SciCombinator

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That the speed of light in free space is constant is a cornerstone of modern physics. However, light beams have finite transverse size, which leads to a modification of their wavevectors resulting in a change to their phase and group velocities. We study the group velocity of single photons by measuring a change in their arrival time that results from changing the beam’s transverse spatial structure. Using time-correlated photon pairs we show a reduction of the group velocity of photons in both a Bessel beam and photons in a focused Gaussian beam. In both cases, the delay is several micrometers over a propagation distance of the order of 1 m. Our work highlights that, even in free space, the invariance of the speed of light only applies to plane waves.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Optics, Physics, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Spacetime, Group velocity, Speed of light

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Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA) is a fatal bile duct cancer with dismal prognosis and limited therapeutic options. By performing RNA- and exome-sequencing analyses, we report a novel fusion event, FGFR2-PPHLN1 (16%), and damaging mutations in the ARAF oncogene (11%). Here we demonstrate that the chromosomal translocation t(10;12)(q26;q12) leading to FGFR2-PPHLN1 fusion possesses transforming and oncogenic activity, which is successfully inhibited by a selective FGFR2 inhibitor in vitro. Among the ARAF mutations, N217I and G322S lead to activation of the pathway and N217I shows oncogenic potential in vitro. Screening of a cohort of 107 iCCA patients reveals that FGFR2 fusions represent the most recurrent targetable alteration (45%, 17/107), while they are rarely present in other primary liver tumours (0/100 of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); 1/21 of mixed iCCA-HCC). Taken together, around 70% of iCCA patients harbour at least one actionable molecular alteration (FGFR2 fusions, IDH1/2, ARAF, KRAS, BRAF and FGF19) that is amenable for therapeutic targeting.

Concepts: Genetics, Cancer, Liver, Cytogenetics, Hepatology, Carcinoma, Bile duct, Cholangiocarcinoma

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Canavan’s disease (CD) is a fatal autosomal recessive pediatric leukodystrophy in which patients show severe neurodegeneration and typically die by the age of 10, though life expectancy in patients can be highly variable. Currently, there is no effective treatment for CD; however, gene therapy seems to be a feasible approach to combat the disease. Being a monogenic defect, the disease provides an excellent model system to develop gene therapy approaches that can be extended to other monogenic leukodystrophies and neurodegenerative diseases. CD results from mutations in a single gene aspartoacylase which hydrolyses N-acetyl aspartic acid (NAA) which accumulates in its absences. Since CD is one of the few diseases that show high NAA levels, it can also be used to study the enigmatic biological role of NAA. The disease was first described in 1931, and this review traces the progress made in the past 8 decades to understand the disease by enumerating current hypotheses and ongoing palliative measures to alleviate patient symptoms in the context of the latest advances in the field.

Concepts: Medicine, Genetic disorder, Neurodegeneration, Neurodegenerative disorders, Myelin, Neurodegenerative diseases, Canavan disease, The Myelin Project

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Knowledge of cognitive and neural architecture and processes that control eye movements has advanced enough to allow precise and quantitative analysis of hitherto unsolved phenomena. In this review, we revisit from a neuropsychological viewpoint Hering vs. Helmholtz' hypotheses on binocular coordination. Specifically, we reexamine the behavior and the neural bases of saccade-vergence movement, to move the gaze in both direction and depth under natural conditions. From the psychophysical viewpoint, neo-Heringian and neo-Helmholtzian authors have accumulated arguments favoring distinct conjugate (for saccades) and disconjugate (for vergence) systems, as well as advocating for monocularly programmed eye movements. From the neurophysiological viewpoint, which reports brain cell recordings during the execution of a given task, neo-Heringian and neo-Helmholtzian physiologists have also provided arguments in favor of both hypotheses at the level of the brainstem premotor circuitry. Bridging the two, we propose that Hering and Helmholtz were both right. The emphasis placed by the latter on adaptive processes throughout life cycle is compatible with the importance of neurobiological constraints pointed out by the former. In the meanwhile, the study of saccade-vergence eye movements recalls how much the psychophysical definition of the task determines the interpretation that is made from neurophysiological data.

