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February 14, 2020

Long weekend reads: The body positivity movement is embracing … your pet dog?

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    Ben Palmer's reads

    People born blind don't get schizophrenia for some reason. For the last 60 or so years, scientists have been tracking—and trying to crack—a puzzling mystery: Why are people who are born blind seemingly protected from developing schizophrenia? A 2018 study affirmed the association, looking at almost half a million children born between 1980 and 2001 and finding that, of the 66 children born with cortical blindness, none developed schizophrenia or any psychotic illness. But scientists have yet to determine exactly why this association exists. However, Tom Pollak, a psychiatrist and researcher at King's College London, and Phil Corlett, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at Yale University, last year published their theory on the phenomenon in Schizophrenia Bulletin. According to their theory, the brain doesn't perceive the world around us in real time but rather creates a model of what exists, predicts and simulates what will happen, and then compares those predictions to what actually happens. Vision is a key player in this process, as it provides our brains with a large amount of information about the world. So, on one hand, if someone has an issue seeing the world correctly, the brain has to make more predictions; but, on the other hand, if someone has never been able to see anything, then the brain would never create false representations of the world, which could create issues in thinking later in life. This theory, they argue, could also help explain why people with schizophrenia often have vision and sensory problems early in life.

    Don't take too much vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for the health of your nerves and blood cells, but having too much vitamin B12 in your blood could be deadly, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open. For the study, researchers measured the vitamin B12 levels of 5,571 otherwise healthy men and women who were an average age of 54. At the time of the study, none were taking supplements. After following them for an average of eight years, the researchers found that those in the highest 25% of B12 levels had death rates nearly double those in the lowest 25%. Stephan Bakker, a professor of internal medicine at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands and senior author of the study, said researchers are unclear why the correlation exists and cautioned that the findings were "only an association" and did not prove "a cause-and-effect relationship."

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    A body positivity movement for dogs? Sean Flannery and his family love their 28-pound dog Fox. Fox is a fluffier breed of dog, but he's also "100% overweight," Flannery said. "When you pick him up, it feels like someone has thrown a boulder into your hands." But Flannery and his kids don't mind. They've even come up with an endearing new name for the dog: "Thicc"—and Flannery isn't the only person who thinks a "well-fed dog is a happy dog," Lauren Vinopal writes for Mel Magazine. Now, as people leave our weight-obsessed culture behind, a similar movement for dogs is on the rise. According to Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian and consultant for, the new movement comes from "people thinking fat animals are cute, or that food and treats are a good way to show your dog that you love them." Now, overweight pets are being embraced at the National Dog Show and modeling competitions for plus-sized pets. But some people are claiming that encouraging dogs to be fat is actually bad for their health. "Overweight dogs are more prone to arthritis and heart problems," Ochoa said. But according to Vinopal, the movement is not just about loving dogs' extra pounds, it's "another excuse to treat dogs like people," especially as more millennials choose pets over having children.

    This dinosaur suffered from a rare disease that affects children today. Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) recently discovered the fossil of a 66 million-year-old duck-billed dinosaur that was afflicted with a rare disease. The researchers used CT scans to compare the vertebrae with skeletons of two humans, and found that the marks left on the bone were similar to marks left behind by a benign tumor called LCH, a rare and painful disease that mostly affects children between the ages of two and 10. The researchers who made the discovery said the findings can help them study the development and behavior of the disease over time. According to Hila May, head of the Biohistory and Evolutionary Medicine Laboratory at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine,  "When we know that a disease is independent of species or time, it means the mechanism that encourages its development is not specific to human behavior and environment, rather [it's] a basic problem in an organism's physiology."

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