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Less than 10% of human DNA has functional role, claim scientists - Large stretches may be no more than biological baggage, say researchers after comparing genome with that of other mammals - More than 90% of human DNA is doing nothing very useful, and large stretches may be no more than biological baggage that has built up over years of evolution, Oxford researchers claim. The scientists arrived at the figure after comparing the human genome with the genetic makeup of other mammals, ranging from dogs and mice to rhinos and horses. The researchers looked for sections of DNA that humans shared with the other animals, which split from our lineage at different points in history. When DNA is shared and conserved across species, it suggests that it does something valuable. Gerton Lunter, a senior scientist on the team, said that based on the comparisons, 8.2% of human DNA was “functional”, meaning that it played an important enough role to be conserved by evolution. “Scientifically speaking, we have no evidence that 92% of our genome is contributing to our biology at all,” Lunter told the Guardian. Researchers have known for some time that only 1% of human DNA is held in genes that are used to make crucial proteins to keep cells – and bodies – alive and healthy. The latest study, reported in the journal Plos Genetics, suggests that a further 7% of human DNA is equally vital, regulating where, when, and how genes are expressed. But if much of our DNA is so worthless, why do we still carry it around? “It’s not true that nature is parsimonious in terms of needing a small genome. Wheat has a much larger genome than we do,” Lunter said. “We haven’t been designed. We’ve evolved and that’s a messy process. This other DNA really is just filler. It’s not garbage. It might come in useful one day. But it’s not a burden.” (via Less than 10% of human DNA has functional role, claim scientists | Science | The Guardian)

Less than 10% of human DNA has functional role, claim scientists
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Large stretches may be no more than biological baggage, say researchers after comparing genome with that of other mammals
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More than 90% of human DNA is doing nothing very useful, and large stretches may be no more than biological baggage that has built up over years of evolution, Oxford researchers claim. The scientists arrived at the figure after comparing the human genome with the genetic makeup of other mammals, ranging from dogs and mice to rhinos and horses. The researchers looked for sections of DNA that humans shared with the other animals, which split from our lineage at different points in history. When DNA is shared and conserved across species, it suggests that it does something valuable. Gerton Lunter, a senior scientist on the team, said that based on the comparisons, 8.2% of human DNA was “functional”, meaning that it played an important enough role to be conserved by evolution. “Scientifically speaking, we have no evidence that 92% of our genome is contributing to our biology at all,” Lunter told the Guardian. Researchers have known for some time that only 1% of human DNA is held in genes that are used to make crucial proteins to keep cells – and bodies – alive and healthy. The latest study, reported in the journal Plos Genetics, suggests that a further 7% of human DNA is equally vital, regulating where, when, and how genes are expressed. But if much of our DNA is so worthless, why do we still carry it around? “It’s not true that nature is parsimonious in terms of needing a small genome. Wheat has a much larger genome than we do,” Lunter said. “We haven’t been designed. We’ve evolved and that’s a messy process. This other DNA really is just filler. It’s not garbage. It might come in useful one day. But it’s not a burden.” (via Less than 10% of human DNA has functional role, claim scientists | Science | The Guardian)

Cognitive celebrity -Albert Einstein was a genius, but he wasn’t the only one – why has his name come to mean something superhuman? - Before he died, Albert Einstein requested that his whole body be cremated as soon as possible after death, and his ashes scattered in an undisclosed location. He didn’t want his mortal remains to be turned into a shrine, but his request was only partially heeded. Einstein’s closest friend, the economist Otto Nathan, took possession of his ashes, but not before Thomas Harvey, the pathologist who performed the autopsy, removed his brain. Family and friends were aghast, but Harvey convinced Einstein’s son Hans Albert to give his reluctant permission after the fact. The eccentric doctor kept the brain in a glass jar of formalin inside a cider box under a cooler, until 1998, when he returned it to Princeton Hospital, and from time to time, he would send little chunks of it to interested scientists. Most of us will never be victims of brain-theft and ash hoarding, but Einstein’s status as the archetypical genius of modern times singled him out for special treatment. An ordinary person can live and die privately, but a genius – and his grey matter – belongs to the world. Even in his lifetime, which coincided with the first great flowering of mass media, Einstein was a celebrity, as famous for his wit and white shock of hair as he was for his science. Indeed, his life seems to have been timed perfectly to take advantage of the proliferations of newspapers and radio shows, whose reports often framed Einstein’s theories as being incomprehensible to anyone but the genius himself. There’s no doubt that Einstein’s contributions to science were revolutionary. Before he came along, cosmology was a part of philosophy but, thanks to him, it’s become a branch of science, tasked with no less than a mathematical history and evolution of the Universe. Einstein’s work also led to the discovery of exotic physical phenomena such as black holes, gravitational waves, quantum entanglement, the Big Bang, and the Higgs boson. But despite this formidable scientific legacy, Einstein’s fame owes something more to our culture’s obsession with celebrity. In many ways, Einstein was well-suited for celebrity. Apart from his distinctive coif, he had a way with words and, as a result, he is frequently quoted, occasionally with bon mots he didn’t actually say. More than anything, Einstein possessed the distinctive mystique of genius, a sense that he was larger than life, or different from the rest of us in some fundamental way, which is why so many people were desperate to get hold of his brain. (via Why is Einstein the poster boy for genius? – Matthew Francis – Aeon)

