19 April 2013

Frontiers In Science News Bits - From Bees to Comic Books

Frontiers is one of the worldwide publisher of Open Access journals and publications. Formed in 2007 by scientists, it is based in Switzerland and is a partner of Nature Publishing Group. The mission of Frontier is to "empower all academic communities to drive research publishing and communication into the 21st century with Open Science tools".

The "Frontiers in" series of journals is published with the help of scientific organizations such as the Max Planck Society and the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS). The series publishes around 500 peer-reviewed articles each month with the help of over 25,000 editors and reviewers.

Around five million views of its articles are recorded monthly by Frontiers. The following are some of the latest articles featured in Frontiers.
  • Bees Have The Ability To Count
  • Navigating Comic Books
  • Electronic Control Devices and Law Enforcement
  • Artificial Neural Connections and The Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries

Frontiers in Psychology

Numerical cognition in bees and other insects

In this article, Dr. Mario Pahl and colleagues review the main studies on the ability of insects to perceive number, and discuss the possible mechanisms involved in number recognition. Recent behavioral investigations have shown that several invertebrate species (animals without backbones) share various numerical activities with bigger animals, such as birds and mammals. This is because the ability to assess the number of food items, competitors or mates can help animals – even smaller ones like insects – to make better decisions when competing for resources or sexual partners. For example, male mealworm beetles take into account the number of female and male beetles around them, when deciding on a strategy to guard their mates. Social insects such as bees and ants use numerical information when travelling outside the nest or hive. Honeybees make use of the number of landmarks on the way to a food source to find their way, and can discriminate between images based on the number of displayed objects. When bumblebees forage on flowers with a constant number of 5 nectaries, they avoid revisiting an already depleted nectary by leaving the flower after exactly 5 probings. Such studies clearly demonstrate that there is a continuum of abilities between the so-called 'higher' and 'lower' animals.

Researcher contact:

Dr. Mario Pahl
Department of Behavioral Physiology and Sociobiology
Julius-Maximilians University Wuerzburg, Germany
Email: mario.pahl@uni-wuerzburg.de
Tel: +49 931 318 9176

Navigating comics: an empirical and theoretical approach to 6 strategies of reading comic page layouts

How do people navigate through the panels of comic book pages, and why do some people find it so hard to figure out which image comes next? Most people believe that the reading of comic pages moves along the same order as text: the "z-path" of left-to-right and down. This paper reports the findings of a psychology experiment showing that readers follow a far more complex process of page layout navigation than the z-path. These results suggest that people follow several constraints guided by an underlying hierarchic structure, and this knowledge appears to be modulated by the experience people have in reading comics. Altogether, this paper shows that the strategies used to read comics are far more complex than standard written language.

Researcher contact:

Dr. Neil Cohn
Center for Research in Language
University of California, San Diego, USA
Contact: neilcohn@emaki.net

Video: Frontiers is Open Science

Frontiers in Physiology

Respiratory and cardiovascular response during electronic control device exposure in law enforcement trainees

Law enforcement represents a large population of workers who may be exposed to electronic control devices (ECDs). With the number of adverse events occurring proximal to ECD exposure, concern has been raised on the direct impact of ECD exposure on respiration and the cardiac cycle. However, little is known about the potential effect of exposure to these devices on respiration or cardiovascular response during current discharge. Participants in the study were members of law enforcement exposed to 5 seconds of an ECD (Taser X26®) as a component of training. Participants were asked to inhale during exposure to ensure that trainees exhibited breathing activity during the brief period of ECD exposure. The exposure period resulted in the cessation of normal breathing patterns in all participants and in particular a decrease in inspiratory activity. No significant changes in heart rate during ECD exposure were found. This is the first study to examine breathing patterns during ECD exposure with the resolution to detect changes over this discrete period of time. In contrast to reports suggesting respiration is unaffected by ECDs, present evidence suggests that voluntary inspiration is severely compromised. There is no evidence of cardiac disruption during ECD exposure.

Researcher contact:

Dr. Kirsten M. VanMeenen
New Jersey Medical School
Stress and Motivated Behavior Institute
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, USA
Email: kirsten.vanmeenen@va.gov

Also of interest, published last week in Frontiers in Neuroscience:

Frontiers in Neuroscience

Restoration of upper limb movement via artificial corticospinal and musculospinal connections in a monkey with spinal cord injury

Functional loss of limb control in individuals with spinal cord injury or stroke can be caused by interruption of the neural pathways between brain and spinal cord, although the neural circuits located above and below the lesion remain functional. An artificial neural connection that bridges the lost pathway and connects brain to spinal circuits has potential to ameliorate the functional loss. Researchers investigated the effects of introducing a novel artificial neural connection which bridged a spinal cord lesion in a paretic monkey. This allowed the monkey to electrically stimulate the spinal cord through volitionally controlled brain activity and thereby to restore volitional control of the paretic hand. This study demonstrates that artificial neural connections can compensate for interrupted descending pathways and promote volitional control of upper limb movement after damage of neural pathways such as spinal cord injury or stroke.

Researcher contact:

Yukio Nishimura
Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology
Japan Science and Technology Agency
Tokyo, Japan
Email: yukio@nips.ac.jp


Max Planck Society
International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS)