Life scientists unite to close EU’s innovation gap

Research excellence relies not only on funding but also on the right governance and culture, according to experts.

Nepotism, a lack of transparency and poor governance are among some of the challenging conditions faced by researchers in Central and Eastern Europe, according to a consortium of life scientists who have set up a project to raise the level of research excellence in those countries. ‘The importance of institutions in providing a favourable environment … Read more

Your phone may soon know when you’re stressed – and help you cope

A sleep tracker uses smartphone acceleration sensors to monitor body movement and sleep stages - good predictors for stress and wellbeing.

by Ethan Bilby European businesses lose hundreds of work hours each year to stress-related absences, but an app that monitors stress levels and a device to teach relaxation exercises could help provide an answer. Christopher Lorenz is the co-founder of Soma Analytics, a UK-based start-up company that has made a smartphone app that detects people’s … Read more

Map of brain cell activity may help us control when we sleep

Scientists still have much to learn about the underlying circuitry that triggers the onset of sleep.

For many people who struggle to get a good night’s rest, being able to switch on and off the brain circuits that control sleep would be a life-changer. The good news is that’s exactly what scientists hope to do, but first they need to get a better understanding of what’s going on. It’s easy to … Read more

Skeleton teeth and historical photography are retelling the story of the plague

Scientists have unearthed photographs taken in countries including China during third plague pandemic, which killed 12 million people between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries.

New portraits of the evolution of some of history’s deadliest pandemics have been created through analysis of thousands of skeletons and new collections of historical photographs – and the results could indicate how similar diseases may evolve in the future. Genetic material from infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and the plague leave fossil traces of … Read more

Insomnia may stem from hyperalert brains shaped by genes and childhood – Prof. Eus Van Someren

While the overall causes are unclear, early childhood adversities can have an impact on the prevalence of insomnia in later life.

Genes and adverse childhood experiences could result in a hyperalert brain that is good at being ready for action but gives rise to insomnia in later life, according to Professor Eus Van Someren, a sleep expert at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. He is investigating the link between insomnia and depression and has discovered a … Read more

Modifying memories during sleep could reduce trauma

Scientists are looking to see if they could add positive thoughts to bad memories. Image credit – CC0

Reducing the trauma associated with bad memories while someone is asleep sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but it could become a reality in 10 years thanks to a greater understanding of how the brain encodes memories during sleep. A good snooze is known to be important for forming memories but it is only … Read more