Farm animals are more intelligent than they seem

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Credit to Brian Squibb (35)

Following on from our post last month about research into the intelligence of goats, we asked one of the authors of the article, Elodie Briefer, to tell us more about why she studies goats and what is was like to carry out the research. Here’s what she had to say…

My main research interests are vocal communication and cognition. I carried out my PhD in the Bioacoustics team of Paris South University, on the song of skylarks. After my PhD, I moved to Queen Mary University of London to work with Alan McElligott on mother-offspring vocal recognition and vocal ontogeny in goats, and later on, on goat personality and emotions.

Expanding the breadth of research on cognition

After a few …

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Tamiflu: A poster child for transparency in clinical trials?

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Flu

Thursday 10 April saw the publication of the Cochrane systematic review on oseltamivir and zanamivir, or Tamiflu (Roche) and Relenza (GlaxoSmithKline) to give them their better-known trade names. In short, the review found that Tamiflu doesn’t work quite as well as we thought; a finding that is the culmination of a four-and-a-half year battle for access to the raw data from the clinical trials.

The authors – Jefferson, Heneghan and colleagues – uncovered what they characterized as ‘multisystem failure’, with poorly-defined endpoints and confusion as to the authorship and contribution of the clinical trials. They also found that all studies were conducted against placebo, rather than against current best practice. Overall, the reviewers felt that the published studies were …

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Are journals ready to abolish peer review?

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Debate at City University

Scientific journal publishing has undergone significant changes in the last couple of decades with the digital revolution and the rise of open access journals. However, the process of manuscript peer review remains essentially the same as it was in the age of typewriters, even if we now do it by email rather than by post. Typically two or three copies of the manuscript are sent to two or three referees, and the decision to publish is based on their reports. Is this system quaint and outdated in today’s world of instant communication, social media and crowdsourcing? Or has it prevailed because it actually works?

John Bohannon’s sting published in Science, the rise in retractions and disillusionment with the …

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Borderline personality disorder – the ‘good prognosis diagnosis’?

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Perry Hoffman

The new journal Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation (BPDED) launches today. In this guest blog, Dr Perry Hoffman, President of the NEA.BPD, tells us about borderline personality disorder and the impact this new journal can have, not just for researchers but for patients and their families.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder that occurs in the context of relationships. With its hallmark symptoms of rapid mood changes, fears of abandonment, self-injury, suicide/suicide attempts, impulsivity and stormy relationships, it is a challenging diagnosis. And yet it is also termed the ‘good prognosis diagnosis’.  

Fortunately, the past two decades have seen a sea change in the disorder, with evidenced-based treatments, albeit not readily available, offering hope for symptom …

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Donating normal breast tissue – a gift to cancer researchers

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Susan Clare

In this guest post, Dr Susan Clare of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and co-author of a recent paper published in Breast Cancer Research, writes about the importance of research on the ‘normal’ breast and what’s needed to allow this research to take place.

Our limited understanding of the developmental biology and genetics of normal breast tissue is a barrier to progress in understanding the causes of breast cancer and to developing successful prevention strategies and improved treatments. This oft repeated refrain is found in the periodic reviews of the state of breast cancer research and dates back at least to the NCI’s Report of the Breast Cancer Progress Review Group (1997).

Tissues banks and other initiatives mean there

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Guinea pig teenagers are highly domesticated

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Guinea pig wikimedia

Unlike their human counterparts, adolescent guinea pigs  display highly domesticated behavior says a new paper published today in Frontiers in Zoology.  They have  reduced levels of cortisol (a hormone commonly associated with stress) and display less risk-taking behavior, in comparison with their wild relatives.

Domestication of animals has been key to the success of humans and our expansion across a broad range of environments. For example, it was in the harsh environment of the Andes that guinea pigs are thought to have been first domesticated as a food source to supplement protein-poor diets.

The process of domestication of animals can have strong effects on their behavior, physiology and morphology. These changes are a result …

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Peer Review – ‘chipped’, not broken

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This blog was written jointly by Tim Sands and Anna Perman

Peer review: it’s an old, and possibly slightly dusty practice, but it is also tried and tested. As the internet is turning many established practices upside down, and in the light of some well publicised failures, many people have suggested ways to improve the system. Maria, one of our crack team of Biology Editors, took part in a debate last week asking ‘Is peer review broken?’, organised by the students of City University’s Science Journalism course. The general consensus was that peer review is flawed, but not broken. It was a great chance to talk about what works, what could be improved.

Why might peer review be broken?

Peer review is the …

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Looking forward to the Global Health and Innovation Conference

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World

I will be attending the Global Health & Innovation Conference next month in New Haven (Yale University), and looking through the programme brought to mind again  our recently published Born Too Soon supplement which I’ve been working on for  Reproductive Health.

The Maternal and Child Health speakers at the conference are plentiful, and focus is very much centred on infant and maternal mortality, particularly in low resource settings and poor rural environments. The supplement’s focus was on preterm birth and reducing both maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity – particularly within middle- and low-income countries, so I’m looking forward to hearing some new insights on these topics from experts in the field.

In fact, as I’ve talked …

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Reverse innovation – does it really exist?

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light bulb

To progress and explore the on-going reverse innovation in global health systems thematic series published in Globalization and Health, tweeters gathered on 28 March to discuss and share  thoughts on what reverse innovation in health really means by answering a set of questions provoking a compelling debate.

[View the story "Do low-income countries hold the key to health innovation?" on Storify]

Just one bite…

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Anopheles mosquito

When you think of an animal with a deadly bite, what comes to mind? A lion, a great white shark or possibly a crocodile. True, these animals can certainly take a large chunk out of you but, in the whole scheme of things, they have nothing on the deadliest biters: small arthropods such as mosquitoes, sandflies and ticks.

And what makes their bite so deadly?

When these arthropods hone in on humans for a blood meal, they transmit disease-causing parasites into our blood during the feeding process. These arthropods are known as disease vectors because they transmit disease causing parasites from person to person – or indeed between humans and other animals.

It is thought that more than half the world’s population …

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