This swallowing detector tracks everything that goes down your throat.

By Seriously Science | October 20, 2014 6:00 am

“The AID-HMS determines the levels of ingestion activity from sounds captured by an external throat microphone.”

Even though the obesity epidemic is getting out of control, dietary research still heavily relies on self-reported survey data, which is often incorrect. One option to get around this is to have people eat in a lab, but that would likely interfere with their natural eating habits and produce worthless data. So, as another option, these researchers have developed the “Automated Ingestion Detection” (AID) technology to track what patients are eating. It works by wearing a microphone around your neck that records swallowing sounds, which doctors then use to record how much is going down your gullet. Although the authors only discuss how this would be used for dietary research, there are other, uh… “more adult” questions that could be readily answered by this handy device.

Automated ingestion detection for a health monitoring system.

“Obesity is a global epidemic that imposes a financial burden and increased risk for a myriad of chronic diseases. Presented here is an overview of a prototype automated ingestion detection (AID) process implemented in a health monitoring system (HMS). Read More


Flashback Friday: Sorry, no matter how long you soak your feet in vodka, you will never get drunk.

By Seriously Science | October 17, 2014 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/ hildgrim

Apparently, it’s “common knowledge” in Denmark that you can get drunk by soaking your feet in vodka. But is this true, or is this just another stupid urban legend? Well, for the good of humanity, these three doctors did the experiment to find out — on themselves. While soaking their feet in two liters of vodka, they measured their blood alcohol levels and checked for drunken behaviors every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, to the despair of everyone everywhere, the doctors were not able to detect any absorption of alcohol through their feet. However, no doubt they went home with some pretty awesome foot-infused vodka. Yum!

Testing the validity of the Danish urban myth that alcohol can be absorbed through feet: open labelled self experimental study.

“Objective: To determine the validity of the Danish urban myth that it is possible to get drunk by submerging feet in alcohol… The primary end point was the concentration of plasma ethanol (detection limit 2.2 mmol/L (10 mg/100 mL)), measured every 30 minutes for three hours while feet were submerged in a washing-up bowl containing the contents of three 700 mL bottles of vodka. The secondary outcome was self assessment of intoxication related symptoms (self confidence, urge to speak, and number of spontaneous hugs), scored on a scale of 0 to 10. Plasma ethanol concentrations were below the detection limit of 2.2 mmol/L (10 mg/100 mL) throughout the experiment. No significant changes were observed in the intoxication related symptoms, although self confidence and urge to speak increased slightly at the start of the study, probably due to the setup. Our results suggest that feet are impenetrable to the alcohol component of vodka. We therefore conclude that the Danish urban myth of being able to get drunk by submerging feet in alcoholic beverages is just that; a myth. The implications of the study are many though.”

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Spring break: Prairie vole edition!
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: I swear I haven’t been drinking, Officer. It was my gut flora!
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Binge drinking: also a problem for our teenage rats.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethanol, told you so

Why do wet things feel wet?

By Seriously Science | October 16, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/martinak15

Photo: Flickr/martinak15

At first glance, this may seem like a completely moronic question. I mean, wet stuff feels wet because… well, it’s wet. Duh! But when you stop to think more deeply about it it, it quickly becomes a very profound question. That’s because, unlike heat or touch, we don’t have any sensors in our skin capable of directly detecting wetness. Therefore, scientists believe that we rely on other senses, like temperature or touch, to indirectly sense when something is wet. To test this idea, scientists wet subjects’ forearms while interfering with their senses of touch and temperature. Without being able to see their arms, the participants rated how wet they thought they were. In the end, interfering with their senses of touch and temperature did reduce the participants’ ability to sense wetness, providing support for the hypothesis. Taking a bath will never feel quite the same again…

Why wet feels wet? A neurophysiological model of human cutaneous wetness sensitivity.

“Although the ability to sense skin wetness and humidity is critical for behavioral and autonomic adaptations, humans are not provided with specific skin receptors for sensing wetness. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, rated G

Study finds men are more likely to think a woman’s a floozy if she’s just sitting next to a beer.

By Seriously Science | October 15, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/Ninha Morandini

Photo: Flickr/Ninha Morandini

Previous studies (not to mention our own experiences) have shown that men think drunk women want to get laid. But how much of that is drunk behavior, and how much is simply the presence of alcohol? To answer this question, scientists had participants watch one of two silent sixty-second movies of a man and woman interacting. In one version, the woman had a bottle of beer next to her, and in the other version, a bottle of water, neither of which she drank. The 69 male and 78 female participants were then asked to rate the couple on a number of different criteria. The results showed that men rated the actress as more flirtatious, promiscuous, and seductive when she was sitting next to the beer. This bias was much more pronounced in men than women, implying that it isn’t simply due to broad social stereotypes — although those probably don’t help either.

The effect of gender and alcohol placement in the processing of sexual intent.

“INTRODUCTION AND AIMS: Alcohol consumption in women is known to be perceived by men as signalling sexual intent. However, it is unclear whether such assumptions extend to the simple presence of alcohol. The present study investigated the association between gender and alcohol placement on processing of sexual intent. Read More


According to science, there’s no such thing as comfort food.

By Seriously Science | October 14, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/dixiebellecupcakecafe

Photo: flickr/dixiebellecupcakecafe

Heartbroken women in rom-coms, put down your pints of Ben and Jerry’s — turns out that, according to this study, comfort food is an illusion. To test this, the researchers had subjects watch sad movies and let them eat either a comfort food, an “equally liked noncomfort food,” a neutral food, or no food and then measured how their moods changed. They found that comfort foods did improve the subjects’ mood, but no more than other foods or no food. The scientists suggest that comfort foods are being credited for changes in mood that would have happened even without the food. So the next time you have a bad day, try waiting it out instead of reaching for a giant bowl of mac and cheese; you might feel just as good, without all those extra calories. And be sure to let us know how (and if) it works out!

The Myth of Comfort Food

“Objective: People seek out their own idiosyncratic comfort foods when in negative moods, and they believe that these foods rapidly improve their mood. The purpose of these studies is to investigate whether comfort foods actually provide psychological benefits, and if so, whether they improve mood better than comparison foods or no food. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, feelings shmeelings

The rival wears Prada: luxury consumption as a female competition strategy.

By Seriously Science | October 13, 2014 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/mell242

Have you been coveting the latest Manolo Blahnik heels or Prada bag? If so, have you ever stopped to think about why? Well, according to this study, it might be related to competition with other women. Here, the researchers had women read different scenarios related or not related to mate competition (see below) and then later asked how interested they were in buying different luxury products (a designer dress or a smartphone). The women who read the scenarios related to competition with other women for a man were more likely to be interested in the designer dress. Not only that, but in a second experiment, the scientists found that women who wear designer clothes/shoes/etc. were perceived as “more attractive, flirty, young, ambitious, sexy, and less loyal, mature and smart” by other women. Pretty much sums up Sex and the City… amirite?

The rival wears Prada: Luxury consumption as a female competition strategy.

“Previous studies on luxury consumption demonstrated that men spend large sums of money on luxury brands to signal their mate value to women and, thus, increase their reproductive success. Although women also spend copious amounts of money on luxuries, research focusing on women’s motives for luxury consumption is rather scarce.

Relying on costly signaling and intrasexual competition theory, the goal of the current study was to test whether female intrasexual competition in a mate attraction context triggers women’s spending on luxuries. Read More

Flashback Friday: How touching gets people to do your bidding.

By Seriously Science | October 10, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/rabiem22

Photo: Flickr/rabiem22

When it comes to getting people to help, it may seem like some people just have the magic touch and others don’t. But if you are one of those poor souls who end up with the brunt of any “shared” task, take heart! According to this study, there is a really simple thing you can do to get people to help you: touch them! That’s right — people were much more likely to help a stranger with a unpleasant task (taking care of a large excited dog) when they were touched while being asked to help. So go out and touch someone… and get the help you deserve!

An evaluation of touch on a large request: a field setting.

“The effect of touch on compliance to a request has traditionally been tested with small solicitation (answer to a small questionnaire, give a dime to a confederate ….). In our experiment a larger request was evaluated. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: domo arigato, rated G

Retention of memory through metamorphosis: can a moth remember what it learned as a caterpillar?

By Seriously Science | October 9, 2014 11:07 am
Photo: Flickr/Sam Fraser-Smith

Photo: Flickr/Sam Fraser-Smith

The metamorphosis of caterpillars into moths or butterflies is a crazy thing. Not only do these animals acquire new body parts (Why, hello wings!), but other body parts undergo radical changes or disassemble altogether. In this study, scientists tested whether memories made by caterpillars are retained in adult moths despite all of these massive changes. To do this, they trained caterpillars of various “ages” (developmental stages called instars) to avoid specific odors, and then tested whether they remembered their lessons after turning into moths. Turns out that when trained late in caterpillar-hood, the adult moths retained the memories, but individuals trained while younger did not. This implies that there is some mental development that happens late in caterpillar development that is retained through metamorphosis. However, the structure or organization that is responsible for these retained memories remains a mystery.

Retention of memory through metamorphosis: can a moth remember what it learned as a caterpillar?

“Insects that undergo complete metamorphosis experience enormous changes in both morphology and lifestyle. The current study examines whether larval experience can persist through pupation into adulthood in Lepidoptera, and assesses two possible mechanisms that could underlie such behavior: exposure of emerging adults to chemicals from the larval environment, or associative learning transferred to adulthood via maintenance of intact synaptic connections. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

The hidden dangers of dog parks.

By Seriously Science | October 8, 2014 11:00 am
Photo: flickr/_tar0_

Photo: flickr/_tar0_

Dog parks may seem like harmless places for dogs to mingle and smell each others’ butts. But lurking in that poopy grass is a hidden menace: intestinal parasites. According to this study, dogs who visited dog parks were slightly more likely than other dogs to have Giardia or Cryptosporidium, two common animal parasites that are spread through poop. However, don’t completely freak out just yet; by doing tests like the “fecal flotation” assay, the scientists determined that dogs that visit dog parks are no more likely to have unpleasant symptoms of these dreaded diseases. But for the love of dogs everywhere, if your little Fifi has diarrhea, please don’t take him to the dog park to infect everyone else. Thanks. Love, Fido.

Prevalence of Giardia and Cryptosporidium species in dog park attending dogs compared to non-dog park attending dogs in one region of Colorado.

“Dog parks are very popular in urban areas, but there are no current studies attempting to correlate visits to dog parks and risk of colonization by enteric parasites. The purpose of this study was to determine whether dog park visitation is associated with an increased prevalence of enteric parasites or an increase in prevalence of gastrointestinal signs in dogs in northern Colorado. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, ha ha poop

Seizures induced by multiplication but not addition.

By Seriously Science | October 7, 2014 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Takashi Hososhima

Image: Flickr/Takashi Hososhima

This is an old case study from 1982 that isn’t haha funny, but sure is interesting. It’s about a patient who had seizures when doing mental arithmetic. The really weird part is that the medical staff were able to detect abnormal brain activity when the patient was doing multiplication and division; however, addition and subtraction seemed to cause no problems. Even if this doesn’t really add up (groan!), I guess it just goes to show how amazingly complex our brains really are!

Seizures induced by thinking.

“A patient with generalized convulsions noted that seizures were reliably precipitated by mental arithmetic. The interictal electroencephalogram revealed only a mild, diffuse, nonspecific disturbance, but bursts of generalized epileptiform activity with no obvious clinical expression accompanied efforts at mental arithmetic with a significantly high incidence. Read More


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Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]

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