Weekly PLoS ONE News and Blog Round-Up

In this week’s PLoS ONE media digest: orphanages and the quality of care of young children, an investigation on the remains in the Tomb of the Shroud, first glimpses at memory in real time, and much more.

Caring for the hundreds of millions of orphans and abandoned children (OAC) worldwide is becoming an increasing challenge for global leaders. Kate Whetten, of Duke University, and colleagues investigated whether institutional care settings (such as orphanages) for OAC are associated with worse health and wellbeing than community residential care. Among the 6- to 12-year-old OAC studied in 6 sites across 5 countries, the authors found that health, emotional and cognitive functioning and physical growth were no worse for children living in institutions than for those living in the community. The study, reported in PLoS ONE today, has been covered by the New York Times, USA Today and Scientific American.

Ancient DNA analysis of the human remains from the Tomb of the Shroud, a first-century tomb discovered in Jerusalem, suggests it was a family tomb. Reporting in PLoS ONE, Carney Matheson of Lakehead University and an international team were able to identify maternal relatedness among some of the skeletal individuals found in the tomb. Both Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) and Mycobacterium leprae (leprosy) dating back to the first-century CE were also detected among some of the remains—this is the earliest case of leprosy with a confirmed date in which M. leprae DNA was detected. Some of the news coverage of the study has included: National Geographic, the BBC News, the Times and AFP.

One of the key challenges in neuroscience is to understand the formation and retrieval of brain’s associative memory traces in real time. In their new paper, Joe Z. Tsien and colleagues at the Medical College of Georgia apply a set of interface techniques to examine this issue. On the basis of data relating conditioned fear responses to the activity of neurons in the hippocampus of mice subjected to a trace conditioning procedure, the researchers were able decode the “conversations” between neurons as they form and recall memories. There is a discussion of the paper on the Neurophilosophy blog.

And finally, here is a round-up of some of the other PLoS ONE papers in the news this week:

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