May blogs digest: The science of sleep, giant viruses, winged beasts, and more

May was a busy month on the BioMed Central blogs. If you think you might have missed something, not to worry. Here’s a round up of some of our top content…

A good night’s sleep

James Balm wrote about the science of quality sleep

Counting sheep not working? James Balm may have some tips for you in his post on the science of quality sleep. There were plenty of stories in the news in May about the sleep problems caused by screens, but that’s not the end of the potential pitfalls. James took a look at how everything from nicotine to temperature can make a difference to our ability to get a good night’s sleep – it’s not just about nodding off quickly either, it’s about sleeping soundly too.

Giant virus revealed in the Amazon

Home to one in ten known species in the world, the Amazon is a rich region for discovering new life. Along with the many species of insects, mammals and birds, a recent expedition identified a new giant virus that infects Acanthamoeba living in the black waters of the Rio Negro. Ben Johnson told us about this discovery and the importance of the virus to the Amazonian ecology in his post from the middle of the month (contains some great images!).

Here be dragons (and moas)

Inspired by the latest series of ‘Game of Thrones’, James Balm also took to the blogs this month to look at the history of our fascination with dragons. Our innate fear of snakes may have something to do with it, while medieval wolves also provided inspiration.

Still on the subject of fascinating beasts – though rather less mythical in this case – Anna Perman wrote about the moa and new research into their distinct lack of wings. Aside from the Maori, no one knew about the existence of these weird birds until in 1839, Richard Owen, founder of the Natural History Museum, was sent moa bone by a flax trader with an enthusiasm for archaeology. Find out what we know now in Anna’s post.

From polar bears to mind-altering parasites

polar-bearThe latest weapon in publishing data: the polar bearWith a new publication on the polar bear genome out in Cell, Scott Edmunds wrote on how the bears have become an impressive example of how far data publication and citation have come in the last few years.

Working togetherA brave new world – ‘research with’ not ‘research on’ patientsTo celebrate International Clinical Trials Day, Daniel Shanahan looked back at some of the history of clinical trials and how patient involvement has changed. His post features a video interview with Simon Denegri, NIHR National Director for Public Participation and Engagement.

toxo ratsThe gut-brain axis: what’s the relationship between our bowels and our brains?To mark the launch of a new cross-journal series of articles Jen Franklin took a look at some of the weird and wonderful links between our bowels and our brains, including a parasite that can alter the minds of rats.

exoskeleton_schematic_cropBlurring the line between humans and machines: I jumped at the chance in early May to write about the inspirational Professor Hugh Herr. A double amputee himself, Professor Herr’s lab works to improve people’s lives every day, helping those who have leg conditions to walk, run, climb, and even dance.

Staff portraits. MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit Pic by Ashley Coombes/ Epicscotland. 16/03/2010. 07887676002Why do ‘alternative’ teenagers self-harm?: On the BMC Series blog, researcher Robert Young wrote about the harming behaviors of ‘alternative’ teens. He talks about his research published in BMC Psychiatry and looks at some of the innovative therapies being used to support these teenagers.

elephantiasis - image credit CDC

Progress towards elimination of neglected tropical diseases in Africa: On Bugbitten, regular blogger Professor Hilary Hurd discussed a report on the progress made in 2013 towards the commitments identified in the 2012 London Declaration to control, eliminate or eradicate 10 neglected tropical diseases by 2020.

And finally…

Fiona Russell

Should there be training for peer reviewers?Guest blogger Dr Fiona Russell wrote about the need for young researchers to develop their peer review skills and how journals could do more to recognize and incentivize reviewers.


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