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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Seratonin and the "plague of locusts"?


Some humans must take medicine with seratonin in it every day of their lives to control their mood. New research now shows that another life form on the planet is dramatically affected by the chemical seratonin.

The new research published in this past Friday's edition of the journal "Science" discusses this phenomenon. According to an article in USA Today:

"A chemical that affects people's moods also can transform easygoing desert locusts into terrifying swarms that ravage the countryside, scientists report. "Here we have a solitary and lonely creature, the desert locust. But just give them a little serotonin, and they go and join a gang," observed Malcolm Burrows of the University of Cambridge in England.

The brain chemical serotonin has been linked to mood in people. It plays a role in sexual desire, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, too.

Under certain conditions, locusts triple the amount of serotonin in their systems, changing the insects from loners to pack animals, Burrows and his co-authors report in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

These packs can be devastating. They affect 20% of the Earth's land. Last year a swarm nearly four miles long plagued Australia. They also occur in Africa and Asia and have affected the western U.S.

Serotonin profoundly influences how we humans behave and interact, said co-author Swidbert Ott of Cambridge, "so to find that the same chemical in the brain is what causes a normally shy anti-social insect to gang up in huge groups is amazing."

Researchers led by Michael L. Anstey of Oxford were studying the changes in locust behavior and tested them for a variety of chemicals. The only change they found was that when the insects were swarming, they had about three times more serotonin in their systems than when they were living as solitary creatures.

So the scientists took some solitary locusts and injected serotonin into them. Sure enough they changed in appearance and flocked together.

The Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde transformation took only a few hours.

It turns out that locusts produce more serotonin when circumstances force them together and they are stimulated by the sight, smell and touch of many other locusts. This can happen, for example, when drought reduces their food supply and causes locusts to gather at a few remaining sources of food.

Indeed, the scientists found that tickling the insects' back legs for a couple hours could induce the locusts to make more serotonin.

Once researchers determined that serotonin causes the change, they gave locusts drugs that blocked serotonin and then exposed them to situations that normally cause swarming. But the change didn't occur.

"To actually be able to stop it from happening, that was very exciting," Anstey said.

Now the question is how to target locusts without affecting humans or other animals.


Source:http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2009-01-29-locust-swarm_N.htm

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed



Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia



A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed



Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein



The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi



The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller



Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns



Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama



Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -



Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being



The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.