Currents

    Social Cue Found in Bird Brains

    UCSD is responsible for pioneering a study that has recently made a discovery in animal behavior research: Scientists have identified brain cells that influence bird sociability.

    Headed by James Goodson, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, the research found that specialized neurons in the brain reacted differently in birds that live in colonies than in their more solitary neighbors.

    The study found that vasotocin neurons selectively promote positive affiliation, and that the amiable species have a greater number of the specified neurons and an increased baseline activity, placing these birds in a continual “social mood.”

    “And while the observations were made in birds, they should apply to many other animals, including humans, since the cells are present in almost all vertebrates and the brain circuits that regulate the basic forms of social behavior are strikingly similar,” Goodson said.

    Cup of Coffee a Day Keeps Diabetes Away

    There may be good news for coffee addicts, according to a UCSD study, which found that past and present drinkers of caffeinated coffee have as much as a 60-percent reduction in diabetes risk, compared with control subjects who never drank coffee.

    While the study wasn’t the first to discover that coffee drinking was inversely proportional to diabetes risk, UCSD’s researchers were the first to include test patients with high levels of blood sugar, who were consequently at high risk for Type-II diabetes.

    In 2004, a Finnish study suggested that drinking three to four cups of coffee a day could reduce the risk of Type-II diabetes by about 30 percent.

    Results from 15 studies that evaluated over 200,000 participants combined found similar positive effects, where the highest coffee consumption yielded the lowest risk for diabetes susceptibility, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

    American Diabetes Association spokesman Larry Deeb said he is enthusiastic about the findings because of their positive implications for people combatting diabetes.

    “People with diabetes and those at risk for developing diabetes have enough [things] to worry about,” Deeb said. “It is nice to know that coffee isn’t one of them, and it may actually help lower risk.”

    However, it is too early to recommend drinking coffee as a health strategy for lowering the risk of diabetes, according to the study’s director, Besa Smith.

    Currently, it is unclear how coffee influences diabetes risk, she said.

    Further research is needed to isolate the components responsible for the protective effects, which are most likely not due to caffeine.

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