New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 22 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:


Sensitivity of the Goldfish Motion Detection System Revealed by Incoherent Random Dot Stimuli: Comparison of Behavioural and Neuronal Data:

Global motion detection is one of the most important abilities in the animal kingdom to navigate through a 3-dimensional environment. In the visual system of teleost fish direction-selective neurons in the pretectal area (APT) are most important for global motion detection. As in all other vertebrates these neurons are involved in the control of slow phase eye movements during gaze stabilization. In contrast to mammals cortical pathways that might influence motion detection abilities of the optokinetic system are missing in teleost fish. To test global motion detection in goldfish we first measured the coherence threshold of random dot patterns to elicit horizontal slow phase eye movements. In addition, the coherence threshold of the optomotor response was determined by the same random dot patterns. In a second approach the coherence threshold to elicit a direction selective response in neurons of the APT was assessed from a neurometric function. Behavioural thresholds and neuronal thresholds to elicit slow phase eye movements were very similar, and ranged between 10% and 20% coherence. In contrast to these low thresholds for the optokinetic reaction and APT neurons the optomotor response could only be elicited by random dot patterns with coherences above 40%. Our findings suggest a high sensitivity for global motion in the goldfish optokinetic system. Comparison of neuronal and behavioural thresholds implies a nearly one-to-one transformation of visual neuron performance to the visuo-motor output. In addition, we assume that the optomotor response is not mediated by the optokinetic system, but instead by other motion detection systems with higher coherence thresholds.

Impaired Glucose Tolerance in Sleep Disorders:

Recent epidemiological and experimental data suggest a negative influence of shortened or disturbed night sleep on glucose tolerance. Due to the high prevalence of sleep disorders this might be a major health issue. However, no comparative studies of carbohydrate metabolism have been conducted in clinical sleep disorders. We performed oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT) and assessed additional parameters of carbohydrate metabolism in patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS, N = 25), restless legs syndrome (RLS, N = 18) or primary insomnia (N = 21), and in healthy controls (N = 33). Compared to controls, increased rates of impaired glucose tolerance were found in OSAS (OR: 4.9) and RLS (OR: 4.7) patients, but not in primary insomnia patients (OR: 1.6). In addition, HbA1c values were significantly increased in the same two patient groups. Significant positive correlations were found between 2-h plasma glucose values measured during the OGTT and the apnea-arousal-index in OSAS (r = 0.56; p<0.05) and the periodic leg movement-arousal-index in RLS (r = 0.56, p<0.05), respectively. Sleep duration and other quantitative aspects of sleep were similar between patient groups. Our findings suggest that some, but not all sleep disorders considerably compromise glucose metabolism. Repeated arousals during sleep might be a pivotal causative factor deserving further experimental investigations to reveal potential novel targets for the prevention of metabolic diseases.

Modeling and Predicting Seasonal Influenza Transmission in Warm Regions Using Climatological Parameters:

Influenza transmission is often associated with climatic factors. As the epidemic pattern varies geographically, the roles of climatic factors may not be unique. Previous in vivo studies revealed the direct effect of winter-like humidity on air-borne influenza transmission that dominates in regions with temperate climate, while influenza in the tropics is more effectively transmitted through direct contact. Using time series model, we analyzed the role of climatic factors on the epidemiology of influenza transmission in two regions characterized by warm climate: Hong Kong (China) and Maricopa County (Arizona, USA). These two regions have comparable temperature but distinctly different rainfall. Specifically we employed Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) model along with climatic parameters as measured from ground stations and NASA satellites. Our studies showed that including the climatic variables as input series result in models with better performance than the univariate model where the influenza cases depend only on its past values and error signal. The best model for Hong Kong influenza was obtained when Land Surface Temperature (LST), rainfall and relative humidity were included as input series. Meanwhile for Maricopa County we found that including either maximum atmospheric pressure or mean air temperature gave the most improvement in the model performances. Our results showed that including the environmental variables generally increases the prediction capability. Therefore, for countries without advanced influenza surveillance systems, environmental variables can be used for estimating influenza transmission at present and in the near future.

Inferring the Ancient History of the Translation Machinery and Genetic Code via Recapitulation of Ribosomal Subunit Assembly Orders:

Universally conserved positions in ribosomal proteins have significant biases in amino acid usage, likely indicating the expansion of the genetic code at the time leading up to the most recent common ancestor(s) (MRCA). Here, we apply this principle to the evolutionary history of the ribosome before the MRCA. It has been proposed that the experimentally determined order of assembly for ribosomal subunits recapitulates their evolutionary chronology. Given this model, we produce a probabilistic evolutionary ordering of the universally conserved small subunit (SSU) and large subunit (LSU) ribosomal proteins. Optimizing the relative ordering of SSU and LSU evolutionary chronologies with respect to minimizing differences in amino acid usage bias, we find strong compositional evidence for a more ancient origin for early LSU proteins. Furthermore, we find that this ordering produces several trends in specific amino acid usages compatible with models of genetic code evolution.

The Effect of How Outcomes Are Framed on Decisions about Whether to Take Antihypertensive Medication: A Randomized Trial:

We conducted an Internet-based randomized trial comparing three valence framing presentations of the benefits of antihypertensive medication in preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) for people with newly diagnosed hypertension to determine which framing presentation resulted in choices most consistent with participants’ values. In this second in a series of televised trials in cooperation with the Norwegian Broadcasting Company, adult volunteers rated the relative importance of the consequences of taking antihypertensive medication using visual analogue scales (VAS). Participants viewed information (or no information) to which they were randomized and decided whether or not to take medication. We compared positive framing over 10 years (the number escaping CVD per 1000); negative framing over 10 years (the number that will have CVD) and negative framing per year over 10 years of the effects of antihypertensive medication on the 10-year risk for CVD for a 40 year-old man with newly diagnosed hypertension without other risk factors. Finally, all participants were shown all presentations and detailed patient information about hypertension and were asked to decide again. We calculated a relative importance score (RIS) by subtracting the VAS-scores for the undesirable consequences of antihypertensive medication from the VAS-score for the benefit of CVD risk reduction. We used logistic regression to determine the association between participants’ RIS and their choice. 1,528 participants completed the study. The statistically significant differences between the groups in the likelihood of choosing to take antihypertensive medication in relation to different values (RIS) increased as the RIS increased. Positively framed information lead to decisions most consistent with those made by everyone for the second, more fully informed decision. There was a statistically significant decrease in deciding to take antihypertensives on the second decision, both within groups and overall. For decisions about taking antihypertensive medication for people with a relatively low baseline risk of CVD (70 per 1000 over 10 years), both positive and negative framing resulted in significantly more people deciding to take medication compared to what participants decided after being shown all three of the presentations.

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