Discovered: Weird weather informs beliefs about global warming; sight brought to blind mice; encroachment on tropical reserves; the popular anti-depressive Zoloft can prevent fungal infections.
Tropical reserves aren't so pristine. Setting aside certain swaths of land as untouchable may be one of our nobler impulses as inhabitants of the Earth. But a new look at tropical reserves reveals that what we do just beyond reserve borders still endangers these delicate ecosystems. The logging, deforestation and fire activity happening at reserve peripheries can cause a decline in the health of off-limits areas. "These parks are like imperfect mirrors," says research leader William Laurance, an Australian ecologist. "They're partially reflecting what's going on around them." Laurance and nearly 200 other coauthors culled their findings from a survey of 60 reserves across 36 nations. [Science News]
Beliefs about global warming change like the weather. Don't you love it when people interpret cold summertime weather as proof that global warming isn't real? Researchers at NYU and Temple University conducted a study about such misperceptions, and they conclude that local weather trends do indeed affect beliefs about global warming. People experiencing warmer than average weather are more likely to give credence to global warming. The researchers write that climate change is "a complex issue with which Americans have little direct experience. As they try to make sense of this difficult issue, many people use fluctuations in local temperature to reassess their beliefs about the existence of global warming." [NYU]
Bringing sight to blind mice. Scientists have discovered a way of temporarily restoring sight to blind mice. Using a chemical known as AAQ, they were able to make normally unreceptive rods and cones in mouse retinas sensitive to light. "This is a major advance in the field of vision restoration," said Dr. Russell Van Gelder, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington, Seattle. The researchers hope their findings will lead to sight-restoring treatments for humans with common forms of inherited and degenerative, age-related blindness. [UC Berkeley]
A cure-all for depression and fungal meningitis. If you're taking Zoloft, here's some good news: it's less likely you'll contract a deadly fungal infection! Who wouldn't be a little happier knowing that? Biologists at Texas A&M University have discovered that the the widely prescribed antidepressant inhibits the growth of fungal meningitis. More than half a million people die every year from such infections, according to the CDC. "The point here is that if there is a drug that already exists, is known to be well-tolerated, and has alternative uses, that's a good thing," says Prof. Matthew S. Sachs. "The billion dollars it would take to bring a drug to the market—that's already done." [Texas A&M University]