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Animals must distinguish external stimuli from self-generated sensory input to guide appropriate behaviors. A recent study elucidates a cellular mechanism by which zebrafish perform this distinction while maintaining sensitivity to external environmental signals.
Finding the right lure for trapping pest insects is difficult. The typical smell of rain and humid soil, geosmin, now turns out to be a strong attractant for the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti.
Plant-eating dinosaurs evolved varied feeding strategies. A new study demonstrates convergent evolution of their skulls and teeth towards two distinct functional optima, one resembling advanced mammalian herbivory and the other echoing herbivory in birds and other reptiles.
New data are causing the standard model for the effect of selection on linked neutral variation in low recombination regions, combining the effects of background selection and selective sweeps, to be refined to include harmful recessive mutations creating associative overdominance.
Every day and night, the retina undergoes dramatic changes in its physiology and function. The prevailing view is that these daily changes affect the retinal output and thereby visual perception. Recent evidence suggests that modifications in higher-order processing centers, and not in retinal computations, account for variations in visual sensitivity.
How do perennial plants adapt their growth to seasonal changes? A new study in the hybrid aspen reveals that, in short days, repression of a growth-promoting genetic pathway leads to upregulation of the BRANCHED1 genes, which in turn induce growth cessation.
The forces driving membrane protrusion during phagocytosis are poorly understood. A recent study describes how integrins in the phagocyte membrane provide a molecular clutch to enable the exertion of force by actin polymerizing at the leading edge of the pseudopods. These results explain the mechanosensitivity of phagocytic cells.
Two recent studies show that zebrafish larvae alternate between two behavioral modes: exploration and hunting. Both behaviors are structured on multiple time scales, and require the integration of internal and external cues to generate sequences of stereotyped swimming movements.
Vector-borne viral diseases pose an urgent public health challenge, particularly in the tropics. Field releases of mosquitoes carrying bacterial symbionts that reduce vector competence are ongoing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Early results show that wAlbB Wolbachia can persist in mosquitoes in urban settings and decrease dengue incidence in humans.
Reconstructing prehistoric animal communities is important for understanding the emergence of modern ecosystems and the environmental context of human evolution. A new study of African fossils spanning seven million years shows that ancient large-herbivore assemblages were functionally distinct from those that exist today.
Classically, specific orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) neurons are thought to represent attributes of specific decision options. A new model proposes instead that OFC neurons represent whichever option is currently attended. A recent study, however, tests these two models and rules out the 'current-focus-of-attention' model.
For many decades, sleep researchers have sought to determine which species 'have' rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In doing so, they relied predominantly on a template derived from the expression of REM sleep in the adults of a small number of mammalian species. Here, we argue for a different approach that focuses less on a binary decision about haves and have nots, and more on the diverse expression of REM sleep components over development and across species. By focusing on the components of REM sleep and d...
Schilling et al. introduce and discuss Cannabis.
In humans, short-wavelength light evokes larger circadian responses than longer wavelengths [1-3]. This reflects the fact that melanopsin, a key contributor to circadian assessments of light intensity, most efficiently captures photons around 480 nm [4-8] and gives rise to the popular view that "blue" light exerts the strongest effects on the clock. However, in the natural world, there is often no direct correlation between perceived color (as reported by the cone-based visual system) and melanopsin excita...
The German zoologist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was arguably the most influential champion of Darwin's theory of evolution on the European continent and one of the most significant worldwide. As his biographer Robert Richards emphasized: "More people at the turn of the century learned of evolutionary theory from his pen than from any other source, including Darwin's own writings" . Furthermore, Darwin himself considered Haeckel a crucial proponent of his theory. How can we explain the mismatch between Hae...
Experimental psychologist Jonathan Crystal and evolutionary psychologist Thomas Suddendorf debate with nonhuman animals experience human-like episodic memory.
Chloe Fouilloux and colleagues introduce animal cannibalism.
Exposure to even moderately bright short-wavelength light in the evening can strongly suppress the production of melatonin and delay our circadian rhythm. These effects are mediated by the retinohypothalamic pathway, connecting a subset of retinal ganglion cells to the circadian pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain. These retinal ganglion cells express the photosensitive protein melanopsin, rendering them intrinsically photosensitive (ipRGCs). But ipRGCs also receive input from the cl...
Anthropogenic activities have propelled the Earth into a crisis characterized by unprecedented levels of environmental degradation and habitat loss, generating changes in global climatic regimes and initiating the planet's Sixth Extinction Catastrophe . Loss of population genetic diversity is known to be a harbinger of local and global extinction events . However, there is a lack of direct empirical evidence of historic losses of genetic diversity through periods of anthropogenically linked environmen...
Humans localize touch on hand-held tools by interpreting the unique vibratory patterns elicited by impact to different parts of the tool. This perceptual strategy differs markedly from localizing touch on the skin. A new study shows that, nonetheless, touch location is probably processed similarly for skin and tool already early in somatosensory cortex.
Quantitative analysis of the giant ciliate Stentor roeselii shows that a single cell can make decisions, based on the ability to switch between several different behaviors in a non-random order.
Gene duplication and cis-regulatory divergence created the growth-repressing RCO homeobox gene and facilitated evolution of dissected crucifer leaves. Identification of RCO targets reveals that auto-repression evolved to fine-tune RCO activity and that RCO dissects leaves by increasing cytokinin signalling to inhibit growth locally.