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University of Liverpool have discovered that eye movement patterns of the Chinese differ from Caucasians living in Britain.
To help them understand more about how brains work, the study investigated the eye movements of Chinese people, born and raised in China and Britons. The University of Liverpool team found that a type of eye movement, rare in the British, is common in Chinese. The study also suggests that there could be subtle differences in brain function between different populations.
In medicine eye movement tests are used to help identify signs of brain injury or disease, such as schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis, however, this research has shown that, within the Chinese population this is not necessarily linked to illness, or abnormality. The findings, published in the journal Experimental Brain Research, suggest that eye movement patterns may not be as an effective indicator of altered brain function as originally thought.
Dr Paul Knox, from the University’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, said: “In a person from any country in the world we would expect the reaction time of fast eye movements to be approximately a fifth of a second. Very rarely we find some people with eye movement reaction times that are much shorter than this, at around a tenth of a second. This, however, is usually assumed to be a sign of an underlying problem that makes it difficult to keep the eyes pointing where you would like for a long enough period."
Working in China and Britain, the team tested fast eye movements, called saccades. Participants in the study were asked to respond to spots of light by blinking as they appeared suddenly at various angles in front of them. Researchers found that the reaction time varied between Chinese and other groups.
Dr Knox said: “In our study, as we expected, 97% of British people had the common fifth of a second delay, and only 3% had the much faster response. In our Chinese group, however, 30% had the faster, less common response. Our participants were healthy, with normal vision, and yet the eye movement pattern previously thought to be rare, was relatively common in Chinese people.”
Speculating on the reasons for the different responses between populations Dr Knox pointed to cultural differences, such as, where people grow up, the education they receive, the type of work they do and even their social activities.
While acknowledging that "further research was needed to fully understand why populations differ", Dr Know also suggested another possible reason for the difference was “basic differences in brain structure and function," adding, "maps of the brain were developed many years ago and were largely based on European populations. This became the blueprint for brain structure, but there could be differences between various populations.”
The team is working with Sichuan University in Chengdu, China with the research funded by the Royal Society and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. To help them further understand the cultural effects on eye movement behaviour the scientists are now investigating eye movement in Chinese people born and living in Britain with those born in China, but living in Britain.
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The defensive midfielder: Responsible for disrupting attacks or the first point in setting them up? University College Falmouth graduate Chris Matthews settles the score.
The role of the defensive midfielder is one that is open to many interpretations. On the one hand you have the ‘water carriers’ typified by the industrious Didier Deschamps after whom the phrase was coined, and on the other the conductors of the orchestra, the deep-lying playmakers.
Both roles represent hugely contrasting styles; however which occupation is of the biggest benefit to the team?
The role of the water carrier is simple. Hassle and harass the opposition, disrupting their flow and consistently attempting to unsettle them until either they are forced into a mistake or the tackle is made. Then once the ball is recovered, offloading it simply to a more gifted teammate.
A contemporary example of this position is Nigel De Jong. De Jong has I believe, acquired a somewhat unfair reputation as a dirty player. Yes De Jong is a tough cookie and his hard but fair ethos has caused injury, however he operates perfectly within the rules the majority of the time, with the exception of his near execution of Xabi Alonso in the World Cup Final.
De Jong has been used somewhat sparingly this term but Mancini still identifies the time and the place to unleash his Rottweiler. Leading United 1-0 in the recent Premier League clash, Mancini brought on De Jong to tighten up the midfield and although United didn’t create much in the way of chances throughout the game, De Jong’s grip on the midfield meant that City were able to comfortably see out the remainder of the match.
Perhaps two of the most successful ‘water carriers’ were Frenchmen Didier Deschamps and Claude Makelele. Both these players played alongside Zinedine Zidane and Zizou was the first to acknowledge the worth of both players.
Of course Deschamps and Makelele are not the most technically gifted of players, but their hard running and ability to break up the play warranted their places in some of the world’s great teams, allowing those around them to operate to their full potential.
