This Week in Health: Why do men even exist?
Location of study: U.K.
Study subjects: Beetles
Results: Nearly all multicellular species use sex to reproduce, but the reason behind this isn't fully understood (especially since reproduction seems way more efficient among asexual, all-female populations in other species). "[Sex] carries big burdens, the most obvious of which is that only half of your offspring—daughters—will actually produce offspring,” lead researcher Matt Gage said in a press release put out by the University of East Anglia." In a recent study, researchers found that giving female beetles the opportunity to choose who they mate with actually resulted in genetic benefits for the whole.
Significance: From an evolutionary standpoint, the findings shed a little light on the purpose of sex. When males compete for the attention of a female—and ultimately get it—it seems to filter out undesirable genetics. More specifically, female beetles naturally rejected males who were genetic duds. The final outcome was a stronger population overall.
Location of study: U.S.
Study subjects: Mice
Results: Neurobiologists have long known that the adult brain is less able to establish new connections the way young brains do. During critical points of brain development in kids, new synapses and neural pathways come to life at rapid speed. But as far as the adult brain goes, jumpstarting new connections isn’t so easy. A new experiment out of UC Irvine was able to successfully reactivate plasticity in the adult brain. The result? New and significant neural pathways that weren’t there before.
Significance: The research all comes back to a neurotransmitter called GABA, whichplays a critical role in cortical functions like motor control and vision, researchers say. For the experiment, scientists transplanted an embryonic neuron that expresses GABA into the adult brain. This resulted in a period of elevated plasticity, which ultimately rewired the brain to experience old processes as new ones. The findings have fascinating implications as far as developmental brain disorders go. Could GABA cell transplantation pave the way for new autism and schizophrenia therapies?
Location of study: U.S.
Results: Can a couple of cups of coffee a day put a stop to erectile dysfunction? In a recent study, men who drank between 85 and 170 milligrams of daily caffeine were 42 percent less likely to suffer from ED. Similarly, guys who consumed 171 to 303 milligrams a day reduced their odds by 39 percent. What’s more is that these results held true even among men who were overweight or obese. The same goes for hypertensive men. Men with diabetes were the only ones who didn't experience the perk.
Significance: While the findings are not able to prove cause and effect at this point, they do raise some valid questions. For starters, how does coffee protect against ED? It appears that caffeine may ultimately improve blood flow in the penis by relaxing key muscles and arteries. This, in turn, works against impotence.
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