The Lamb Inn and a cottage garden in Urchfont, Wiltshire by Anguskirk on Flickr

via The Lamb Inn and a cottage garden in Urchfont,… – Chronicles of a Love Affair with Nature.

No sedative necessary: Scientists discover new ‘sleep node’ in the brain

via No sedative necessary: Scientists discover new ‘sleep node’ in the brain.


Contact: Ellen Goldbaum


University at Buffalo


Findings may lead to new therapies for sleep disorders, including insomnia

 IMAGE: Bass and colleagues have used designer genes to turn on specific neurons that result in deep sleep.Click here for more information.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A sleep-promoting circuit located deep in the primitive brainstem has revealed how we fall into deep sleep. Discovered by researchers at Harvard School of Medicine and the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, this is only the second “sleep node” identified in the mammalian brain whose activity appears to be both necessary and sufficient to produce deep sleep.

Published online in August in Nature Neuroscience, the study demonstrates that fully half of all of the brain’s sleep-promoting activity originates from the parafacial zone (PZ) in the brainstem. The brainstem is a primordial part of the brain that regulates basic functions necessary for survival, such as breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature.

“The close association of a sleep center with other regions that are critical for life highlights the evolutionary importance of sleep in the brain,” says Caroline E. Bass, assistant professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and a co-author on the paper.

The researchers found that a specific type of neuron in the PZ that makes the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is responsible for deep sleep. They used a set of innovative tools to precisely control these neurons remotely, in essence giving them the ability to turn the neurons on and off at will.

“These new molecular approaches allow unprecedented control over brain function at the cellular level,” says Christelle Ancelet, postdoctoral fellow at Harvard School of Medicine. “Before these tools were developed, we often used ‘electrical stimulation’ to activate a region, but the problem is that doing so stimulates everything the electrode touches and even surrounding areas it didn’t. It was a sledgehammer approach, when what we needed was a scalpel.”

“To get the precision required for these experiments, we introduced a virus into the PZ that expressed a ‘designer’ receptor on GABA neurons only but didn’t otherwise alter brain function,” explains Patrick Fuller, assistant professor at Harvard and senior author on the paper. “When we turned on the GABA neurons in the PZ, the animals quickly fell into a deep sleep without the use of sedatives or sleep aids.”

How these neurons interact in the brain with other sleep and wake-promoting brain regions still need to be studied, the researchers say, but eventually these findings may translate into new medications for treating sleep disorders, including insomnia, and the development of better and safer anesthetics.

“We are at a truly transformative point in neuroscience,” says Bass, “where the use of designer genes gives us unprecedented ability to control the brain. We can now answer fundamental questions of brain function, which have traditionally been beyond our reach, including the ‘why’ of sleep, one of the more enduring mysteries in the neurosciences.”


The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Climate change is a global emergency. Stop waiting for politicians to sound the alarm | Naomi Klein | Comment is free |

via Climate change is a global emergency. Stop waiting for politicians to sound the alarm | Naomi Klein | Comment is free |

The truth about our planet is horrifying, but the true leaders aren’t the ones at the UN – they’re in the streets. This is why the People’s Climate March matters

obama climate change window

The most terrifying part of climate change may be watching politicians behave as if the emergency is no immediate concern. Illustration: Cesar Maxi


At exactly 1pm on Sunday, the streets of New York City are going to fill with the sound of clanging pots, marching bands, church bells and whatever other kinds of noisemakers that participants of the People’s Climate March decide to bring along.

It’s being called the “climate alarm”, and the general idea is that a whole lot of people are going to make the very loud point that climate change is a true emergency for humanity, the kind of threat that should cause us to stop what we are doing and get out of harm’s way.

Is it a stunt? Well, sure, all protests are. But the mere act of expressing our collective sense of climate urgency goes beyond symbolism. What is most terrifying about the threat of climate disruption is not the unending procession of scientific reports about rapidly melting ice sheets, crop failures and rising seas. It’s the combination of trying to absorb that information while watching our so-called leaders behave as if the global emergency is no immediate concern. As if every alarm in our collective house were not going off simultaneously.

