Researchers study how self-conversation can help during physical activity

Talking to oneself as an incentive during physical exertion or any physical activity can be of great help. An interesting discovery was made with regards to this act of “self conversation” by a group of researchers.

Researchers at the University of Bangor have discovered that addressing themselves in the second person, rather than in the first person, can have better effects on the psyche and in general on encouraging effort. The researchers analyzed various participants during physical efforts to discover that those who encouraged themselves with verbs conjugated in the second person (“you can do it”) produced a greater effort than those who used the first person (“I can do it”).

It is not the first study that deals with the so-called “self-talk” as a form of incitement during physical activity but it is the first that shows that there are differences in the ways in which one can turn to oneself.

James Hardy, one of the authors of the study, explains the experiments and the results he and his team conducted in the article presenting the study: 16 males showed greater performance in physical endurance tests when they used second-person verbs to refer to themselves and at the same time the same participants, including those who used verbs in the first person, did not report differences in perceived effort.

This is further research, among other things, which emphasizes how important the psyche and the psychological context are during physical exercise or to better face a resistance test.

Drinking matcha tea can reduce anxiety according to study

A new study highlights the positive qualities of matcha tea, a quality of Japanese tea that is becoming increasingly popular. Originally from China and made from the Camellia sinensis green tea plant, this tea has a particular process with regards to its preparation: the leaves are steamed, then dried and then ground to obtain a very fine powder.

In Japan, this tea has a long history behind it even as a medicine or relaxing compound even though there is little scientific evidence to emphasize this.

The new research, conducted by Japanese scientists at the University of Kumamoto, shows that this particular quality of tea can help reduce anxiety in mice.

The mechanisms that help in this regard are related to the activation of dopamine D1 receptors and serotonin 5-HT 1A receptors. These are two types of receptors already known because they are linked to anxious behavior.

The researchers conducted a rodent anxiety test that sees the most anxious subjects spend more time in the walled, and therefore safer, areas of a particular maze.

The researchers first made some of the mice extract matcha extract and then conducted the experiment: the results clearly showed the reduction in anxiety in mice that took the extract.

Yuki Kurauchi, the lead author of the study, admits that further epidemiological research will be conducted but these studies show at the time that matcha tea “can be very useful for the human body.”

Focusing on muscle building is more effective than losing fat to counter diabetes and cardiovascular disease

Focusing on muscle strengthening rather than fat loss could prove to be a more efficient tactic to combat cardiovascular disease or diabetes, according to a new study by researchers at the medical school of the University of Augusta.

According to the researchers the poor health of the muscles, in particular the skeletal ones, is an equally important factor, as regards the sensitivity of the human body to insulin or obesity, compared to other factors such as an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity or also stress.

A notion of this kind could make, among other things, the measurement of muscle health a more accurate indicator of our health than the detection of fat.

The study made use of the analyzes carried out on the data of 400 pairs of twins aged between 22 and 45 years. In fact, identical twins have helped researchers to understand which are the main factors that can contribute to obesity, in addition to genetics.

Unlike other research, however, in this the muscle becomes the real target, as reported by Ryan A. Harris, a vascular physiologist and one of the authors of the study: “We believe it is an organ that we can really direct towards improving metabolic health and cardiovascular health.”

Intentionally elongated skulls of people who lived between 12,000 and 5,000 years ago found in China

Skulls discovered by a group of researchers from China, Singapore and the United States have been defined as the oldest case of cranial modification in a human being ever identified.

The researchers, who published their work in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, have in fact discovered skeletal remains at a site in China, called Houtaomuga, which showed signs of intentional cranial changes.

The cranial modification is a process that sees the alteration of the shape of the skull intentionally and that is carried out, in most cases, by tying ropes or pieces of cloth around the heads of newborns at a time of life during which the bones of the skull are still soft, therefore more malleable. In most cases, this custom, which can still be found in some tribal groups, is to lengthen the skull.

The researchers believe that this type of modification is carried out to label a person who belongs to a certain elite or in any case a special person. The researchers analyzed the remains of 25 human skeletons and found that 11 of these had signs of cranial changes.

They were almost all skulls belonging to adult males (they identified only one case of a woman) who lived in a period between 12,000 and 5,000 years ago: in fact, the bones were not buried at that same point in the same period.

Composition of the cutaneous microbiome can be artificially modulated according to a new study

The composition of the skin’s microbiome can be artificially and temporarily modulated according to a research group at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. The study study published on Microbiome shows that the use of probiotic mixtures carefully constructed in the laboratory on the skin can change, only temporarily, the composition and quantity of skin bacteria.

Such a discovery could be highly useful in the context of various epidermal therapies or even in the cosmetics sector. The microbial skin community is in fact one of the richest and most complex of all the bacterial communities that exist in our body, the so-called “microbiomes.”

