Highlights of the BMC-series: October 2013

Who is better at multitasking? • Giant panda genetics • Ethnicity affects experience • Making a game out of science • The tardigrade nervous system • Google Maps for molecular biology • Is Herpes helping HIV?• Housework is not good exercise

Psychology: Who is better at multitasking?

It’s a long-standing question that’s been beset by rumour and stereotype, but it seems that women really do appear to outperform men in multitasking. Female subjects performed better than their male counterparts at both a task-switching computer game and a ‘pencil and pen’ multitasking test, suggesting that they really do have the advantage when it comes to multitasking ability. Why not take the test for yourself, and see how well you perform?

Evolution: Giant panda genetics

Analysis of immune-related genes of a class known as the Major Histocompatability Complex  (MHC) in six wild giant panda populations from central China suggests that genetic diversity is higher than expected compared to other critically endangered species. Genetic monitoring of these populations will be crucial for setting future conservtaion priorities to preserve these charismatic creatures, with the current study going some way toward identifying specific populations of greatest immediate concern.

Maternity care: Ethnicity affects experience

In England, around a quarter of women giving birth are from ethnic minority groups, who may have very different experiences of maternity care compared to White women. A major survey of almost 25,000 women in 2010 now finds that those belonging to ethnic minorities reported poorer experiences of maternity services than those reported by white women throughout all stages of care. Specifically, ethnic groups were less likely to feel that staff had tried to explain aspects of care clearly, to treat them well, and to involve them fully in decisions.

Citizen science: Making a game out of science

Crowdsourcing scientific data from the public has become an increasing popular method of research in recent years. The huge quantities of data that can be gathered and analysed—either passively from computational downtime, or actively from enthusiastic participants—make this an attractive way of conducting science in a web-based world. In a new Editorial for BMC Biochemistry, one of our in-house Editors interviews users of a new citizen science game called EteRNA, that tasks gamers with the challenge of forming novel structures from RNA.

Image of the month
Fig 7 Mayer et al BMC Evolutionary Biology (2013) 13,230Organisation of the tardigrade nervous system. From Mayer et al. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013 13:230

Systems biology: Google Maps for molecular biology

A new web-based environment called NaviCell is a user-friendly, web-based environment for molecular biology that allows for managing and exploring large molecular interaction maps using the interfaces of Google Maps and WordPress. The widespread use of these existing platforms for mapping and blogging means that navigation of the environment for semantic zooming, and providing useful community feedback, is both simple and requires no prior knowledge or instruction.

Infectious disease: Is Herpes helping HIV?

Despite an observation that Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) activity is associated with increased HIV viral load, definitive evidence linking HSV-2 seropositivity to accelerated HIV disease progression is lacking. A new systematic review of the best current evidence from the literature also finds no definitive relationship between HSV-2 seropositivity and CD4≤350, CD4≤200, death, viral load or CD4 count.

Public health: Housework is not good exercise

It might feel like a chore when you’re doing it, but can keeping your home tidy really keep you fit enough to meet recommendations for a healthy lifestyle? A survey of over 4500 household residents in Northern Ireland finds that although housework accounts for a significant proportion of self-reported daily exercise, physical activity at moderate-to-vigorous intensity is negatively associated with leanness. This suggests that domestic chores may not be sufficient to provide all benefits normally associated with meeting physical activity guidelines.



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