Discovered: Radiation worries are expanding Fukushima children's waistlines; birds respond to music like humans; chemo changes the brain; asparagus each day keeps the hangovers away.
Nuclear disaster linked with childhood obesity. Children from Fukushima have the highest obesity rate in all of Japan, and researchers suspect that fears over last year's nuclear disaster have a lot to do with the extra poundage. Japanese government researchers found that parents and school officials in the region aren't letting kids outside due to concerns over radiation. This imposed sedentary lifestyle is making them put on more weight than any other kids in the country. The researchers culled this data from 700,000 children across Japan aged five to 17. [The Guardian]
Birds get all emotional over music, too. Don't tell us you've never gotten a lump in your throat when Whitney hits that high note in "I Will Always Love You." If you haven't, you don't know what it means to be human—or what it means to be a bird, apparently. Neuroscientists at Emory University have found that birdsong affects regions of birds' brains associated similar to the neural reward system seen when humans listen to music. "The neural response to birdsong appears to depend on social context, which can be the case with humans as well," says lead researcher Sarah Earp. "Both birdsong and music elicit responses not only in brain regions associated directly with reward, but also in interconnected regions that are thought to regulate emotion." [Wired]
"Chemo brain" causes confusion in cancer patients. We already knew chemotherapy to be a brutal treatment for a brutal disease, causing horrible nausea, fatigue, and hair loss. Now we know that it also compromises brain function, leading to something oncologists calls "chemo brain." West Virginia University professor Jame Abraham estimates that about one in four chemotherapy patients has trouble with short-term memory, dealing with numbers, and staying focussed. By doing PET/CT scans on breast cancer patients before and after starting chemo, Abraham and her colleagues were able to see decreased bloodflow in regions associated with these cognitive functions. "The study shows that there are specific areas of the brain that use less energy following chemotherapy," one of the researchers says. "These brain areas are the ones known to be responsible for planning and prioritizing." [Discover]
Asparagus as the new hangover cure. Instead of a little hair of the dog that bit you in the morning, try garnishing your cocktail with a spear of asparagus. OK, that does sound kind of nasty, but it makes scientific sense according to a new study by Korean researchers from the Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University. They found that certain amino acids in the vegetable can lower the toxicity of alcohol. But you'll have to eat an oft-neglected part of the asparagus to get the desired effect: "The amino acid and mineral contents were found to be much higher in the leaves than the shoots," says lead researcher B.Y. Kim[Grist]