Researchers probe possible Strep, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder link

A new study aims to determine once and for all whether a link exists between obsessive-compulsive behavior and strep infections in children. The research, to be conducted by the University of Florida and the National Institutes of Mental Health, is prompted by anecdotal reports from parents with OCD kids that their children’s behavior, such as compulsive hand washing, worsens when the child is ill with strep.

Chaos Seen in Movement of Ring-Herding Moons of Saturn

Chaos can explain the seemingly random behavior of two moons of Saturn, JPL researchers say. The moons — Pandora and Prometheus — are more than 100,000 miles off course of where they would be if their orbits followed conventional physics. “With chaotic interactions, a barely perceptible difference in starting conditions can make such a great difference in later positions that the movements are not fully predictable over time. The two moons give each other a gravitational kick each time Pandora passes inside Prometheus, about every 28 days. Because neither’s orbit is quite circular, the distance between them on those occasions — hence the strength of the kick — varies.”

Parkinson’s patients look to gene therapy

Medical researchers have successfully reversed the progression of Parkinson’s disease in rats through the use of gene therapy. By adding a gene for a single enzyme, they were able to reprogram brain circuits and halt the deterioration of dopamine-producing brain cells, one of the key problems in the disease. The lack of dopamine is what leads the the tell-tale shaking and muscle twitches of Parkinson’s patients.

In case you were wondering

The Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services has published a four-point guide to hand washing. This is not a comment on the brain capacity of those in the “Forward” state, but rather a reminder of the single best way to fend off illness.

The steps are:
1. Wet your hands, ideally with very warm water.
2. Add soap, then rub your hands together to make a soapy lather. Vigorously scrub the front and back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, for no less than 10 seconds before you …
3. Rinse the lather off your hands, letting the water run into the sink, not down your arms.
4. In public restrooms, use a paper towel to turn off the water so you don’t touch a potentially-dirty handle, then …
5. Dry your hands thoroughly with a clean towel.

All right, it’s a five-point plan. Math never was Wisconsin’s strong suit. But, ummm, the cheese….

Research that matters

New Scientist reports on a year-long study to find the world’s funniest joke. The Internet-based project was coordinated by psychologist Richard Wiseman and colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire, U.K. and involved more than 2 million votes on 40,000 submissions. The goal was to identify universal aspects to humor, which could one day allow computers to devise truly funny jokes. Before we get to the winner, an interesting aside is that the team found in the process the world’s funniest animal: the duck. “If you’re going to tell a joke involving an animal, make it a duck,” Wiseman says. Now to the ultimate rib-tickler, which folks from Asia to Africa, the States to Siberia all seemed to enjoy. A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator, in a calm soothing voice, says: “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says: “OK, now what?” Thank you folks, I’ll be here all week.

Teeth Grinder’s Lament ? ‘E’ May Wound Brain

Results of an animal study published in the journal Science raise the possibility that the use of the rave fave drug Ecstasy ? methylene-dioxymethamphetamine ? can damage brain cells. The same cells, in fact, that are destroyed by Parkinson?s disease.
“We don’t know if human beings develop the same effects we describe in monkeys and in baboons,” Dr. George Ricaurte, a Johns Hopkins neurologist, told Reuters. “The broader issue is, are there hundreds of cases of unexplained parkinsonism in MDMA users? We don’t know because we haven’t looked.”
The Reuters article also contains the following quotation, reproduced below only marginally out of context: “[A]s you might imagine, it is not easy to get a baboon to take an oral dose of a drug.”