Weekly PLoS ONE News and Blog Round-Up

Despite the extensive news coverage of the paper we published last Friday describing three new Australian dinosaurs, journalists and bloggers have also written about a number of other recent PLoS ONE papers this week.

In an article published in PLoS ONE on Wednesday, David Western and colleagues at the African Conservation Centre and Bristol University report that animal populations in Kenyan national parks are declining at the same rate as the same species living outside these protected areas. The authors suggest that while they play an important role in conservation strategies, these national parks are not providing sufficient protection for Kenya’s wildlife. Some of the online coverage of the study has included posts in Journal Watch, EcoTone and Greg Laden’s Blog.

New insights came this week into the neuroscience of fear, in the form of a study published on Monday by researchers at the University of Washington. In their article, Stimulus Convergence in Amygdalar Neurons during Pavlovian Fear Conditioning, the authors studied fear conditioning, a form of Pavlovian learning, which is often used as a model for the understanding of human phobias and other anxiety disorders. Previously, it was thought that two parts of the brain were involved in the encoding of fear memories—the amygdala and the hippocampus. However, in this new imaging study carried out on the brains of rats, the researchers report that the hippocampus actually processes information about conditioned stimuli and transmits it to the amygdala where it is encoded. This study has been covered by the Telegraph and Little Malcolm’s Swimming Pool.

Another recent study on the subject of fear and anxiety was published in PLoS ONE at the end of June by Bettina Pause and colleagues in their article, Induction of Empathy by the Smell of Anxiety. The scientists took sweat samples from university students before they (the students) took an exam and before they exercised. These samples were then smelled by another group of students while in an fMRI scanner. The latter group did not perceive any differences between the two kinds of sweat sample; however, the pre-exam sweat tended to light up the parts of the brain thought to be associated with empathy, which did not happen with the pre-exercise sweat. The researchers concluded that the anxiety of taking an exam leads to the release of a chemical, which automatically triggers the same feeling of fear in others. The study has been highlighted by New Scientist, the Wall Street Journal, the Telegraph, the British Psychological Society Research Digest Blog and BoingBoing.

Finally, here’s some of the coverage of a couple of articles we’ve already highlighted here. Respectful Indolence has discussed Thomas Pfeiffer’s article on the relationship between the popularity and the reliability of scientific research articles and a paper by Michael Baker and colleagues in which the authors describe a contraceptive for the sea lamprey has been picked up by Practical Fishkeeping and the Examiner.

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