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Spare change

Nominations open Monday for the first Kavli prizes in neuroscience, astrophysics and nanoscience. One $1,000,000 prize will be awarded for each of the three fields in Norway next year. Sound like another Scandanavian award? Unlike Nobel prizes, which tend to reward scientists at the ends of their careers, the Kavli Prize will recognize innovation, according to a recent article in Time magazine. Fred Kavli, a Norwegian physicist/business mogul/philanthropist, has been funding giant awards for (the odd mix of scientific pursuits) neuroscience, astrophysics and nanoscience research at universities, like Caltech, Harvard, MIT and Cambridge. So, if you know of a deserving neuroscientist, the application deadline is 15 December.  Read more

Down the drain

If you think managing chemical waste in your lab is like throwing money down the drain, imagine how Daniel Storm feels. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, rather than paying $15,000 to properly dispose of 5 cans of ethyl ether, the professor of pharmacology at the University of Washington took an axe to them and poured them down the drain. According to Nature, Storm falsified waste manifest sheets in an attempt to cover up the crime. Storm was sentenced to 3 years of probation, 80 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine in U. S. District Court and is undergoing university disciplinary review.  Read more

We’re about to nail this mother to the door

That’s what Gary Lynch said of the physiological mechanism of memory in 2005 when L. A. Times reporter Terry McDermott asked to visit Lynch’s University of California, Irvine lab. McDermott returned repeatedly, and his findings were featured last week in an epic four-part series in the L. A. Times.  Read more

Toxic avengers

It’s been a tough month for parents. Open a newspaper, and you are virtually guaranteed to read about the latest environmental toxin seeping into children’s blood and endangering neuronal or reproductive development. Mattel recalled toys that may be coated in lead paint. Meanwhile, a committee at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) declared ‘some concern’ that a compound in many plastics, bisphenol A (BPA), affects neuronal development. And finally, the University of California at Davis announced a several million dollar study of possible environmental triggers for autism.  Read more

Ladies in waiting

Keeping the commoners happy is easy when you have pharmacology on your side. Complex caste systems exist throughout the animal kingdom, but is it purely social feedback that keeps us all in our places? Vergoz, Shreurs and Mercer report that a pheromone prevents worker honeybees from forming aversive associations while they serve the queen in a recent article in Science.  Read more

Crime, punishment and neurotoxicity

Instead of a tough-talking mayor, new windows may be to thank for the drop in violent crime in New York City. The Washington Post reports that according to economist Rick Nevin, 65-95% of the variation in violent crime in 9 countries can be explained by lead. Nevins claims that crime rates rise and fall approximately 20 years after environmental lead concentrations increase and decrease, respectively. This theory isn’t new, but its relation to American politics is. Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor and current presidential candidate, claims that his law enforcement policies reduced homicides by 67% and total crime by 57% during his tenure as mayor from 1994-2001. Nevins argues that Giuliani benefited from policies in the 1960s to replace old lead windows (to reduce deadly falls) and in the 1970s and 1980s to reduce lead in paint and gasoline.  Read more

Clinical trials and tribulations

It’s double-blind or nothing when it comes to phase III clinical trials. Although placebo groups are absolutely vital to the clinical validity of medical treatments, a recent article in The Lancet has me thinking about the ethics of treating desperate patients with saline.  Read more