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Lend me your ears (and eyes and nose and mouth and brain)

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Two stories, neither of which were based on a particular research finding, dominated the science pages toward the latter part of last week. Don’t worry – I’m not going to talk about that dress. I was much more interested by the media coverage surrounding the proposal by an Italian neurosurgeon that he is two year away from transplanting an individual’s head onto a different body. The coverage stems from an excellent piece in New Scientist derived from an editorial – in this case a detailed letter to the editor describing how the various problem stages of the procedure (and there are many problem stages) might be accomplished. Read more…

Coming soon… Rewrite the Headlines

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At Research the Headlines, our aim is to address how research is reported in the media. We want to ensure that people of all ages are better equipped to understand and evaluate this information. We’re therefore delighted to announce that with funding from the British Academy, we’ll be launching Rewrite the Headlines this autumn, a competition to engage young people with research and the media. Read more…

Jog On

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Keen runners might have been alarmed by recent headlines warning of potential health risks associated with relatively intense exercise regimes. These included: “Fast running is as deadly as sitting on the couch” (Telegraph, 2 February); “Too much jogging ‘as bad as no exercise at all’” (BBC, 3 February); and “Stop that binge jogging! Three times a week is best for you… and too much is as bad as doing nothing” (Daily Mail, 5th February). Read more…

Terrible toddlers and terrific tablets: Should we be concerned?

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Do children need technologies to learn? Are tablets and smartphones getting in the way of children’s development? Are we all in danger? Do screens destroy family life and parent-child relationships? A recent press release from the University of Boston, based on a commentary from Jenny Radesky, clinical instructor in developmental-behavioural paediatrics at the university’s School of Medicine, has received significant attention in the media and on social networking sites. Read more…

Tackling the potentially damaging effects of American Football head on

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As the dust settles from last Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl, you might think that’s the end of that for another year (were you even aware it was on?). Given the over-padded nature of American football players, at least to European eyes, you could be forgiven for thinking that players are well protected against the tackles and knocks encountered. However, a rather well-timed study has suggested that professional American footballers who began playing before the age of twelve were more likely to experience memory and other cognitive impairments many decades later, compared to those who took up the sport a few years later. Read more…

Well everybody’s heard, about the bird

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Recently, a rash of news outlets reported that even new-born chicks have a mental number line. As this finding is a little more esoteric than most of the scientific articles which make the headlines, it’s probably worth starting with a bit of background on the research itself. Read more…

Circumcision and the development of autism and ADHD

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A study of a large sample of boys that reported an association between circumcision during childhood and the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has not surprisingly received attention in the media and on social networking sites and blogs. The author, Professor Morten Frisch, has speculated about links between painful injuries and stress responses which has no doubt added to the controversy. Read more…

Talking Headlines: Professor Dorothy Bishop on Science in the Media

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Welcome to a new series of posts, Talking Headlines, where we interview world-leading researchers and journalists about their experiences and views on how the media portrays research. This week, Silvia Paracchini interviews Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology and Wellcome Principal Research Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology in Oxford. Her main research focuses on understanding why some children have language problems despite normal development in other cognitive areas. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society. In addition, she writes a popular blog on a range of academic-related topics, including many posts on journalism/science communications.

Read more…

Did Scientists Just Discover Life In Space? Probably Not

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Is Earth the only object in the Universe that can boast biological organisms? This question burns in the minds of astrobiologists, scientists from many disciplines (astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, biology and many more) who investigate how life appeared on Earth, and whether other worlds possess the necessary conditions for life.

When a newspaper like the Daily Express publishes headlines such as “GHOST PARTICLE: The picture proof which shows aliens ARE out there“, you might be forgiven for getting excited, now that we know we are not alone in the Universe. But should we get excited? How does this particle prove the existence of extraterrestrial life? Read more…

See what you remember

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Difficulties remembering? Just close your eyes and it will all come flooding back. This is not actually a particularly new finding, with several studies showing that eye closure can improve witness recall in the context of forensic psychology.

Read more…

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