Discovered: Video games can help dyslexic kids read; pregnancy increases foot size; around 100 million sharks are killed annually; mammalian sperm swims upstream.
Video games offer reading lessons. Parents who restrict their children's Wii sessions in hopes of seeing them spend more time with books might be surprised to learn that, at least for some kids, playing video games improves reading skills more than reading does. Andrea Facoetti of the University of Padua and his colleagues found that dyslexic children who played video games for 12 hours made more progress on reading than they would in a year's worth of typical reading development. Such games seem to hone these children's visual attention, a skill that comes in handy when they later try to make sense of text. "Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment," says Facoetti. "Dyslexic children learned to orient and focus their attention more efficiently to extract the relevant information of a written word more rapidly." [Science Daily]
Having a baby can lengthen your feet. Needless to say, having a baby will change a mother's life in big and small ways. One of the smaller, but scientifically proven, changes that come about from pregnancy has to do with women's feet. University of Iowa orthopaedics professor Neil Segal finds that pregnancy permanently alters women's feet, flattening their arches and slightly increasing their shoe size. This effect could be due to the extra weight women put on while expecting and how their joints loosen during pregnancy. "I had heard women reporting changes in their shoe size with pregnancy, but found nothing about that in medical journals or textbooks," says Segal. "In order to study this more scientifically, we measured women's feet at the beginning of their pregnancy and five months after delivery. We found that pregnancy does indeed lead to permanent changes in the feet." [The University of Iowa]
Sharks are being killed by the millions. When shark bites man, the news is splashed on headlines. But no such coverage surfaces when man bites shark, which — according to the first worldwide estimate of shark killings — happens constantly. Researchers compiled data from fisheries and scientific studies for a report in Marine Policy that estimates global shark killings in 2010 at anywhere from 97 million to 273 million. "This is the best attempt, published to date, to bring together the available data to quantify fisheries impacts on sharks at a global scale," says John Musick of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Some sharks are targeted for their fins — a delicacy in some countries — while others are caught in trawls meant for other fish. [ScienceNow]
Sperm swim against the current. Sperm already face quite a challenging race, with only one in the pack of millions standing even a chance at fertilizing an egg. On top of that, new research shows that they're swimming against the current in fallopian tubes. Kiyoshi Miki of Boston Children's Hospital and his colleague David Clapham studied dissected mouse fallopian tubes, finding that secretion in these winding reproductive alleyways comes head-on at sperm. But sperm actually use this cross-current to navigate their way towards an egg, the researchers found. "When we first saw this, it was very exciting," Miki says. "It was a beautiful, coordinated thing." [Science News]