science

The MRI machine in Dr. Owen Carmichael's lab blares as it scans a subject's brain.  Carmichael, Director of Biomedical Imaging at Pennington Research Center, studies those scans trying to understand how the brain ages.

Carmichael explains that "what you'll see on the MRI scan is the amount of brain tissue.  And all of that brain tissue is part of that electrical circuitry that makes it possible for you to think."  As we age, our brains tend to shrink.  And as that tissue goes away, the harder it becomes to think.

He describes the young brain as a grape that's just been pulled from the vine, while "the elderly brain looks more like a raisin, in that it's deflated and smaller in size.  And the person with Alzheimer's, that 'looking like a grape' goes even further, it's extremely shriveled up."

Madhusudan Katti / Flickr

Elevated lead levels in the environment can cause a number of health problems for children and adults, and parts of New Orleans have consistently tested high for lead pollution.

Researchers at Tulane University are experimenting with a new way to test for lead exposure — by listening to bird songs to find out what they can tell us about heavy metals in the environment. 

Tulane researcher Renata Ribeiro spends a lot of time out in the field, recording the songs of Northern Mockingbirds.

dullhunk / Flickr

A new triple degree program launches in the fall at LSU, for students who want to fast-track undergraduate education, medical school and PhD study. 

LSU is partnering with the Health Sciences Center in New Orleans to launch the program. It’s called “Fast Path” because students would receive three degrees  - a bachelor of science, an MD, and a PhD — in one-to-three years less than the traditional path.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans is hearing two Texas cases that are drawing local and national attention. One later Wednesday involves restrictions on abortion clinics, and another set for a hearing Friday involving same-sex marriage.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

If you drive west on Highway 90 you might notice bear crossing signs. That’s right, bears.  

The large but gentle Louisiana Black Bear is our official state mammal. They were once common in the Lower Mississippi Valley and Atchafalaya Basin region, but habitat loss and over hunting have reduced the population to about 300. In 1992 they were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. 

Three advocacy organizations — across ideological lines — are telling congressional investigators to back off in a probe of EPA ties to a leading environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana are leading the investigation. They contend that NRDC lobbyists have exerted too much influence over EPA on the issues of carbon reduction and the proposed Pebble Mine at Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Arkansas and Louisiana are ill-prepared to detect, diagnose and respond to threats like Ebola and outbreaks of infectious diseases, according to a report released Thursday by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report, “Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases,” found that Arkansas scored the lowest of all, two out of 10 on key indicators related to preventing and responding to antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”

A coalition of national environmental groups says the billions of dollars expected from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill penalties should go toward rapidly rebuilding Louisiana’s coastline.

During a teleconference Tuesday, the conservation groups outlined 19 priority projects detailed in their two new reports. David Muth, Gulf Program director for the National Wildlife Federation, says these projects are critical.

Xavier university is looking to triple the number of their minority alumni who go on to receive PhDs in the life sciences in the next decade, with help from an NIH grant. The first obstacle is getting undergraduates to stick with those fields.


Xavier University has received a $19.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The money is from an NIH initiative called Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity.

It will be used to expand biomedical programs at the historically black university.

Xavier says the award is part of a $240 million NIH investment involving more than 10 institutions. It’s aimed at developing new approaches to engage student researchers, including those from underrepresented backgrounds.

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