Short Science February 3, 2013
X marks the spots for nicotine craving
TOKYO - A smoker's craving to light up can be tamed by carefully targeted magnetic fields applied to the brain, a senior researcher from a Japanese-Canadian team says. Scientists managed to zoom in on the exact spots that drive the need for nicotine, noting that a mental connection made when a smoker is able to have a cigarette markedly increases the desire to spark up. When this connection was interrupted, the addict was better able to control his or her cravings. "Our study shows the urge for smoking is not only about smokers who are running out of nicotine," said Takuya Hayashi, of Japan's RIKEN Centre for Molecular Imaging Science, noting a neural mechanism was also playing a role. "The findings could lead to the development of treatments for tobacco and other addictions" because they have pinpointed the exact parts of the frontal cortex that are involved. AFP
Tasmanian Tiger killed off by man, not disease
Australian researchers investigating the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger put the fault solely with humans, saying they had debunked a long-held theory that disease was to blame. The last-known "tiger", or Thylacine, died in Hobart Zoo in September 1936, and though there have been numerous unconfirmed sightings in the wild over the years since, it was officially declared extinct in 1986. When European settlers landed in Tasmania in 1803 the thylacine - a shy, carnivorous marsupial resembling a long, large dog with a striped coat and wolf-like head - was widespread. Their final extinction has long been linked to a distemper-like disease that tore through the last tigers, but a University of Adelaide team said it had proven that disease was not a central cause. "We found we could simulate thylacine's extinction, including the observed rapid population crash after 1905, without the need to invoke a mystery disease," said Thomas Prowse, lead researcher of the study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology. AFP
Taiwan tycoon launches Asian 'Nobel'
One of Taiwan's richest men has launched what has been widely touted as the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, and it is even more lucrative than the famed Swedish award. Funding for the Tang Prize will be based on US$100 million donated by Samuel Yin, head of the Ruentex conglomerate that has invested heavily on the mainland. The prize is named after China's Tang Dynasty (618-907), which is much admired by Yin. Starting next year, prizes will be awarded every two years for sinology, sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, and the "rule of law". The winner in each category will receive US$1.7 million, compared to the US$1.2 million) that comes with a Nobel Prize. AFP