News in brief: Body & Brain

Baby's first bites make a big impression, plus more in this week's news

Deep brain stimulation progress
WASHINGTON — Electrodes implanted deep into the brains of people suffering from severe depression improved symptoms for up to six years, researchers reported February 18 at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Three to six years after neurosurgeons implanted electrodes in their brains, most patients still showed gains: fewer signs of depression, better physical health and the ability to hold down jobs. No late-developing side effects were evident from the procedure, though two of the subjects committed suicide during depressive episodes, reported neuroscientist Helen Mayberg of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. The implants are used to help people who have depression who have not responded to other treatments. —Laura Sanders

First foods become favorites
WASHINGTON — Taste preferences can be set very early in life, new studies reveal. Babies whose mothers fed them salty foods between 2 and 6 months old had a stronger preference for salt at 6 months than did babies who hadn’t eaten salty stuff, Gary Beauchamp of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia reported February 19 at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He and his colleagues previously found that mothers who drank carrot juice during the last trimester of pregnancy had babies who liked the juice at 6 months old. —Tina Hesman Saey

European biomedical journals gain impact
U.S. journals in a broad range of fields have long exhibited global supremacy in what’s termed impact — the frequency with which their papers are cited by other peer-reviewed publications. In the February PLoS One, researchers now report that impact factors for European publications grew faster over the past decade than their U.S. counterparts in two biological and two medical fields. U.S. publications still dominate in all four studied fields (biology, cell biology, infectious diseases and critical care), but by a far smaller margin — except in biology, where the impact of U.S. papers actually pulled ahead of those from European journals. —Janet Raloff

Memory tagging
Brain cells tag memories early using chemical marks on proteins associated with DNA, researchers at the University of Bordeaux in France say. The team examined two areas of the brain involved in remembering smells to learn how rats form memories of odors for foods that are safe to eat. One of the earliest steps in the process of forming a long-term memory involves chemically tagging, or acetylating, a protein called histone H3, the researchers report in the Feb. 18 Science. The chemical tag marks brain cells associated with the memory in parts of the brain where the memory will be stored. —Tina Hesman Saey 

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