Sunken Cost Fallacy: Study finds both lab animals and humans stick with their bad decisions

The behavior of people who remain committed to a choice, even when it is clear that an alternate choice would be a better option, has been a perplexing phenomenon to psychologists and economists.  For example, people will continue to wait in the slow line at a grocery store, stick out an unhealthy relationship, or refuse to abandon an expensive, wasteful project – all because such individuals have already invested time, effort, or money. This well-known cognitive phenomenon termed the “sunk cost fallacy” has long been considered a problem unique to humans. New research has discovered that humans are not the only species that share these economically irrational flaws. New research from the University of Minnesota published in the journal Science discovered that mice, rats, and humans all commit the sunk cost fallacy. “The key to this research was that all […]

Rare Meteorite Recovered In Botswana

A meteorite has been recovered from a remote area of Botswana. The event is one of a kind as the meteor was identified before entering the atmosphere, and its fall and retrieval documented. It’s only the second time this has happened. The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner spoke to Fulvio Franchi and Alexander Proyer about their mission to retrieve the meteorite and why it matters. Why is the find in Botswana such a big deal? Alexander Proyer: Meteorites are fragments of asteroids or comets fallen on the surface of earth. Finding a fresh one is rare but what makes this case really sensational, is not the fall itself but the fact that we knew it was coming. Usually, people are taken by surprise, seeing a flash of light or fireball when the asteroid enters the atmosphere. But this one was observed in space, eight […]

Increased risk of birth defects in babies after first-trimester exposure to lithium

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found an elevated risk of major congenital malformations in fetuses after first-trimester exposure to lithium, in the largest study ever to examine the risk of birth defects in lithium-exposed babies. Nearly one and one-half times as many babies exposed to lithium during the first trimester experienced major malformations compared to the unexposed group (7.4 percent compared with 4.3 percent). In addition, risk for neonatal hospital readmission was nearly doubled in lithium-exposed babies compared to the unexposed group (27.5 percent versus 14.3 percent). However, lithium exposure was not associated with pregnancy complications or other delivery outcomes, such as pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, gestational diabetes, or low birth weight. In addition, the researchers found that the risk of birth defects in lithium-exposed infants was lower than previously thought, because previous studies did not […]

“Useless” DNA changes the genitals you’re born with

Male mice grow ovaries instead of testes if they are missing a small region of DNA that doesn’t contain any genes — a finding that could help explain disorders of sex development in humans, at least half of which have an unknown genetic cause. The study, led by researchers at the Francis Crick Institute, could help explain disorders of sex development in humans, at least half of which have an unknown genetic cause. Mammals will develop ovaries and become females unless the early sex organs have enough of a protein called SOX9 at a key stage in their development. SOX9 causes these organs to become testes, which then direct the rest of the embryo to become male. The amount of SOX9 produced is controlled initially by the SRYprotein encoded by the Sry gene, which is located on the Y chromosome. This is why males, who have an X chromosome […]

Ugandan wins Africa prize for bloodless malaria test

A Ugandan inventor has won a major prize for a device which tests for malaria without drawing blood. Brian Gitta, 24, won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for a device that detects tell-tale signs of malaria by shining a red beam of light on the patient’s finger. The diagnosis is ready to be shared to a mobile phone in a minute. He developed the device, called Matibabu, after blood tests failed to diagnose his own malaria. Malaria is the leading cause of death in Uganda, but it took four blood tests to diagnose Mr Gitta with the disease, Shafik Sekitto, who is part of the Matibabu team, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme. “[Gitta] brought up the idea: ‘Why can’t we find a new way of using the skills we have found in computer science, of diagnosing […]

Gout in the elderly linked to higher risk of dementia

Gout is a very common condition. It is caused by deposits of crystals of a substance called uric acid (also known as urate) in the joints, which leads to inflammation. Periods of time when patients are experiencing gout symptoms are called flares. Flares can be unpredictable and debilitating, developing over a few hours and causing severe pain in the joints. Guidelines for the treatment of gout recommend lowering uric acid levels, although maintaining too low levels is a concern because uric acid is thought to protect the brain.2,3 “We welcome these results as they contribute to our understanding of the relationship between uric acid and dementia,” said Professor Robert Landewé, Chairperson of the Scientific Programme Committee, EULAR. “Previous studies have shown contradictory results with some indicating an increased risk of dementia, while others reporting the opposite.” “Our study found a […]

Psychedelic Drugs Can Repair Broken Neural Networks

Could psychedelic drugs one day play a part in the treatment of mental health conditions? The idea is getting less and less far-fetched, after scientists successfully used drugs including MDMA and LSD to repair neurons in animal tests and cultured cells. In small microdoses tested on rats, flies, and zebrafish, the substances sparked new growth in neurites, the bridges between neurons that enable internal communications. With previous research suggesting that neurites in the prefrontal cortex can retract and shrivel when conditions like depression take hold, being able to reverse the process could open up a crucial new avenue for finding effective treatments. “These are some of the most powerful compounds known to affect brain function,” says senior researcher David E. Olson, from the University of California, Davis. “It’s very obvious to me that we should understand how they work.” The new study was partly prompted by the increasingly encouraging research that […]

Tech ‘Nobel’ awarded to Finnish physicist for small smart devices

Finnish materials physicist Tuomo Suntola, who developed a groundbreaking technology to reduce the size of complex devices, on Tuesday won Finland’s take on the Nobel science prizes. The 74-year-old was awarded the Millennium Technology Prize worth one million euros ($1.18 million). “Suntola’s prize-winning ALD (atomic layer deposition) innovation is a nanoscale technology in use all over the world,” the Technology Academy Finland, which awards the biennial prize, said in a statement. His technology is used to manufacture ultra-thin material layers for a variety of devices such as computers, smartphones, microprocessors and digital memory devices, enabling high performance in small size. “The extremely thin isolating or conducting films needed in microprocessors and computer memory devices can only be manufactured using the ALD technology developed by Tuomo Suntola,” the academy said. He developed the technology in 1974 to initially replace bulky monitors in hospitals […]