ICYMI: Treating PTSD With Ecstasy, and Naming Mars After Maine

May 8, 2017

There’s a lot of news out there to sift through. Science news is no exception. Here are five stories from the past month that are worth a quick read (or listen):

  1. NIH to implement funding caps: You’ve heard about “the one percent.” Well, there’s something similar in science. Just 10 percent of biomedical researchers hold some 40 percent of grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, and they tend to be older scientists. NIH has been thinking for a while about how to fix this issue and improve funding prospects for early career scientists. Now, they’re implementing a cap on how much funding any one laboratory can win.
  2. Language barrier holding back progress on antibiotic resistance: Words matter. Sometimes more than others. A small group of researchers are calling on their colleagues and the U.N. to avoid jargon and speak clearly when it comes to the problem of antibiotic resistance. In particular, a recent survey found that relatively few people are familiar with the term “anti-microbial resistance,” or its acronym AMR, which are commonly used by researchers.
  3. Ecstasy may soon be approved for treating PTSD: 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is the active agent in ecstasy, also known as Molly, and it’s close to getting FDA approval for use in treating PTSD. Researchers say that, when used in combination with psychotherapy, MDMA can help patients rehash traumatic events without the strong fear response. A phase II trial involving over one hundred people found that MDMA-assisted therapy resolved PTSD in two thirds of patients, compared to about a quarter in a control group that got only psychotherapy.
  4. Earliest Americans may have been Neanderthals: A reinterpretation of mastodon bones uncovered in 1992 suggests (to some) that there may have been Neanderthals in North America some 130,000 – more than 100,000 years earlier than humans were previously thought to have arrived. But this study is controversial, with at least one scientist calling it remarkable for how bad it is.    
  5. NASA naming Mars after Maine: NASA is working hard to map Mars and send humans to the red planet in the next couple decades. As that mapping effort proceeds, researchers need names to refer to what they’re finding, and two scientists have been cribbing from their favorite places in Maine. There’s Ogunquit Beach (part of a sand dune field), Lobster Mountain (a mesa with signs of ancient lakes), and – of course – Bar Harbor. R. Aileen Yingst says she’s dying to use the name Androscoggin.