The Daily Dose: Expect traffic on the way to Mars; Music causes the formation of connections in the brain

It’s the closest thing humanity has come to an interstellar traffic jam. Everyone seems to be in on the race to study Mars and search for proof of ancient life. As per the Associated Press, “Three countries — the United States, China and the United Arab Emirates — are sending unmanned spacecraft to the red planet in quick succession beginning this week, in the most sweeping effort yet to seek signs of ancient microscopic life while scouting out the place for future astronauts.” Of the three, NASA has been the only organization to successfully land on Mars.

Public health officials have struggled to pin down SARS-CoV-2’s basic reproductive number. People have been turning to the number as a way to answer basic questions about the diseases’ spread. How fast will it spread? How many hospital beds and ventilators will we need? When can we lift lockdowns and restart our economies again? Will we see a second wave? Will it be worse than the first. Unfortunately, their calculations have varied. An article in The Scientist explains why it is so complicated. “Getting good estimates for R0 is key to answering such questions with accuracy. But R0 is notoriously tricky to nail down. It depends not only on the biological characteristics of a virus—which are a mystery at the beginning of an outbreak—but also on understanding how often people come into contact with one another. Faced with uncertainty, modelers have to make assumptions about the factors that determine human movement, which can limit the precision of their models and the accuracy of the predictions they generate.” The longer the pandemic rages on, the better researchers should be able to refine their calculations.

How does music affect the brain? A paper published on PLOS One attempted to study the effect of melody on brain connections. “We studied whether effective connectivity changes with significantly modified melody, between bilateral inferior frontal gyri (IFGs) and Heschl’s gyri (HGs) using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Among the 12 connectivities, the connectivity from the left IFG to the right HG was consistently increased with significantly modified melody compared to the original melody in 2 separate sets of the same rhythmic pattern with different melody (p = 0.005 and 0.034, Bonferroni corrected). Our findings show that the modification of an original melody in a real music changes the brain connectivity.” Past studies have shown how playing music as a group synchronizes brain waves.

It’s difficult to understate the importance of basic interventions such as access to potable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) on child development. A paper in PLOS One documented the effects. “WASH interventions alone improved height for age z score (HAZ) when delivered over 18–60 months and for children <2 years. Combined WASH with nutrition showed a strong effect on HAZ and WAZ and a borderline effect on WHZ. Integrated WASH with nutrition interventions may be effective in improving child growth outcomes.” WASH improvements coupled with better nutrition had significant effects on child growth.

Rap Yi, a well-known neuroscientist in China, is speaking out about an Alzheimer’s drug developed in the country that recently won approval for medicinal use, As per Sixth Tone, “Specifically, Rao — who is also on the editorial board of Cell Research — urged the scientific community to vet the past research of Geng Meiyu, the corresponding author for the GV-971 paper and lead researcher behind the drug. Rao listed 12 academic papers related to GV-971 that had been authored by Geng and argued that the research in them was inconsistent with the September paper.” The drug is the first new Alzheimer’s treatment to be approved anywhere in over 17 years.

The Japanese Ministry of Health has announced that it is conducting a study of the after-effects of COVID-19 on patients discharged from the hospital. As per the Japan Times, “The study will cover 1,000 adult patients whose symptoms were so severe that they were given oxygen while hospitalized. They will have their lung functions examined and CT scans of the chest, for example, ministry officials said.. Patients who had mild symptoms will be surveyed about problems they may have had after leaving hospitals. Blood samples will be taken when necessary for analysis, the officials said.” There has been growing evidence that COVID-19 symptoms linger long after testing negative for the virus.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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