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Monkey Business

Overworked and Overexcited: Heart Attack

Many a human life is claimed by a heart attack. Heart attacks are some of the main causes of premature deaths. Job and family-related stresses are implicated; genetic disposition, social habits and diets are held responsible and even a “broken heart” (as I know from personal experience) can affect your life-sustaining pump in a bad way. How? There is in the brain an almond-sized structure called the amygdala. That structure is the seat of strong emotions like fear, pleasure and sadness. Constant activation of the amygdala, let’s say by an intense feeling of disappointment, leads to an increased risk of cardiac vascular dysfunction or disease, which can ultimately lead to someone “dying of a broken heart”.


Danger in Disguise

When animals aren’t what they seem

I had a dramatic and painful introduction to “mimicry” as a little boy, when my Auntie Alice from Chislehurst in England had come over and I was eager to teach her what I had learned from my grandfather. We looked at the flowers in the Botanical Garden and she warned me of the many bees. Now came my time, I thought, and I told her that they weren’t really bees; that they only looked like bees and that in reality they were a kind of harmless fly. To prove my point -and to be a hero, I guess- I caught one like I had seen my grandfather do it……. and was promptly stung! —>


Re-growing a Lost Leg

No problem (if you are a newt)

When in 1987 I applied to obtain research funds to continue a project on spinal cord regeneration that I had started with Dr Alibardi from Italy, I was unsuccessful. However, the question of spinal cord regeneration is still a compelling one. Mammals and birds are poor regenerators and usually cannot replace lost or malfunctioning parts of the central nervous system, but in lower vertebrates and many invertebrates the situation is different. Starfish, as most people would know, have no problem re-growing severed arms, but they aren’t vertebrate animals. Among the vertebrates most lizards can at least replace a lost tail, but in newts (my favourite animals) and salamanders the ability to replace lost or injured body parts is even more remarkable and goes much further. —>