Live-in grandparents helped human ancestors get a safer night’s sleep. Duke Today, July 12, 2017. A sound night’s sleep grows more elusive as people get older. But what some call insomnia may actually be an age-old survival mechanism, researchers report. A study of modern hunter-gatherers in Tanzania finds that, for people who live in groups, differences in sleep patterns commonly associated with age help ensure that at least one person is awake at all times. Picked up by The New York Times, CBS News, New Scientist, Discover Magazine, Science, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Cosmos, The Guardian, BBC News, Mental Floss, Popular Science, Reader’s Digest, USA Today and The Telegraph.
Jumping genes suspected in Alzheimer’s. Duke Today, Mar. 8, 2017. A string of failed drug trials for Alzheimer’s has researchers questioning the reigning approach to battling the disease, which focuses on preventing amyloid buildup in the brain. Duke scientists have identified a molecular mechanism that could help explain how neurons begin to falter even before amyloid clumps appear. The culprit, they say, may be “jumping genes” that lose their normal controls with age and start to disrupt the machinery that fuels brain cells. Picked up by STAT and Science News.
As life expectancy grows, men still lagging. Duke Today, Nov. 21, 2016. Babies born in the longest-lived countries today can expect to live, on average, at least to their 80th birthday, and some will even manage to pass 100. But despite big gains in life expectancy males still lag behind females, and not just in humans but across the primate family tree. Picked up by Fox News, Huffington Post, Vocativ, U.S. News & World Report, the Daily Mail and Voice of America.
Rough childhoods have ripple effects for wild baboons. Duke Today, April 19, 2016. Numerous studies show that childhood trauma can have far-reaching effects on adult health; new research finds the same is true for wild baboons. Baboons that experience multiple misfortunes in early life grow up to live shorter adult lives, researchers report. The results show that early adversity can have long-term negative effects even in the absence of factors commonly evoked to explain similar patterns in humans, such as smoking, drinking or medical care. Picked up by New York Magazine, Pacific Standard, Washington Post, CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks, and Smithsonian Magazine.
Being born in lean times is bad news for baboons. Duke Today, April 2, 2015. The saying ”what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” may not hold up to scientific scrutiny. Baboons born in times of famine are more vulnerable to food shortages later in life, finds a new study. The findings are important because they help explain why people who are malnourished in early childhood often experience poor health as adults.
Clues to aging from long-lived lemurs. Duke Today, March 30, 2015. Researchers combed through more than 50 years of medical records on hundreds of lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center for clues to their longevity. They found that how long these primates live and how fast they age correlates with the amount of time they spend in a state of suspended animation known as torpor. The research may eventually help scientists identify “anti-aging” genes in humans. Picked up by Discovery News, BBC Radio, NPR affiliate WUNC and the News & Observer.
Lady baboons with guy pals live longer. Duke Today, September 10, 2014. Numerous studies have linked social interaction to improved health and survival in humans, and new research confirms that the same is true for baboons. A long-term study of more than 200 wild female baboons finds that the most sociable females live two to three years longer than their socially isolated counterparts. Socializing with males gave females an even bigger longevity boost than socializing with other females, the researchers found. Picked up by the Daily Mail.
Nearly 50 years of lemur data now available online. Duke Lemur Center, July 24, 2014. A 48-year archive of life history data for the world’s largest and most diverse collection of endangered primates is now digital and available online. The Duke Lemur Center database allows visitors to view and download data for more than 3600 animals representing 27 species of lemurs, lorises and galagos — distant primate cousins who predate monkeys and apes — with more data to be uploaded in the future. Picked up by io9 and BBC News.
Lemurs’ neck bling tracks siestas, insomnia. Duke Research Blog, November 5, 2013. The fancy neck charm this lemur is wearing is no fashion accessory. Weighing in at just under an ounce, it’s a battery-powered data logger that measures light exposure and activity levels continuously over many days. Researchers outfitted twenty lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center with the special gadgets to study the animals’ daily ups and downs. The results could help researchers understand the sleep disturbances common among people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and whether light therapy could help reset their internal clock for a more solid night’s sleep.
Hot flashes? Thank evolution. Duke Today, July 29, 2013. A study of mortality and fertility patterns among seven species of wild apes and monkeys and their relatives, compared with similar data from hunter-gatherer humans, shows that menopause sets humans apart from other primates. Picked up by Science News.
The safer sex? For a little-known primate, a new understanding of why females outlive males. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. February 28, 2013. After observing an endangered lemur for more than two decades in the wild in Madagascar, Patricia Wright of Stony Brook University had a hunch that females were living longer than males. What could explain the gender gap? By taking a closer look at dispersal behavior across the lifespan, researchers think they have a clue. Picked up by Futurity.