Concepts: Nervous system, Psychology, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Retina, Eye, Visual perception

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Sleep consolidates memory and promotes generalization in adults, but it is still unknown to what extent the rapidly growing infant memory benefits from sleep. Here we show that during sleep the infant brain reorganizes recent memories and creates semantic knowledge from individual episodic experiences. Infants aged between 9 and 16 months were given the opportunity to encode both objects as specific word meanings and categories as general word meanings. Event-related potentials indicate that, initially, infants acquire only the specific but not the general word meanings. About 1.5 h later, infants who napped during the retention period, but not infants who stayed awake, remember the specific word meanings and, moreover, successfully generalize words to novel category exemplars. Independently of age, the semantic generalization effect is correlated with sleep spindle activity during the nap, suggesting that sleep spindles are involved in infant sleep-dependent brain plasticity.

Concepts: Sleep, Neuroscience, Memory, Hippocampus, Electroencephalography, Word, Semantic memory, Sleep spindle

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Large-scale data sets of human behavior have the potential to fundamentally transform the way we fight diseases, design cities, or perform research. Metadata, however, contain sensitive information. Understanding the privacy of these data sets is key to their broad use and, ultimately, their impact. We study 3 months of credit card records for 1.1 million people and show that four spatiotemporal points are enough to uniquely reidentify 90% of individuals. We show that knowing the price of a transaction increases the risk of reidentification by 22%, on average. Finally, we show that even data sets that provide coarse information at any or all of the dimensions provide little anonymity and that women are more reidentifiable than men in credit card metadata.

Concepts: Psychology, Information, Behavior, Human behavior, Identification, Shopping mall, Credit history, Fair Credit Reporting Act

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The distinctly human ability for forceful precision and power “squeeze” gripping is linked to two key evolutionary transitions in hand use: a reduction in arboreal climbing and the manufacture and use of tools. However, it is unclear when these locomotory and manipulative transitions occurred. Here we show that Australopithecus africanus (~3 to 2 million years ago) and several Pleistocene hominins, traditionally considered not to have engaged in habitual tool manufacture, have a human-like trabecular bone pattern in the metacarpals consistent with forceful opposition of the thumb and fingers typically adopted during tool use. These results support archaeological evidence for stone tool use in australopiths and provide morphological evidence that Pliocene hominins achieved human-like hand postures much earlier and more frequently than previously considered.

Concepts: Human, Evolution, Human evolution, Archaeology, Tool, Australopithecus, Australopithecus africanus, Raymond Dart

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Hundreds of papyrus rolls, buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and belonging to the only library passed on from Antiquity, were discovered 260 years ago at Herculaneum. These carbonized papyri are extremely fragile and are inevitably damaged or destroyed in the process of trying to open them to read their contents. In recent years, new imaging techniques have been developed to read the texts without unwrapping the rolls. Until now, specialists have been unable to view the carbon-based ink of these papyri, even when they could penetrate the different layers of their spiral structure. Here for the first time, we show that X-ray phase-contrast tomography can reveal various letters hidden inside the precious papyri without unrolling them. This attempt opens up new opportunities to read many Herculaneum papyri, which are still rolled up, thus enhancing our knowledge of ancient Greek literature and philosophy.

Concepts: Medical imaging, Greek language, Pompeii, Ancient Rome, Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum, 79

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A key event in human evolution is the expansion of modern humans of African origin across Eurasia between 60 and 40 thousand years (kyr) before present (bp), replacing all other forms of hominins. Owing to the scarcity of human fossils from this period, these ancestors of all present-day non-African modern populations remain largely enigmatic. Here we describe a partial calvaria, recently discovered at Manot Cave (Western Galilee, Israel) and dated to 54.7 ± 5.5 kyr bp (arithmetic mean ± 2 standard deviations) by uranium-thorium dating, that sheds light on this crucial event. The overall shape and discrete morphological features of the Manot 1 calvaria demonstrate that this partial skull is unequivocally modern. It is similar in shape to recent African skulls as well as to European skulls from the Upper Palaeolithic period, but different from most other early anatomically modern humans in the Levant. This suggests that the Manot people could be closely related to the first modern humans who later successfully colonized Europe. Thus, the anatomical features used to support the ‘assimilation model’ in Europe might not have been inherited from European Neanderthals, but rather from earlier Levantine populations. Moreover, at present, Manot 1 is the only modern human specimen to provide evidence that during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic interface, both modern humans and Neanderthals contemporaneously inhabited the southern Levant, close in time to the likely interbreeding event with Neanderthals.

Concepts: Human, Hominidae, Chimpanzee, Neanderthal, Human evolution, Pleistocene, Prehistory, Archaic Homo sapiens