The composition of skin bacteria, unlike other microbiomes of other areas of the body, remains however quite stable and the microorganisms, in terms of variability and quantity, are more or less always the same throughout life. Of course, there are various pathologies that can alter this balance, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and so on. Therefore, manipulating this microbiome could prove to be a very interesting strategy to combat these diseases.

Researchers are particularly interested in Cutibacterium acnes, a bacterium of the human cutaneous microbiome seen as one of the main culprits of acne vulgaris.

The researchers, led by Marc Güell of the Spanish University’s Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, are attempting to modulate the populations of this bacterium at the strain level.

To do this they used probiotic solutions made with donor microbiomes and applied them to 18 healthy volunteers aged between 22 and 42 years.

Researchers noted that after application the recipient’s microbiome became much more similar to that of the donor but this change had no adverse effects especially since the recipient’s microbiome returned to its original state after a few weeks.

“We expect this methodology to be used to study and modify the microbial components of the skin and have broad implications for future therapies,” says Güell, convinced that this method can be an effective contrast weapon.

Researchers discover gene linked to schizophrenia

Two teams of researchers, one from the University of Queensland, Australia and one composed of Indian researchers, identified a gene, called NAPRT1, which is linked to schizophrenia. The study considered more than 3,000 Indian people, mostly belonging to ethnic descendants of European descent, whose genomes were analyzed.

Researchers have discovered more likely schizophrenia in people with a certain genetic variant. They identified the NAPRT1 gene, which encodes a particular enzyme that is responsible for the production of vitamin B3. By conducting experiments on zebrafish, and eliminating the NAPRT1 gene in the latter, the researchers noted that the development of the fish brain was compromised.

Specifically, the zebrafish brain could not symmetrically divide, as specified by Bryan Mowry of the Queensland Brain Institute, one of the authors of the study. Among other things, this would explain, according to the same researcher, why studies showed, in people with schizophrenia, defects in the corpus callosum, or the conjunction between the left and right sides of the brain in humans.

This study can help, according to Mowry, to clarify those causes that can lead or determine the state of schizophrenia and everything that makes people susceptible to this disease: “Now there are a multitude of genetic variants related to schizophrenia, but not we still know what the hundreds of genes involved are,” says Mowry, suggesting that many other studies will have to be carried out to fully understand the relationships between genes and schizophrenia.

Prediabetes inverted in mice by deactivating an enzyme

A group of scientists from the University of Utah states, through a study published in Science, succeeded in reversing the state of pre-diabetes in mice by deactivating an enzyme called dihydroceramide desaturase 1 (DES1).

The deactivation of this enzyme leads to a lowering of the total amount of ceramides, a family of lipid molecules, in the body of mice. DES1 thus becomes a useful target for the possible creation of drugs to prevent the state of pre-diabetes, possibly even in humans. This is a therapeutic strategy that is “extraordinarily effective,” as specified by Scott Summers, one of the authors of the study together with David Kelley.

The same researcher underlines the fact that ceramides play a leading role in metabolism. Among other things, the same researchers have discovered that the ceramides trigger in the body a series of mechanisms to conserve fat in the cells but in the long run it can cause a reduced capacity of the same cells to synthesize the glucose and to withdraw them from the bloodstream.

Furthermore, the same ceramides cause an increase in the conservation of fatty acids in the liver, slowing down the turnover. This can be an advantage in the short term or when food is scarce but if the latter is abundant the cells begin to store a lot of fat because they increase the levels of ceramides, which happens in obesity. This condition then leads to insulin resistance and fatty liver disease, as well as to prediabetes.

Corn-based diet may have contributed to the extinction of the Maya

The tightly corn-based diet may have contributed to the extinction of the Maya according to a new study published in Current Anthropology. According to the researchers, in fact, the strong dependence on the maize crop by the Maya would have made this population so vulnerable to drought events and in general to climate change as to be one of the main reasons why it has disappeared.

The only cause would not result, but one of the linked causes, together with the expansion of the population and in general the degradation of the environment caused by agricultural intensification, as pointed out by Claire Ebert, one of the authors of the study together with Julie Hoggarth, Jaime Awe, Brendan Culleton and Douglas Kennett.

The researchers analyzed the remains of 50 human burials of a Mayan community that once lived near today’s Cahal Pech in Belize. With the radiocarbon dating technique, the researchers determined the age of these burials and discovered that they date back to a period between 735-400 BC and 800-850 AD.

Later they analyzed the remains of bone collagen to understand what they ate and how their diets changed over the years. They found an ever-increasing consumption of corn and a more varied consumption, which included various wild and animal plants, in the oldest bodies.

This means that the most ancient populations were better able to withstand droughts and unfavorable climatic events compared to the more recent populations, more dependent on corn, a plant that needs much more water and is not very tolerant of drought.