The ‘water carriers’ can also to be referred to as destructive midfielders and in no place is this more common than the Premier League.
The fast and frenetic pace of the Premier League often calls for somebody who can quickly break up an attack and immediately launch a counter, a vital strategy in the fast paced end-to-end nature of the Premier League.
Admittedly this role isn’t exclusive to England, and teams across the globe have benefited from players who can simply win the ball and offload it to more gifted teammates.
At the other end of the defensive midfield spectrum is the deep-lying playmaker.
In Argentina this role is referred to as the ‘number 5’. Here is a player responsible for orchestrating the play in front of them, knowing the best time to maintain possession with a sideways pass and when to launch a probing 30-yard ball into the path of an onrushing attacker.
For me players who have excelled most in this position in recent years include Fernando Redondo, Andrea Pirlo and Xabi Alonso.
I was only lucky enough to see Redondo play a few times as when my interest in football really sparked; he was in the later days of a career prematurely cut short by injury. I remember Redondo dictating a Champions League quarter final at Old Trafford, as United fell to Real. Everything that night went through Redondo, and he even laid on a goal for a teammate after embarrassing Henning Berg on one of his rare forays forward.
A more contemporary example of the deep-lying playmaker is Andrea Pirlo.
Pirlo, like many others in this role, was not immediately recognised for his effectiveness. Pirlo was largely unused at Inter and was sent out in a series of loan moves and it wasn’t until moving to cross town rivals AC Milan that he flourished.
I think that Pirlo is underrated defensively, but undoubtedly his main qualities are his range of passing, dead ball and organisational skills.
By sitting so deep Pirlo offers defenders a way out without having to hopelessly hoof the ball upfield and risking possession, while he also offers shape and protection sitting in front of a back four.
When he receives the ball he immediately plots the best means of attack, whether it be a short and simple pass, or a direct longer ball.
The best players in this position also organise those around them and Xabi Alonso can often by seen pointing and gesturing, almost as if to say “I know best, the ball goes this way”.
Alonso occupies a similar role to Pirlo, pulling strings and more often than not being the starting point of the majority of attacks.
To perfect the deep-lying playmaker role, a candidate needs to have accurate passing ability and a sound football brain. Knowing the best way of planning an attack and having the ability to deliver the right pass is a must.
It is not a coincidence that many of these players are often responsible for dead ball duties in their respective teams, such is their highly advanced passing accuracy.
The water carrier and the deep-lying playmaker are hugely contrasting ways to operate in defensive midfield. The simple disruption and donkey work up against beautiful methodological grace.
However, I do also feel that they both have more in common that one would initially think. They both provide a team with shape and a certain level of insurance for those operating further up the field. Teammates know that when play breaks down, they are unlikely to be left desperately short as the opponent advances.
Once the ball is recovered this is when the differences become apparent. The ‘water-carrier’ quickly gives the ball to those more gifted around him, however the deep-lying playmaker is responsible for initiating attacks himself.
To choose which discipline of the defensive midfielder is more effective is impossible, however I am sure that many teams in the future will benefit from the tactical discipline and organisational qualities that both roles undoubtedly bring.
University of Manchester scientists have discovered why some people are naturally protected against parasitic worms living in the guts of a billion people worldwide.
Parasitic worms, like the hookworm, and the spiral threadworm, are a major threat to humans worldwide, but they also affect other animals, including our pets and livestock.
“These parasitic worms live in the gut, which is protected by a thick layer of mucus. The mucus barrier is not just slime, but a complex mixture of salts, water and large ‘sugar-coated’ proteins called mucins that give mucus its gel–like properties,” says Dr David Thornton, from the University’s Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research.
Experimenting on mice with worms (whipworm Trichuris muris), that are similar to those living off humans ( Trichuris trichiura), scientists made the breakthrough by discovering that mice without Muc5ac in the mucus in their intestines couldn’t get rid of the worms.