Only when we urgently acknowledge that we are facing a genuine crisis will it become possible to enact the kinds of bold policies and mobilize the economic resources we need. Only then will the world have a chance to avert catastrophic warming.

It’s not simply that our leaders aren’t leading us – at an appropriate gallop – away from fossil fuels and towards the renewable energy revolution that is both technologically and economically feasible. It’s that most of them are doubling down on the very energy sources that are most responsible for the crisis, cheering on the extractive industries as they dig up the most greenhouse gas-intensive fossil fuels on the planet: oil from the tar sands, gas from fracking, extra-dirty lignite coal.

Surrounded by such wild contradictions, most of us perform all sorts of mental tricks to try to reconcile the irreconcilable. Those scientists and environmentalists must be exaggerating, we tell ourselves. Or there must be more time before we
really need to change. Or maybe: the experts are just on the verge of figuring out a techno-fix. But does anyone really believe these fairy tales?

Sunday’s climate march will serve many purposes for its many participants: meet upboost moraleexert political pressure. But sounding the alarm together will help us bring our actions in line with our emotions. So many of us are scared of what is happening to the world around us; for one day, we will come together and show it. Yes, we will be showing that sense of existential urgency to our politicians. But we will be showing one another.

By sounding this people’s alarm, we will also be saying that we are no longer waiting for politicians to declare climate disruption an emergency and respond accordingly. We are going to declare the emergency ourselves, from below, just as social movements have always done. The day after the march, many will be taking part in Flood Wall Street events, to draw clear connections between the logic of frenetic profit-making that rules financial markets and the collective failure to take the measures necessary to prevent runaway climate change.

The true leaders are not the ones who will show up at the United Nations next week in motorcades. The true leaders are the people next to us in the streets: the people who already achieved, and are fighting to defend, a moratorium against natural gas fracking in New York state. The Indigenous communities using their hard-won land rights to try to stop the suicidal expansion of the Alberta tar sands in Canadian court. The grassroots environmental justice groups in New York City that have been fighting the siting of toxic refineries and incinerators in the neighbourhoods for decades. And the students who have been demanding that their universities divest their endowments from fossil-fuel stocks, on the grounds that such businesses have made an immoral bet against all of our futures.

These are the people showing us what it looks like to act upon those terrifying warnings from climate scientists. To run away from the fire, instead of towards it.

Naming climate change as a clear and present danger is not a solution in itself, of course. But it is the critical first step. Forcefully expressing our collective sense of urgency will help us resist the next attempt to tell us that some manufactured economic imperative is more important than the stability of the planet – whether it’s the supposed need for more government austerity, or the need to grow the economy at any cost. That sustained sense of urgency will allow us to demand the kinds of bold action required to get off fossil fuels, and move to a regenerative economy, in the brief window we have left.

More from Guardian US on the People’s Climate March:


FAU studies ancient DNA found at Old Vero Man site – Sun Sentinel

via FAU studies ancient DNA found at Old Vero Man site – Sun Sentinel.

This is quite exciting…but it won’t go down well in some quarters.  How long you reckon before attempts are made to cut the funding for this?

Ancient DNA could unlock South Florida secret


By Ken Kaye,Sun SentinelSeptember 20, 2014


About 14,000 years ago, modern humans roamed to South Florida and lived side by side with mammoths, mastodons and saber-tooth tigers.

That, at least, is what Florida Atlantic University scientists hope to prove by analyzing ancient DNA found at an archaeological dig in Vero Beach.

If they can confirm the age of some very brittle bones, it will fill a major gap in human history, said Greg O’Corry-Crowe, an FAU associate research professor. “It would imply that humans were on this continent much longer than originally thought,” he said.

Officially called the Old Vero Man site, the dig is considered one of the most important archaeological finds in North America. A large number of animal and human bones were discovered there, providing a rare glimpse of the Florida landscape at the end of the last Ice Age.

The site was originally discovered in 1915 when a farming company dredging a relief canal spotted part of a human skull and 44 other bones from up to five individuals, male and female.

