TS Picks: December 3, 2015

Inducing brain infections to cure cancer?; new journal publishes bit science; priming the brain for language learning

Dec 3, 2015
Jef Akst


Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:

  • University of California at Davis neurosurgeons Paul Muizelaar and Rudolph Schrot are trying a radical treatment for patients with deadly brain tumors that don’t respond to traditional therapies: remove a portion of the skull to access the brain for tumor removal, then soak that bone in a fecal bacterium before reattaching it in the patient’s head. It’s never been tested before—on people or animals—and the procedure is “heretical in principle,” The New Yorker reported: “deliberately exposing a patient to bacteria in the operating room violated a basic tenet of modern surgery.” The hope is that the bacteria will cause an infection, or abscess, that ousts any remaining tumor cells. “A brain abscess can be treated, a glioblastoma cannot,” Muizelaar said.
  • Troubled by the pressure on researchers to publish in top-tier journals—and the correspondent rise in flawed papers—cell biologist Lawrence Rajendran of the University of Zürich in Switzerland last month (November 5) launched a new journal, called Matters, which allows scientists “to publish discrete observations rather than complete stories,” ScienceInsider reported.
  • Learning different languages early in life can prime the brain to be better able to learn new languages later on, even if the original language is no longer spoken, according to research published Tuesday (December 1) in Nature Communications. “What we discovered when we tested [Chinese] children who had been adopted into French-language families and no longer spoke Chinese, was that, like children who were bilingual, the areas of the brain known to be involved in working memory and general attention were activated when they were asked to perform tests involving language,” first author Lara Pierce, a graduate student at McGill University, said in a press release.