“We previously found that mice that were able to expel this whipworm from the gut made more mucus. Importantly, the mucus from these mice contained the mucin, Muc5ac. This mucin is rarely present in the gut, but when it is, it alters the physical properties of the mucus gel,” Dr. Thornton said.
Professor Richard Grencis, from the Faculty of Life Sciences, and Co-leading the project, said: “For this new research, we asked how important Muc5ac is during worm infection by using mice lacking the gene for Muc5ac. We found that mice genetically incapable of producing Muc5ac were unable to expel the worms.”
The infected mice, despite having a strong immune response against the worms suffered long-term infections. The importance of Muc5ac found in the guts of mice able to reject worms of is that “it is ‘toxic’ for the worms and damages their health,” Professor Grencis said.
The University of Manchester discovery of Muc5ac's importantance in the expelling of parasitic worms, was reiterated by Dr Sumaira Hasnain, the lead experimentalist on the project who said: “For the first time, we have discovered that a single component of the mucus barrier, the Muc5ac mucin, is essential for worm expulsion. Our research may help to identify who is and who isn’t susceptible to parasitic worms and it may eventually lead to new treatments for people with chronic worm infections.”
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine and featured in Nature’s ‘research highlights’
Oxford Brookes University archaeologist Dr Sam Smith has made an important discovery in Jordon that suggest that some of the earliest buildings created by man might not have been simple dwellings, but community centres.
The findings suggest that 12,000 years ago our ancestors began to give up their nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles and engaged in communal activities. Previously, experts thought that people lived together in smaller family groups.
At 22 meters by 19 the building is very large for the Neolithic period. The building also has an exceptionally large central area with a long meter-deep bench decorated by waves marked into the mud walls. There is also a second tier of seating in some parts of the building which would have been ideal for social gatherings.
‘The sheer scale of the site was truly amazing and the smooth and decorated mud plaster of the bench was very beautiful and well preserved. It highlights the importance of social processes and shows that corporate endeavour, even ideas like the ‘big society’ were issues which our ancestors were wrestling with 12,000 years ago,’ Dr Sam Smith of Oxford Brookes University and Co-author of the research paper, said.
The central area also contains a series of stone mortars set into plaster platforms on the floor, which may have been used to grind wild plants. Two other, smaller structures in nearby buildings are thought to have been storehouses for cereals and other food resources.
Many unusually decorated objects and carvings were found at the site, including human heads and wild animals. The team also discovered that these people cultivated wild plants such as wild barley, pistachio, and fig trees, whilst hunting or herding wild goats, cattle, and gazelle.
‘What we learned through these excavations is that this stage of human development is far more complex than we had thought,” Dr. Smith said.
The findings were outlined by Dr Smith this week at the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that 12,000 years ago Neolithic man may have displayed more community spirit than archeologists had previously thought.
In a drive to make higher education more accessible Cornwall College has set the ceiling on its annual tuition fees at £6000.
The college’s decision means that students starting university-level courses in 2012 will pay £3000 less in tuition fees than the £9000 maximum allowed by government.
Many West Country universities will be charging students the highest possible annual tuition fee, including Devon’s University of Plymouth and the University of Exeter. Cornwall College Chief Executive Officer, Dave Linnell, said: Setting our tuition fees at £6000 a year will enable those wanting a high quality university-level education to receive it at an affordable rate. Our students are our priority and we want higher education to continue to be accessible to everyone and provide real opportunities in employment.”
Cornwall College is the biggest education provider in Cornwall, one of the largest colleges in the UK and offers university level courses from Tourism, Business and Health to Forensic Science, Engineering and Renewable Energy. Dave Linnell said. “Students choose to study higher education at our colleges because of the quality of the courses and the excellent level of student support. Contact with staff is higher than in many institutions and leads to an excellent relationship between staff and students.”
Cornwall College is part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall
What are other universities charging?