Jon Hamilton | KUNC

Jon Hamilton

Jon Hamilton has served as a correspondent for NPR's science desk since 1998. His current beat includes neuroscience, health risks, behavior, and bioterrorism. Recent pieces include a series on the chemical perchlorate, which is turning up in California's water supply; a government effort to find out just how many autistic children there are in the U.S.; and an exploration of "neuromarketing."

Before joining NPR in 1998, Hamilton was a media fellow with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation studying health policy issues. He completed a project on states that have radically changed their Medicaid programs for the poor by enrolling beneficiaries in private HMOs.

From 1995-1997, Hamilton wrote on health and medical topics as a freelance writer, after having been a medical reporter for both The Commercial Appeal and Physician's Weekly.

Hamilton graduated with honors from Oberlin College in Ohio with a B.A. in English. As a student, he was the editor of the Oberlin Review student newspaper. He earned his master's degree in journalism from Columbia University where he graduated with honors, won the Baker Prize for magazine writing, and earned a Sherwood traveling fellowship.

When we hear a sentence, or a line of poetry, our brains automatically transform the stream of sound into a sequence of syllables.

But scientists haven't been sure exactly how the brain does this.

Now, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, think they've figured it out. The key is detecting a rapid increase in volume that occurs at the beginning of a vowel sound, they report Wednesday in Science Advances.

The brain waves generated during deep sleep appear to trigger a cleaning system in the brain that protects it against Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Electrical signals known as slow waves appear just before a pulse of fluid washes through the brain, presumably removing toxins associated with Alzheimer's, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science.

When Sepiedeh Keshavarzi was getting her medical degree in Tehran, she often read research papers by prominent scientists in the U.S.

"It was my dream at some point when I was much younger to do research in the States," she says.

Not anymore.

Educators refer to teens like Alex as "twice exceptional."

"I have a large degree of skill in almost every subject of learning," says Alex, who is 16. "But I also have autistic spectrum disorder."

For Alex, this dual identity has meant both opportunity and frustration.

He has skipped two grades so far, and began taking college math courses last year, when he was still 15. But when he was younger, Alex's underdeveloped social skills caused him a lot of grief.

"I was constantly getting into fights and normally losing them," he says.

The link between vaping and severe lung problems is getting a lot of attention.

But scientists say they're also worried about vaping's effect on teenage brains.

"Unfortunately, the brain problems and challenges may be things that we see later on down the road," says Nii Addy, associate professor of psychiatry and cellular and molecular physiology at Yale School of Medicine.

Too much physical exertion appears to make the brain tired.

That's the conclusion of a study of triathletes published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

Researchers found that after several weeks of overtraining, athletes became more likely to choose immediate gratification over long-term rewards. At the same time, brain scans showed the athletes had decreased activity in an area of the brain involved in decision-making.

Researchers are beginning to understand why certain brain cancers are so hard to stop.

Three studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature found that these deadly tumors integrate themselves into the brain's electrical network and then hijack signals from healthy nerve cells to fuel their own growth.

By the time a fetus is 6 months old, it is producing electrical signals recognizable as brain waves.

And clusters of lab-grown human brain cells known as organoids seem to follow a similar schedule, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

In mice, scientists have used a variety of drugs to treat brain disorders including murine versions of Alzheimer's disease, depression and schizophrenia. But in people, these same treatments usually fail.

And now researchers are beginning to understand why.

A detailed comparison of the cell types in mouse and human brain tissue found subtle but important differences that could affect the response to many drugs, a team reports Wednesday in the journal Nature.

A close look at the brains of 40 U.S. Embassy workers in Cuba who developed mysterious symptoms has found no evidence of injury. The State Department has said the employees were hurt by some sort of attack.

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