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Pea-sized region of the brain linked to pessimism

A tiny part of the brain could play a part in a pessimistic outlook and teach people to expect the worst, scientists believe.

A tiny part of the brain known as the habenula could make people pessimistic.
A tiny part of the brain known as the habenula could make people pessimistic. Credit: PA

The habenula, an evolutionarily ancient part of the brain half the size of a pea, plays an important role in learning from bad experiences research from University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience has found.

In some people, they think an over-active habenula may be linked to depression, pessimism and a negative outlook.

Lead researcher Dr Jonathan Roiser said: "The habenula tracks our experiences, responding more the worse something is expected to be."

He added: "In this study we showed that the habenula doesn't just express whether something leads to negative events or not; it signals quite how much bad outcomes are expected."

Dr Roiser said the findings, published in the latest edition of the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, may point the way towards new treatments.

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Mystery 'blob' emitting cosmic rays discovered

Scientists have found an unusual "hot spot" centered just below the best-known star constellation visible from Earth, the Plough, which could help explain a decades-long mystery.

The 'blob', situated two hand-widths below the "handle" of the Plough, an arrangement of seven stars within the Great Bear constellation, may shed new light on the origin of ultra-high energy cosmic rays, scientists said.

This map, created by the University of Tokyo Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, shows where the "hot spot"  is in the northern sky.
This map, created by the University of Tokyo Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, shows where the "hot spot" is in the northern sky. Credit: PA

While lower energy cosmic rays come from stars, the origin of the highest energy rays still cannot be fully explained.

"All we see is a blob in the sky, and inside this blob there is all sorts of stuff - various types of objects that could be the source," said US astronomer Professor Gordon Thomson, from the University of Utah.

"Now we know where to look," added Prof Thomson.

Scientists: The answer to string 'spontaneously' knotting

Scientists have shown that cable roughly the length of a set of headphones cannot help but tangle itself into a knot.

Experiments carried out by school pupils in Coventry, proved that the longer the length of a piece of string, the more likely it was to form a knot, if jangled at random.

Scientists have proved that after a day of being at the bottom of your bag, headphone cable will weave itself into a knot.
Scientists have proved that after a day of being at the bottom of your bag, headphone cable will weave itself into a knot. Credit: PA

But Robert Matthews, a physicist at Aston University, Birmingham, has come up with a solution after formally testing the theory with the help of pupils from Coundon Court school, near Coventry, who carried out 12,000 tests.

"Simply clipping together the two ends of the cords makes the cable less likely to form a knot, saving the frustration of having to untangle it before plugging in," he told The Times.

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Fish 'capture and store 1 million tonnes of carbon'

Scientists have found that deep sea fish remove and store more than one million tonnes of Co2 from UK and Irish surface waters every year.

Fish deep offshore. Credit: PA

This natural carbon capture and storage scheme could store carbon equivalent to £10 million per year in carbon credits, according to the new study.

Researchers are warning that large-scale fishing and mining in deep waters could deplete this "valuable" resource.

The team from the University of Southampton and Marine Institute, Ireland, used novel biochemical tracers to piece together the diets of deep-water fish revealing their role in transferring carbon to the ocean depths.

New planet dubbed 'mega-Earth' discovered

A new rocky planet dubbed a "mega-Earth" has been discovered in a distant star system.

The heavyweight world is up to 17 times more massive than the Earth, scientists announced.

A new planet, known as Kepler-10c, has been discovered Credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/PA

According to scientists, the planet should have evolved over time into a gaseous "mini-Neptune."

Instead, Kepler-10c has managed to remain solid despite being more than twice as old as the Earth.

"We were very surprised when we realised what we had found," said astronomer Dr Xavier Dumusque, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who has led the research.

The discovery suggests that potentially life-bearing rocky planets may be far more abundant than was thought, and some could be immensely ancient.

Faulty genes 'cause night munchies'

Night-time snacking is the result of your genes, according to new scientific research.

Scientists from the Salk Institute in California have found that 'night munchies' are linked to a faulty PER1 gene, which controls the body's sleeping and eating patterns.

A man looks into his fridge full of food
Late night snacking has become a ritual for many people, but its cause may lie in science Credit: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/Press Association Images

If a person's sleeping and eating habits become desynchronised, this can lead to night-time hunger pangs which disrupt sleep and may lead to over-eating and weight gain.

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