Science Interviews

Interview

Tue, 15th Nov 2011

Synaesthesia, Antibiotic Resistance and Snake Venom

Dao Nguyen, McGill University
Devin Terhune, University of Oxford
David Julius, UCSF

New Insight into brain activity behind Synaesthesia

Visual Cortex (in red)Brain studies have provided new insight into the causes of Synaesthesia.
Synaesthesia is a merging of senses with people experiencing the more common Grapheme colour synaesthesia associating numbers and letters with particular colours when perceiving them.

By stimulating brain activity in synaesthetes and control groups, Devin Terhunes team at the University of Oxford identified increased levels of excitability in the primary visual cortex of people experiencing the condition.  
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The Secret to Resistance Revealed

The mechanisms behind the ability of bacteria to tolerate the toxic effects ofantbiotics have been unveiled by scientists McGill University.

Working with Pseudomonas aerigunosa, Dao Nguyen’s team identified a starvation response in bacteria, known as the stringent response, where bacteria turn down the production of oxidative metabolites and turn on defences against oxidative stress, protecting them against the reactive oxidative species introduced by a wide range of antibiotics.

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The Ache of a Snake

And finally, the pain caused by the bite of a Texas Coral snake has been unearthed.

The Toxin MitTx found in the snake’s venom consists of two proteins which cause no pain individually but when combined activate an acid-sensing ion channel on nerve fibres resulting in intense pain in its victim.

David Julius from the University of California at San Francisco led the work.

Natural products such as these unveil key contributors to the pain-signalling pathway paving the way for future development of drugs designed for pain relief.

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