The holiday period was a rather busy time at PLOS Biology, with a number of our published articles receiving significant attention both in the news and in social media. Below you’ll find a quick summary of the three articles that people have found the most fascinating, along with a run-down of some of the reaction that they’ve received.
Sesame Street helps to reveal patterns of neural development
On January 3rd, PLOS Biology published this article by Jessica Cantlon and Rosa Li, detailing a study in which brain scans of children who watched Sesame Street proved to be better indicators of intellectual development than the standard, less naturalistic tests normally used in fMRI scans. In the study, the authors used fMRI to create ‘neural maps’ of the thought processes of children and adults who watched a 20-minute Sesame Street video, and found that they could better predict IQ scores from these than from similar scans taken using the traditional tests.
The article was accompanied by a synopsis written by Janelle Weaver, and provoked a great deal of interest in the media, such as from TIME Magazine and CNN Blogs. The Huffington Post featured both an article and a blog about the paper; the latter focusing on how the study can further our understanding of children’s varied rates or learning.
Although the study does not advocate television, it does show that “neural patterns during an everyday activity are related to a person’s intellectual maturity,” explains Professor Cantlon. “It’s not the case that if you put a child in front of an educational TV program that nothing is happening—that the brain just sort of zones out. Instead, what we see is that the patterns of neural activity that children are showing are meaningful and related to their intellectual abilities.”
The factor that could influence future breast cancer treatment
On December 27th, PLOS Biology published a research article by a team of scientists led by Chris Ormandy, in which the authors showed that the transcription factor ELF5, which is found in all breast cells, may be responsible for increasing breast cancer cells’ resistance to anti-estrogen therapy. The obvious implications for health care and cancer treatment meant that this paper was very widely received, with a Reuters article being picked up by the Huffington Post and NBC News among many others. It also gained particularly extensive coverage in Australia, including this broadcast on ABC Radio.
Disease burden links ecology to economic growth
Another article published December 27th, by Matthew Bonds et al., showed how vector-borne and parasitic diseases have substantial effects on economic development across the globe, and are major drivers of the latitudinal gradient in income. In addition, and perhaps counter-intuitively, the burden of these diseases is predicted to rise as biodiversity falls. It was also accompanied by a synopsis written by Jon Chase, and featured in news outlets such as NPR and the LA Times as well as being discussed heavily in social media.