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How You Hold Your Phone Reveals Whether You're Left- or Right-Brained

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In 1861, Pierre Paul Broca, a French surgeon, had a patient he referred to as “Tan.” After an accident, the patient had become aphasiac, meaning he could not speak. The only word he could utter was "tan" (think Hodor in Game of Thrones). Broca hypothesized that an area on the left side of the brain controlled speech, and when it sustained damage, people couldn’t speak (now called the Broca’s area).

This early discovery led to the theory that different hemispheres of the brain, left and right, controlled various functions, such as speech or logic. And this evolved into the idea that the dominant side of the brain affected personality characteristics—left-brain people are thought to be more analytic, objective, and logical, while right-brain people are believed to be more creative and insightful. Now, researchers have discovered that they can determine whether someone is a left- or right-brain person by looking at how they use their cell phones. 

Researchers at the Henry Ford Medical Center at Detroit wondered why people held their cell phones on one particular ear, and suspected that being left- or right-brained influenced it—between 70 and 95 percent of the population is right-handed and, of these people, 96 percent are left-hemisphere dominant.

The researchers asked 717 subjects to fill out an online survey, which determined their hemispheric dominance (left or right) and how they used their cell phone. Of the subjects, 90 percent were right handed and 9 percent were left handed. The researchers found that 68 percent of the righties held their phones to their right ear and 25 percent to the left, while 7 percent couldn’t commit to a side. Seventy-two percent of southpaws held their phones to the left side, 23 to the right side, and 5 percent had no preference. The average cell phone usage amounted to about 540 minutes per month over the past nine years.

The researchers note that there is a 73 percent association between hand dominance and the side people hold their cell phones—so how we use our cell phones allows people to predict whether someone is right- or left-brain dominant. While understanding this connection could lead to better cell phone design, the researchers believe it will help them better understand the relationship between mobile phones and brain tumors and help them improve brain imaging techniques.

"Our findings have several implications, especially for mapping the language center of the brain," says Michael Seidman, director of the division of otologic and neurotologic surgery at Henry Ford and one of the authors of the paper.

"By establishing a correlation between cerebral dominance and sidedness of cell phone use, it may be possible to develop a less-invasive, lower-cost option to establish the side of the brain where speech and language occurs.”      

The paper appears in JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery.

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Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
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If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

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Prehistoric Ticks Once Drank Dinosaur Blood, Fossil Evidence Shows
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Ticks plagued the dinosaurs, too, as evidenced by a 99-million-year old parasite preserved inside a hunk of ancient amber. Entomologists who examined the Cretaceous period fossil noticed that the tiny arachnid was latched to a dinosaur feather—the first evidence that the bloodsuckers dined on dinos, according to The New York Times. These findings were recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Ticks are one of the most common blood-feeding parasites. But experts didn’t know what they ate in prehistoric times, as parasites and their hosts are rarely found together in the fossil record. Scientists assumed they chowed down on early amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, according to NPR. They didn’t have hard evidence until study co-author David Grimaldi, an entomologist at the American Museum of History, and his colleagues spotted the tick while perusing a private collection of Myanmar amber.

A 99-million-year-old tick encased in amber, grasping a dinosaur feather.
Cornupalpatum burmanicum hard tick entangled in a feather. a Photograph of the Burmese amber piece (Bu JZC-F18) showing a semicomplete pennaceous feather. Scale bar, 5 mm. b Detail of the nymphal tick in dorsal view and barbs (inset in a). Scale bar, 1 mm. c Detail of the tick’s capitulum (mouthparts), showing palpi and hypostome with teeth (arrow). Scale bar, 0.1 mm. d Detail of a barb. Scale bar, 0.2 mm. e Drawing of the tick in dorsal view indicating the point of entanglement. Scale bar, 0.2 mm. f Detached barbule pennulum showing hooklets on one of its sides (arrow in a indicates its location but in the opposite side of the amber piece). Scale bar, 0.2 mm
Peñalver et al., Nature Communications

The tick is a nymph, meaning it was in the second stage of its short three-stage life cycle when it died. The dinosaur it fed on was a “nanoraptor,” or a tiny dino that was roughly the size of a hummingbird, Grimaldi told The Times. These creatures lived in tree nests, and sometimes met a sticky end after tumbling from their perches into hunks of gooey resin. But just because the nanoraptor lived in a nest didn’t mean it was a bird: Molecular dating pinpointed the specimen as being at least 25 million years older than modern-day avians.

In addition to ticks, dinosaurs likely also had to deal with another nest pest: skin beetles. Grimaldi’s team located several additional preserved ticks, and two were covered in the insect’s fine hairs. Skin beetles—which are still around today—are scavengers that live in aerial bird homes and consume molted feathers.

“These findings shed light on early tick evolution and ecology, and provide insights into the parasitic relationship between ticks and ancient relatives of birds, which persists today for modern birds,” researchers concluded in a news release.

[h/t The New York Times]

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