Frontiers in the News: 2013

From the domestication of dogs to the medical benefits of yoga, Frontiers articles regularly receive media coverage from top news outlets. Here we showcase some of the biggest stories in 2013. Enjoy the read!

January 2013: Medical benefits of yoga

Video credit: CBS News

A systematic review of yoga on psychiatric disorders revealed positive effects on mild depression and sleep disorders and symptoms associated with schizophrenia and ADHD. The paper, “Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders,” published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, was covered by CBSTIMECNN, the Huffington Post and The British Psychological Society.

February 2013: Hands-free isn’t brain-free

Image credit: Schweizer et al. / Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Put down that phone! Part of the brain needed to make safe left-hand turns largely shuts off during a mobile phone conversation and this occurs even if a hands free device is used. Results in the paper “Brain activity during driving with distraction: an immersive fMRI study,” published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, were reported on by the CBC and CTV News.

February 2013: Tweet, Screech, Hey!

Image credit: Thinkstock

Human language is a critical aspect of everyday life, but how did it first develop? According to the paper titled “The emergence of hierarchical structure in human language,” published in Frontiers in Psychology, human language may have evolved from the combination of birdsong and non-human primate calls and was featured in Science and Wired.

March 2013: Helping police protect and serve people with mental illness

Image credit: CTV Edmonton

A training program for local police officers on how to use less force in mental health-related callouts was developed by researchers in Canada. The program resulted in a 40% increase in officers’ ability to recognize mental health issues and a decrease in the use of physical force or weapons. “A novel training program for police officers that improves interactions with mentally ill individuals and is cost-effective,” published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, was featured in The GuardianCBC News and CTV News.

April 2013: Bridging the gap 

Image credit: National Institute for Physiological Sciences

Loss of limb control in individuals with spinal cord injury or stroke can be caused by interruption of the neural pathways between the brain and spinal cord. Research in the paper “Restoration of upper limb movement via artificial corticospinal and musculospinal connections in a monkey with spinal cord injury” demonstrated that this break can be bridged by an artificial connection, restoring limb control. MedGadget and Nanowerk covered the development, which was published in Frontiers in Neural Circuits.

May 2013: Monkey maths

Video credit: University of Rochester, New York

Innate mathematical ability isn’t just exclusive to humans. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology showed that non-human primates also possess basic quantitative abilities. The paper titled “Inherently analog quantity representations in olive baboons (Papio anubis)” was covered by Nature World Newsi09 and redOrbit.

June 2013: Online games offer trove of brain data

Image credit: Sternberg et al. / Frontiers in Human Neuroscience [Click to enlarge]

By trawling through data from 35 million users of online ‘brain-training’ tools, researchers conducted a survey of the world’s largest data set of human cognitive performance. NatureScienceNewsArs Technica and Medscape covered the study, titled “The largest human cognitive performance dataset reveals insights into the effects of lifestyle factors and aging,” published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

June 2013: Pick me up! Apes and human babies use similar gestures

Video credit: Slate

How similar are the geatures of chimpanzee, bonobos, and humans? More than you might suspect, according to research published in Frontiers in Psychology. The paper titled “A cross-species study of gesture and its role in symbolic development: implications for the gestural theory of language evolution” reveals how all three species use similar gestures at the beginning of their development, including arm raising to request being picked up. Media pick ups include SlateNBC, The Los Angeles TimesDiscovery News, Der SpiegelSmithsonian,NBC NewsYahoo and the Daily Mail.

July 2013: Syncing the (heart)beat with singing

Image credit: Vickhoff et al. / Frontiers in Psychology

It is already well-known that choir singing is beneficial for health. Now it appears to synchronize your heartbeat as well. “Music structure determines heart rate variability of singers,” published in Frontiers in Psychology, was featured in the BBCNew Scientist,Scientific American, The Guardian, The Times and The Telegraph.

August 2013: Sex, Food And Facebook – Tickling the brain’s pleasure centre

Image credit: Thinkstock

A person’s intensity of Facebook use can be predicted by activity in a reward-related area of the brain, research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found. The related paper “Nucleus accumbens response to gains in reputation for the self relative to gains for others predicts social media use” was picked up by the TIMELos Angeles Times, the Huffington Post and NBC News.

September 2013: The robotic bartender

Video credit: V. Popfinger and F. Dembczyk,

Pint anyone? Researchers studied how certain gestures within a bar can be picked up by a robot automatically. The research paper titled, “Automatic detection of service initiation signals used in bars,” published in Frontiers in Psychology,  is part of an ongoing effort by to train robots to be more socially intelligent, thereby making technology accessible to – and usable by – everyone. Media pick ups include those from Scientific AmericanThe Telegraph and CNN.

September 2013: Why we like sad music

Image credit: Brand X Pictures

No-one likes feeling sad, so why then do we listen to sad music? Because it might actually evoke positive emotions, according to “Sad music induces pleasant emotion,” published in Frontiers in Psychology. The New York Times, the BBC and Popular Science covered the story.

September 2013: That new baby smell

Image credit: Thinkstock

The desire to ‘eat a baby up’ now has some theory behind it. The smell of a baby provides a dose of dopamine and fills women (both mothers and non-mothers) with feelings of positivity and well-being, which acts as a reward for cuddling and snuggling the baby. The study, “Maternal status regulates cortical responses to the body odor of newborns,” was published in Frontiers in Psychology and reported on by TIMEScientific American, NBC, CBS, CBC andBrain Blogger.

October 2013: A (very) early bloomer

Image credit: Hochuli et al. / Frontiers in Plant Science

Flowers: fragrant, beautiful, and possibly millions of years older than we thought.  New data suggests that flowering plants may have appeared on Earth 100 million years earlier than was previously thought, based on evidence from ancient fossilised pollen grains. The paper titled “Angiosperm-like pollen and Afropollis from the Middle Triassic (Anisian) of the Germanic Basin (Northern Switzerland)” was published in Frontiers in Plant Science and covered by the BBCScience, The Independent, Der Spiegel and NBC.

November 2013: The evolutionary powerhouse

Image credit: Madriñán et al. / Frontiers in Genetics

The fastest evolving place on Earth? Researchers surveyed 13 different lineages of plants that grow in the Páramos (found within the northen Andes) to calculate the speed of evolution there. Compared to other evolutionary hotspots such as Hawaii and the Mediterranean coast, they found that the Páramos are evolving the fastest. “Páramo is the world’s fastest evolving and coolest biodiversity hotspot” was featured prominently in The New York Times.

December 2013: Teaching an old wolf new tricks

Image credit: Dr. Friederike Range

Humans may have domesticated dogs from a possibly extinct population of gray wolves in Europe around 18,000 years ago, but how did they do it? According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, wolves already had a strong innate ability to learn from others before humans began the domestication process. The study is detailed in the paper titled “Social learning from humans or conspecifics: differences and similarities between wolves and dogs” and was featured in ScienceThe TimesScientific American, Wired and NBC.