeys showed human-like brain development as well.
Further, they discovered transgenic monkeys exhibited better short-term memory and shorter reaction time compared to wild rhesus monkeys in the control group.
That means that both studies observed that when different human genes were inserted into monkeys brains, the organs began to develop similar to a human. That’s a massive discovery for the history of evolution of man kind!
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