The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top three news stories are crazy cat syndrome, seven Earths, and mouse amnesia.

Article written by Tom Hayday.

Cats no longer to blame for insanity

Unfortunately, researchers at UCL have debunked the assumption that my mental issues were down to my childhood cat, Mikey. It has been long known that most domesticated cats harbour Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that has been implicated in causing schizophrenia and acute hallucinations in infected rodents and humans. Using birth cohort data, the team at UCL determined that early and late adolescent (13 and 18 years respectively) psychotic experiences were not correlated to cat ownership in childhood or during pregnancy. Thankfully, due to a lack of research, there is still hope that I can blame my current cat for my mania.

Find out more: Curiosity killed the cat: no evidence of an association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at ages 13 and 18 years in a UK general population cohort

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Image: Parasite harbouring rotter

Have we found another Earth?  Or seven…

Scientists last week published the finding of a whopping seven new Earth-size alien planets orbiting the dim star TRAPPIST-1.  Although the planets orbit much closer to TRAPPIST-1 than Earth orbits the Sun, TRAPPIST-1 is approximately the size of Jupiter and around 2000 times dimmer meaning the planets likely fall in the ‘habitable zone’.  The research team has suggested that on the three innermost planets, given appropriate atmospheric conditions, there is a potential for water and life to exist. As amazing as this discovery sounds (AND IS), the system is about 39 light years away so don’t book your trip quite yet.

Find out more: Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1

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Image: Heavenly neighbours

Are you afraid of the dark? 

Researchers in Japan have demonstrated a method of temporarily abolishing fear memory in mice.  Fear was developed in the mice by giving them the option to enter an illuminated box or a dark box, the later choice giving the mice an electric shock. To abolish this induced ‘fear of the dark’, the team treated the mice with antibodies bound to light-sensitive molecules. Upon illumination of the hippocampus with green light, the antibodies/light-sensitive molecules were able to specifically block neurotransmitter receptor GluA1 and resulted in the mice forgetting their ‘fear of the dark’.

Find out more: Optical inactivation of synaptic AMPA receptors erases fear memory

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Image: The traditional way to abolish fears

Written by Tom Hayday