There’s a rocky island in the South Atlantic Ocean so remote that it is known as Inaccessible Island. No humans and few animals dwell there, but among the creatures that call the island home is the Inaccessible Island rail, the world’s smallest flightless bird still in existence. Since the creature was first described in the 1920s, scientists have wondered how it managed to reach its far-flung habitat. Now, as Sarah Laskow reports for Atlas Obscura, a new study may shed light on the enduring natural mystery.
Depression is a tricky beast. Symptoms vary widely from person to person, as does the response to treatment. But there’s no question that genetic makeup plays an important role, and understanding the genetic architecture of depression could help us better understand how to treat it. Continue reading Largest Study of Its Kind Identifies 44 Genetic Risk Factors for Depression
There may not be a single depression gene, but there’s no question that our genetic makeup is an important factor in whether or not we get depressed. And our sex, it turns out, can be a factor in how those genes are expressed. In men and women diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the same genes show the opposite changes. In other words, the molecular underpinnings of depression in men and women may be different. Continue reading The Genetics of Depression Are Different for Men and Women
ONE JULY AFTERNOON last summer, Matt Wilsey distributed small plastic tubes to 60 people gathered in a Palo Alto, California, hotel. Most of them had traveled thousands of miles to be here; now, each popped the top off a barcoded tube, spat in about half a teaspoon of saliva, and closed the tube. Some massaged their cheeks to produce enough spit to fill the tubes. Others couldn’t spit, so a technician rolled individual cotton swabs along the insides of their cheeks, harvesting their skin cells—and the valuable DNA inside.
In graduate school, I earned beer money by modeling for life drawing classes in various art departments. (Don’t judge, grad school doesn’t pay well and beer isn’t free.) In the long hours standing around, I would survey the room and count how many of the aspiring artists were left-handed. Later in my career, I did the same thing—counting lefties, not standing around naked—in the biology classes I taught.
An estimated 1 in 9 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. These symptoms – including mood swings, fatigue and reduced interest in activities – can make it difficult for mothers to bond with their newborns.
She died 11,500 years ago at the tender age of six weeks in what is now the interior of Alaska. Dubbed “Sunrise Girl-child” by the local indigenous people, the remains of the Ice Age infant—uncovered at an archaeological dig in 2013—contained traces of DNA, allowing scientists to perform a full genomic analysis. Incredibly, this baby girl belonged to a previously unknown population of ancient Native Americans—a discovery that’s changing what we know about the continent’s first people.