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June 30, 2017

Weekend reads: How do sleeping commuters wake up just in time for their stop?

Daily Briefing

Ben Palmer's reads

The latest, greatest heart attack treatment? Pond scum. Researchers have discovered a potential new treatment for heart attack patients: pond scum. Traditionally, providers have treated heart attack patient by restoring blood flow, and thus oxygen, to the damaged heart via blood thinners, stents, and other procedures. However, researchers in a new study tried a new approach: injecting rats with a type of cyanobacteria, a blue-green algae that blossoms on the surface of still waters and produces oxygen via photosynthesis. The researchers found that, when the rats' hearts were then exposed to light (thus triggering the photosynthesis process), they had more oxygen in their blood and better overall heart function. The benefits lasted for at least four weeks, even though the bacteria dissolved after 24 hours. The researchers said while the findings are preliminary, an improvement of similar magnitude among humans would mean "the difference between a healthy patient and one suffering from heart failure."

Got pimples? You might get better grades—and earn more money. Having acne in middle and high school is associated with an overall higher grade point average in high school and a greater likelihood of completing a college degree, according to a new study from researchers at Emory University. Moreover, the researchers found that for women, adolescent acne was associated with higher personal labor market earnings. "Knowledge of these associations may provide consolation and hope to teenagers suffering from acne," the researchers concluded.

Rachel Schulze's reads

To find the culprit behind a case of food poisoning, try this. People experiencing symptoms of food poisoning often think the offending dish was the last thing they ate, but in fact, it's more likely "the thing before the last thing they ate," according to Deborah Fisher, a gastroenterologist and associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine. According to the New York Times' Kate Murphy, a full meal's worth of food travels through the stomach about four to six hours, and then spends about six to eight hours in the small intestine before arriving in the colon, where it stays for one to three days before leaving the body. So if you throw up without other food poisoning symptoms—diarrhea or cramping—that likely means the culprit was a meal consumed within the last four to six hours, Murphy writes. But if you experience the full slate of symptoms—vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping—it's more likely the offending meal was consumed between 18 and 48 hours prior, depending on how quickly you digest food. 

Ever wonder how sleeping commuters wake just in time for their stop? There's little formal research into how public transit commuters who like to nap seem to magically wake up in time for their stop, but medical experts have a few theories, Stephanie Bucklin writes for New York Magazine's "Science of Us." One theory, according to primary care physician Marc Leavey, is that the body gets into a commuting routine that cues the passenger to wake at the same time every day—precisely when he or she reaches the right stop. Another possible factor is the body's ability to respond to oral cues even while asleep, meaning the napping passenger might hear and react to the train conductor's announcements, Leavey said. And a third possibility, according to Ronald Chervin, a neurologist and director of Michigan Medicine's Sleep Disorders Center, is that passengers might not be sleeping the whole time—they might be waking and drifting back to sleep without remembering doing so, but rousing themselves entirely when they reach their stop.

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