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Science Ticker

Children with autism excel at motion detection test

movement test example

Children with autism were better able to tell whether fish (white dots with arrows) were swimming toward the red or green reef, a game that tested the ability to integrate different trajectories.

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On a test of visual perception, children with autism perceive moving dots with more clarity than children without the disorder. The results, published in the May 6 Journal of Neuroscience, reveal a way in which children with autism see the world differently.

When asked to determine the overall direction of a mess of dots moving in slightly different directions, children with autism outperformed children without the disorder. Other tests of motion detection didn’t turn up any differences. The results suggest that children with autism may be taking in and combining more motion information than children without autism, says study coauthor Catherine Manning of the University of Oxford. This heightened ability may contribute to feelings of sensory overload, the researchers suggest. 

Animals,, Physiology

Stretchy nerves help some big whales open wide

By Ashley Yeager 2:44pm, May 4, 2015
Blue whales and their closest relatives have stretchy nerves near their mouths so they can open wide and swallow a lot of prey.

Beetle’s toxic, explosive vapor explained

By Beth Mole 6:10pm, April 30, 2015
From a two-chambered gland in their rears, bombardier beetles unleash a toxic, blazing hot spray to defend themselves.
Planetary Science

MESSENGER mission ends with crash landing on Mercury

By Christopher Crockett 3:44pm, April 30, 2015
The MESSENGER mission to Mercury came to a spectacular end as the probe crashed into the planet’s surface.
Animals,, Conservation

Climate change revs up extinction risks

By Beth Mole 2:00pm, April 30, 2015
One in six species on the planet may face extinction if the global temperatures continue to rise.

Rock-wielding monkeys make adjustments when cracking nuts

By Bruce Bower 12:00pm, April 30, 2015
Videos show that monkeys carefully pound open nuts to avoid smashing kernels inside.
Planetary Science

Pluto’s landscapes come into view as New Horizons closes in

By Christopher Crockett 6:28pm, April 29, 2015
The New Horizons spacecraft sees surface markings and a possible polar cap on Pluto as it closes in for a July encounter.
Animals,, Paleontology,, Evolution

Rare fossils expand evolutionary history of sperm whales

By Helen Thompson 4:14pm, April 29, 2015
A pygmy fossil unearthed in Panama reveals that the organ the whales use to produce sound and echolocate shrunk over time.
Animals,, Genetics

Woolly mammoth DNA shows toll of low diversity

By Helen Thompson 1:39pm, April 27, 2015
A new sequencing analysis of two woolly mammoth genomes reveals evidence of genetic decline due to isolation and inbreeding just prior to extinction.

City- and country-dwelling microbes aren’t so different

By Bethany Brookshire 3:29pm, April 24, 2015
A new study reveals the microbial communities in our nation’s dust.

To reduce stress and anxiety, make yourself invisible

By Helen Thompson 10:56am, April 24, 2015
We may not be able to make people invisible, but researchers have discerned its effect on the human mind in a new study.
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