Cognitive celebrity
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Albert Einstein was a genius, but he wasn’t the only one – why has his name come to mean something superhuman?
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Before he died, Albert Einstein requested that his whole body be cremated as soon as possible after death, and his ashes scattered in an undisclosed location. He didn’t want his mortal remains to be turned into a shrine, but his request was only partially heeded. Einstein’s closest friend, the economist Otto Nathan, took possession of his ashes, but not before Thomas Harvey, the pathologist who performed the autopsy, removed his brain. Family and friends were aghast, but Harvey convinced Einstein’s son Hans Albert to give his reluctant permission after the fact. The eccentric doctor kept the brain in a glass jar of formalin inside a cider box under a cooler, until 1998, when he returned it to Princeton Hospital, and from time to time, he would send little chunks of it to interested scientists. Most of us will never be victims of brain-theft and ash hoarding, but Einstein’s status as the archetypical genius of modern times singled him out for special treatment. An ordinary person can live and die privately, but a genius – and his grey matter – belongs to the world. Even in his lifetime, which coincided with the first great flowering of mass media, Einstein was a celebrity, as famous for his wit and white shock of hair as he was for his science. Indeed, his life seems to have been timed perfectly to take advantage of the proliferations of newspapers and radio shows, whose reports often framed Einstein’s theories as being incomprehensible to anyone but the genius himself.
There’s no doubt that Einstein’s contributions to science were revolutionary. Before he came along, cosmology was a part of philosophy but, thanks to him, it’s become a branch of science, tasked with no less than a mathematical history and evolution of the Universe. Einstein’s work also led to the discovery of exotic physical phenomena such as black holes, gravitational waves, quantum entanglement, the Big Bang, and the Higgs boson. But despite this formidable scientific legacy, Einstein’s fame owes something more to our culture’s obsession with celebrity. In many ways, Einstein was well-suited for celebrity. Apart from his distinctive coif, he had a way with words and, as a result, he is frequently quoted, occasionally with bon mots he didn’t actually say. More than anything, Einstein possessed the distinctive mystique of genius, a sense that he was larger than life, or different from the rest of us in some fundamental way, which is why so many people were desperate to get hold of his brain. (via Why is Einstein the poster boy for genius? – Matthew Francis – Aeon)

Love is the drug, scientists find -Cambridge University scientists find that those with drug addiction and sex addiction have similar neurological responses  - When Roxy Music star Bryan Ferry declared that ”love is the drug” he may have been speaking the truth. Cambridge University scientists have found that sex and drug addiction may be two sides of the same neurological coin. When diagnosed sex addicts looked at explicit sexual images, it triggered brain activity very similar to that seen in people dependent on drugs. But the researchers caution that this does not suggest pornography is generally addictive. Lead scientist Dr Valerie Voon, from Cambridge University, said: ”The patients in our trial were all people who had substantial difficulties controlling their sexual behaviour and this was having significant consequences for them, affecting their lives and relationships. ”In many ways, they show similarities in their behaviour to patients with drug addictions. We wanted to see if these similarities were reflected in brain activity, too. ”There are clear differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behaviour and healthy volunteers. These differences mirror those of drug addicts.” Previous studies have suggested that up to one in 25 adults may be affected by an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviour they are unable to control. Public awareness of sex addiction has been raised by celebrities seeking help for the problem, including actors Michael Douglas and David Duchovny. The Cambridge scientists recruited 19 male sex addicts and played them short videos featuring either explicit pornographic scenes or people engaged in exciting sports such as skiing or skydiving. At the same time, the men’s brain activity was monitored using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. The experiment was repeated with a matched group of volunteers not affected by sex addiction. Three regions of the brain were found to be especially more active in the brains of the sex addicts than in the healthy volunteers, the ventral striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate and amygdala. All three are also known to be activated in drug addicts stimulated by the sight of drug-taking paraphernalia. (via Love is the drug, scientists find - Telegraph)

Love is the drug, scientists find
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Cambridge University scientists find that those with drug addiction and sex addiction have similar neurological responses
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When Roxy Music star Bryan Ferry declared that ”love is the drug” he may have been speaking the truth. Cambridge University scientists have found that sex and drug addiction may be two sides of the same neurological coin. When diagnosed sex addicts looked at explicit sexual images, it triggered brain activity very similar to that seen in people dependent on drugs. But the researchers caution that this does not suggest pornography is generally addictive. Lead scientist Dr Valerie Voon, from Cambridge University, said: ”The patients in our trial were all people who had substantial difficulties controlling their sexual behaviour and this was having significant consequences for them, affecting their lives and relationships. ”In many ways, they show similarities in their behaviour to patients with drug addictions. We wanted to see if these similarities were reflected in brain activity, too. ”There are clear differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behaviour and healthy volunteers. These differences mirror those of drug addicts.” Previous studies have suggested that up to one in 25 adults may be affected by an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviour they are unable to control. Public awareness of sex addiction has been raised by celebrities seeking help for the problem, including actors Michael Douglas and David Duchovny. The Cambridge scientists recruited 19 male sex addicts and played them short videos featuring either explicit pornographic scenes or people engaged in exciting sports such as skiing or skydiving. At the same time, the men’s brain activity was monitored using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. The experiment was repeated with a matched group of volunteers not affected by sex addiction. Three regions of the brain were found to be especially more active in the brains of the sex addicts than in the healthy volunteers, the ventral striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate and amygdala. All three are also known to be activated in drug addicts stimulated by the sight of drug-taking paraphernalia. (via Love is the drug, scientists find - Telegraph)