Editors' Choice

Science  29 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6434, pp. 1412
  1. Neuroscience

    The up and down of localization

    1. Peter Stern

    Moving through the 3D world (in this case a brown rat climbing a bird feeder) requires constant readjustment in the brain.


    Grid cells in the entorhinal cortex interact with place cells in the hippocampus to represent the current location of an animal. In the past, experiments were largely performed on rats running across horizontal surfaces. The real world, however, is three-dimensional. It is not known whether the reference plane for the grid cells is horizontal or an animal's locomotor plane. Casali et al. recorded from place and grid cells while rats moved across a flat surface or climbed up walls. The firing patterns of grid and place cells changed and constantly readjusted when the rat was climbing.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 116, 4631 (2019).

  2. Phase-Change Memory

    Memory with a precondition

    1. Brent Grocholski

    Materials that can rapidly switch from crystal to glass are appealing for use in computer memory devices. However, the challenge is making that switch rapid enough to compete with current memory options. Loke et al. used a one-time electric precursor pulse designed to condition a traditional phase-change material for rapid switching. This method dramatically improved the switching speed, allowing them to create a phase-change memory that is ultrafast and highly stable.

    ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 10, 41855 (2019).

  3. Skin Cancer

    Another first for immunotherapy

    1. Priscilla N. Kelly

    Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. Nghiem et al. report a phase 2 clinical trial in which the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab was tested as the initial (first-line) treatment for 50 patients with advanced MCC. Pembrolizumab is an inhibitor of programmed cell death protein 1 that works by releasing the brakes from certain immune cells so that they can better attack and destroy tumors. The researchers found that 24% of patients had complete tumor remission after immunotherapy, and more than half of all patients in the trial were observed to have long-lasting responses. Immunotherapy was more effective and produced longer patient survival than that expected from conventional chemotherapy.

    J. Clin. Oncol. 37, 693 (2019).

  4. Neuroscience

    Get closer or run away?

    1. Claudia Pama

    Animals constantly choose between exploring their environment and avoiding potential threats. A brain area called the medial amygdala has been suggested to play a role in the conflict that arises upon deciding between mutually incompatible behaviors (for example, feeding, reproduction, defense, or flight). By using an array of methods, including optogenetics, viral tracing, and behavioral tests, Miller et al. found that a population of dopaminergic neurons within the medial amygdala projects to two other brain areas—the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the ventromedial hypothalamus. When these areas are excited or inhibited, mice show opposing explorative or threat-avoiding behaviors.

    Nat. Neurosci. 22, 565 (2019).

  5. Political Science

    Affective forecasting and partisanship

    1. Tage S. Rai

    Increasing political polarization is driven in part by voters selectively seeking views that support their preexisting beliefs and avoiding opposing views. Across several experiments, Dorison et al. found that people overestimate how upset they will be from being exposed to views from the opposing political party. For example, Clinton voters overestimated how upset they would be from watching Donald Trump's inaugural address or reading statements by Trump voters. This bias in affective forecasting occurs because voters underestimate their level of agreement with people from the opposite party. Correcting voters' affective forecasts increased their engagement with opposing views. These results have implications for fostering dialogue and reducing political polarization.

    People tend to be less upset by opposing views than levels of political polarization would suggest, as can be seen in this dialogue circle in Zion Square, West Jerusalem, Israel.


    Cognition 10.1016/j.cognition.2019.02.010 (2019).

  6. Gene Therapy

    Piecing together a therapy for deafness

    1. Paula A. Kiberstis

    Cochlear implants have improved the quality of life for many children with congenital deafness. However, hearing recovery with these devices is imperfect. Alternative treatments that target the genetic events underlying hearing loss are under investigation. Both Al-Moyed et al. and Akil et al. have designed a potential gene therapy strategy for deafness caused by mutations in the gene encoding otoferlin, a large protein required for sound-evoked neurotransmitter release in cochlear sensory cells. Because otoferlin complementary DNA (cDNA) exceeds the packaging capacity of adeno-associated viruses (AAVs), the researchers generated dual vectors, each encoding half of the cDNA. Delivery of the dual AAVs into the cochlea of otoferlin-deficient mice resulted in vector recombination, in turn leading to expression of full-length otoferlin and restoration of hearing.

    EMBO Mol. Med. 11, e9396 (2019); Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 116, 4496 (2019).

  7. Air Pollution

    Origins of wintertime pollution

    1. H. Jesse Smith

    Organic aerosols account for half of the fine particulate air pollution in populated areas of the world. Outside of urban areas, the formation of secondary organic aerosols from precursor molecules during winter was thought to be minor, but new measurements show that this is not true. Shah et al. present observations showing that more than half of the wintertime organic aerosol production in the northeastern United States is secondary and originates from air pollution sources. Their results suggest that wintertime organic aerosol pollution can be reduced further by reducing the quantities of their precursors.

    Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1029/2018GL081530 (2019).

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