After inspecting the bones, Dr. E.H. Sellards, the state geologist in the early 1900s, developed a controversial theory: the bones were up to 14,000 years old so therefore humans co-existed with large prehistoric animals. Most experts at the time believed humans arrived in North America 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, long after those animals went extinct.


Mercyhurst University Archaeological Institute, based in Erie, Pa., and which is overseeing the Vero Beach dig, wants to prove Sellards was correct.

It recruited FAU, which operates one of the few ancient DNA laboratories in the nation, to determine the age of the bones. FAU already has pinpointed the age of ancient Beluga whales and other prehistoric mammals in Florida and Alaska.

FAU “is certainly the preeminent facility for doing this kind of work,” said James Adovasio, provost of the Mercyhurst Institute and a world-renowned archaeologist.

Adovasio said FAU initially will analyze animal fossils because Mercyhurst is still trying to locate all the human bones found at the Vero site. He said many were dispersed over the decades to various museums, such as the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

The overall idea, he said, is to establish how long it took humans to migrate to Florida and how they adapted once they arrived. It’s part of the quest to piece together the big picture of human history.

Based on the fossil record, here is what many archaeologists believe:

Modern humans first appeared about 195,000 years ago in East Africa. Likely chasing prey, they moved across Asia and what was then a land bridge to Alaska, arriving in North America about 20,000 to 25,000 years ago. They then took 5,000 to 6,000 years to cross the continent to Florida.

“The old model basically had these folks sprinting across North America, chasing and killing big animals,” Adovasio said. “We know now they moved very gradually.”

They finally reached Vero Beach about 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, as the Pleistocene Epoch and the last Ice Age were drawing to an end. At the time, Florida was almost double its current size, extending out into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, and much of the state was more than 300 feet above sea level, said Andy Hemmings, lead archaeologist for the Mercyhurst Institute.

“The landscape was so different than what it is today,” he said.

Florida also was home to tapirs, sloths, camels, bison and horses — in addition to mastodons and mammoths. Many converged at what was then an “oasis” of streams and rivers about 35 miles inland from the ocean. Today, that is the Old Vero Man site and it’s about five miles inland, Hemmings said.

“It was a fairly constant source of fresh water and a tremendous draw to animals and human beings,” he said.

Growing in numbers and becoming more skilled hunters, the humans continued forging south, evidenced by the Cutler Fossil Site on the Charles Deering Estate in south Miami-Dade County. That site, dating back almost 12,000 years, was excavated in the mid-1980s by archaeologist Bob Carr, of Davie.

He said his team found bones from Paleo-Indians and “103 species of animals, including mammoths, a saber-tooth cat, a paleo-lama, and a California condor.”

The Cutler site was the only one in this region that dated back to the end of the Ice Age; usually sites that old are buried far below the surface or paved over by development, Carr said.

By the time humans arrived in what is now South Florida, the Ice Age was almost over. Mastodons and their ilk were going extinct, likely because of climate change, Adovasio said.

Hoping to firm up this chronology, archaeologists excavated the Old Vero Man site earlier this year, and another dig is planned for January.

Potentially, they could unearth some of the oldest human remains in the United States, and “there is every possibility they could be among the most informative,” Hemmings said.

However, extracting ancient DNA will be a major problem because it has been degraded by time, said O’Corry-Crowe, who works at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce.

Still, even a small amount would tell whether the bones were male or female and just how far removed those modern humans were from their ancestors, he said.

“With ancient DNA, you’re time traveling,” he said. “It provides us with a unique opportunity to look into Florida’s past.” or 561-243-6530.

Copyright © 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Emperor penguin family by Barbara Arstall via Tumblr

via Love Nature & Wildlife.

Breathtaking Planet Earth via 500px / Emperor penguin family by Barbara Arstall via Tumblr


The Church Door at Stow on the Wold, Cotswolds, England G by Fragga on Flickr

via The Church Door at Stow on the Wold, Cotswolds,… – Chronicles of a Love Affair with Nature.

Dream Walk by Mirko Fikentscher

via via 500px / Dream Walk by Mirko Fikentscher – Chronicles of a Love Affair with Nature.

via 500px / Dream Walk by Mirko Fikentscher

Source: outdoormagic