Discovered: getting obese monkeys to lose weight, optimism abounds for the religious, when people stop taking risks, communicating with those in a vegetative state.

  • Researchers find a way to slim down obese monkeys--more exciting than just slimming down obese mice. Humanity's endless quest to get slimmer saw an encouraging development from tests on recently-thinning monkeys. As The Wall Street Journal reports today, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers who gave obese monkeys the drug adipotide saw successful results: they "lost an average of 11% of their body weight. They also had big reductions in waist circumference and body-mass index." It's good news, as The Journal writes, because monkeys body-types are more like humans. "[S]uccess in mice studies often fails to translate to people," the paper notes. [The Wall Street Journal]
  • Progress in trying to figure out how to communicate with people in vegetative state.  The Guardian and BBC News report on a new brain-scanning method (EEG, which "involves attaching electrodes to the head," BBC notes) that appears to show an optimistic sign for those looking to communicate with those who are in seeming unconsciousness by reading their brain activity when they were told to imagined doing various activities. Wrote The Guardian: "Among 16 patients ... three people who previously were thought to be without consciousness were able to respond to some one asking them to imagine clenching their right hand or toes. The portable brain scanner showed identical brain activity to the patterns created when healthy people imagine making those movements." [The Guardian, BBC News]
  • Optimism seems to abound for the religious. The latest study in a long-line of research on the state of religious service-goers (attending regularly has been previously linked to living longer, greater happiness for the devout, and, possibly, larger waistlines) finds them to be optimistic people. "Regular attendance at religious services is associated with a more optimistic outlook and a lesser inclination to be depressed, compared to those who do not attend services at all," Reuters reported. But, again, like previous studies linking benefits to religious service attendance, correlation doesn't equal causation, as the study's author told the news outlet: "The person who says, 'I guess if I go to services, that will make me more optimistic' -- while a possibility, that may not be true." [Reuters]
  • Should heavy drinkers have to be six months sober before getting a liver transplant? This is a very tricky question. Right now, "hospitals commonly require" that patients wait six months before having a transplant to show their serious about being sober, the Associated Press tells us after noting that there's a new French study that's claiming that this isn't fair and shouldn't be the case. Aside from the study's case, the news outlet surfaces a pretty stark statistic that seems to imply no good answer: "Nearly 6,300 liver transplants were performed last year in the United States, but more than 1,400 Americans died waiting for a new liver, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Adding more people to the list could mean longer waits and more deaths among non-drinkers." [Associated Press]
  • At what age do people just stop taking risks and start playing it safe?  It's a completely arbitrary question--but one that researchers, since it's part of their job description, nevertheless attempted to quantify. Would you guess risktaking declines around 30, when some people settle down, start having families, worrying about mortgages? Or maybe 35, when you have kids to think about providing for? Older? Using a sample size of 800 participants who "risked" things in what appears to be games involving math problems, University of Oregon researchers sussed out an answer: "the willingness to enter competition to achieve a bigger payoff continues to rise for all adults -- men slightly more than women -- until they get into their 50s." [Eurekalert/University of Oregon]