Mouse microbes and messy studies, how Cuba is winning against Zika, the dangers of cognitive offloading. 

How Mouse Microbes Can Mess With Your Study

(Science, 8/16/2016, Kelly Servick)

Multiple factor, from pressure to publish and a bias against negatives study results to different animal strains and lab environments, can account for the difficulties in replicating many animal studies. You can add the microbiome to the list, a term often used to refer to commensal gut bacteria, but which also includes resident viruses, fungi, protozoa, and single-celled archaea species. An explosion of recent studies in both animals and people suggests that resident microbes can influence susceptibility to diseases from HIV to asthma, predispose to obesity across generations, and tinker with how the body responds to drugs. Tying such effects to experimental results is challenging, but some hints have cropped up.

Cuba’s Zika Success Story

(Nature, 8/17/2016, Sara Reardon)

The mosquito-borne Zika virus is rampant in much of the Caribbean and Brazil, and cases are even beginning to pop up in the US, but as of Aug. 11, only three cases of locally-grown Zika had been found in Cuba. The reasons for the success lies in an intensive spraying campaign. It’s not uncommon to see clouds of pesticide wafting through Cuba’s houses and neighbor­hoods. It is largely because of such intensive measures by ordinary citizens that the country has been among the last in the Caribbean to succumb to local transmission of Zika.

The Price of Outsourcing our Minds

(Huffington Post, 8/15/2016, Bahar Gholipour)

Is our growing reliance on gadgets to carry our memories and information making us weaker, neurologically? Psychologists are trying to find out whether our second brains are changing the way our first ones work. So far our ubiquitous use of SmartPhones doesn’t seem to be changing our actual capacity for memory, but some scientists wonder whether we might become more adept ― or less ― at using our memory effectively if we use it less. In one study, for example, people were presented with a set of trivia statements to memorize and type into a computer. Half of the people were told that the information would be saved. The other half were told the file would be erased. Later on, when both groups of people were given memory tests about the trivia, the people who were told the document wouldn’t be saved performed better.

 

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery