World’s rarest dolphin faces extinction

By Tracy Brighten

Will the New Zealand government protect the last 50 Maui dolphins from fishing and oil industry threats?

Science Nutshell Single Maui dolphin by Will Rayment

Experts presented new research on the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin that sends a clear message to the New Zealand government: act now or be responsible for following in China’s footsteps after the extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin in 2006.

In May, the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee held its annual meeting in San Diego, U.S, where 200 of the world’s leading scientists presented their latest cetacean research.

In 2014, Otago University professors Dr Liz Slooten and Dr Steve Dawson, the world’s leading New Zealand dolphin experts, estimated the Maui’s dolphin population at 55 adults over one year old. Continue reading

Art, music and nature good for our health

By Tracy Brighten

If you feel awe on seeing a breath-taking view, joy on hearing a song thrush’s trills, or contentment on listening to Mozart, you may also enjoy good health

Science Nutshell panoramic view

Researchers in a study at UC Berkeley found a biological pathway between positive emotions and good health that involves pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Cytokines are proteins that interact with immune system cells to regulate the inflammatory response to infection, disease and injury. However, sustained high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines can be damaging and are associated with type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression. Continue reading

Older adults need double protein RDA to build muscle

By Tracy Brighten

New research shows that differences in protein synthesis between older and younger adults means that as we age, we must double our protein RDA to remain active

Science Nutshell protein sourcesIt is well known that we need to consume protein to enable our body to build and repair muscle. As we get older, the body becomes less efficient in this process at a time when fitness affects our quality of life and strong muscles can help protect our joints from osteoarthritis.

Research published in January in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests the amount of protein consumed by older adults affects the body’s net protein balance due to differences in the way they synthesise protein compared to younger adults. Continue reading

Sleep cleanses the brain of toxins linked to Alzheimer’s

By Tracy Brighten

Research revealing that sleep cleanses the brain of toxins has been awarded a top prize in the advancement of science 

Science Nutshell Sleep

Scientists have long sought to establish the function of sleep, proposing that there must be a more essential function than the storing and consolidation of memories, considering an animal’s vulnerability during the sleep state. Sleep is also known to have a restorative effect on the human brain, and lack of sleep impairs brain function, but how does this occur? Continue reading