Science Bites: June 17th

Science Bites: June 17th

Neural networks: efficient and adaptable

new study suggests that the network of neurons found in the human brain may be organized in a hierarchical structure to reduce energy costs associated with building and maintaining connections. Researchers say these findings may increase understanding of the evolution of animal intelligence, including human intelligence, and improve attempts to create artificial intelligence.

In France, scientists investigated the diversity and adaptability of primate behavior. According to their research, the primate brain contains a special kind of neural network that is “pre-adapted” to anticipate new situations. This neural network allows primates to learn a variety of new behaviors that could not have been directly anticipated by evolution.

Linking income with cognitive development

An estimated 32.9% of 3- and 4-year-old children living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) scored poorly on either their cognitive or socioemotional development, according to a recent study by scientists from Harvard University. The data, collected between 2005 and 2015 from caregivers of 99,222 children living in 35 LMICs, show that these developmental deficits are most common in the poorest countries of the world.

Tooth fossils reveal migration paths

Scientists analyzed oxygen isotopes in fossil teeth from red deer near the Adriatic Sea to identify their seasonal migration patterns. The new study demonstrates that these migratory patterns may have influenced the movements of the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers that consumed the red deer 12,000-8,000 years ago.

Modeling metastasis

At the University of Iceland, scientists used a mathematical model to study the role of metabolism and signaling in cancer metastasis of breast epithelial cells. This research provides support for the development of cell-specific, anti-cancer treatments.

Image Credit: Dual_Neuron by Scott Ingram via Flickr


Tessa is the Journal Media Manager at PLOS. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in Rhetoric and Music. She can be reached by email at and on Twitter at @tessagregs.

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