Sunday November 18, 2018

Decoded: Why Mosquitoes Bite You

For the study, published in the journal Current Biology, the team placed mosquitoes in an insect flight simulator and exposing the mosquitoes to various smells, including human body odors, and observed how the insects, trained or not, reacted

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The study dopamine -- a brain chemical involved in reward learning -- is a key mediator of aversive learning in mosquitoes. Pixabay
The study dopamine -- a brain chemical involved in reward learning -- is a key mediator of aversive learning in mosquitoes. Pixabay
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  • People who swat at mosquitoes or perform other defensive behavior may be abandoned, no matter how sweet
  • The team placed mosquitoes in an insect flight simulator and exposing the mosquitoes to various smells for the study
  • The study was published in the journal Current Biology

Wonder why you receive more bug bites than others around you? It is because, mosquitoes can rapidly learn and remember the smells, researchers have found.

The study dopamine — a brain chemical involved in reward learning — is a key mediator of aversive learning in mosquitoes.

However, people who swat at mosquitoes or perform other defensive behavior may be abandoned, no matter how sweet.

Dopamine modulates the neural activity in the brain region where the information on smell in such a way that odors were easier to discriminate, and potentially learn, by the mosquitoes, the researchers said. Pixabay
Dopamine modulates the neural activity in the brain region where the information on smell in such a way that odors were easier to discriminate, and potentially learn, by the mosquitoes, the researchers said. Pixabay

ALSO READ: $18 Million Donation to Target Mosquito-borne Diseases like Zika in Colombia and Brazil

Mosquitoes exhibit a trait known as aversive learning by training female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to associate odors (including human body odors) with unpleasant shocks and vibrations, said Clement Vinauger, Assistant Professor in Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University or Virginia Tech.

For the study, published in the journal Current Biology, the team placed mosquitoes in an insect flight simulator and exposing the mosquitoes to various smells, including human body odors, and observed how the insects, trained or not, reacted.

“Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing exactly what attracts a mosquito to a particular human — individuals are made up of unique molecular cocktails that include combinations of more than 400 chemicals,” said Chloe Lahondere, Assistant Professor at the varsity.

“However, we now know that mosquitoes are able to learn odors emitted by their host and avoid those that were more defensive,” Lahondere added.

ALSO READ: Dengue stings Delhi as govt sleeps under an opaque mosquito net

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are vectors for Zika fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses, and can be found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. Pixabay
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are vectors for Zika fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses, and can be found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. Pixabay

 

“Understanding these mechanisms of mosquito learning and preferences may provide new tools for mosquito control,” Vinauger said.

“For example, we could target mosquitoes’ ability to learn and either impair it or exploit it to our advantage,” he noted. (IANS)

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Teenage Girls Being Urged To Befriend ‘Middle-Aged Men’ On Facebook: Report

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity

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Fake News, Facebook, dating
This photo shows the logo for Facebook on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. VOA

Facebook is encouraging grooming by offering teenage girls middle-aged men as ‘friend suggestions’, the media reported.

Teenage girls, as young as 13-year-olds, who join the social network are given up to 300 suggestions for who they can add as friends, some of which include middle-aged men who are topless in their profile photos, The Telegraph reported late on Saturday.

Facebook has said that was not a typical experience for teenagers for signing up for the service and that it has safeguards built into its recommendation system.

Following the findings, UK-based charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has called for friend recommendations to be suspended for children on the social networking giant’s platform.

Facebook, myanmar
A cellphone user looks at a Facebook page at a shop in Latha street, Yangon, Myanmar. VOA

‘Groomers are seeking to infiltrate children’s friendship groups on social networks, often with the intention to move children to live streaming or encrypted sites where it is easier for them to commit sexual abuse,” Andy Burrows, NSPCC Associate Head of Child Safety Online, was quoted as saying.

“Social media algorithms risk making it easier for groomers to find and contact children and ‘friend of friend’ or ‘new follower’ recommendations can add legitimacy to their requests, which is why we are calling for these features to be blocked for children.

“For too long social networks have failed to make their platforms safe for children, and that is why the Home Secretary must commit to strong and effective regulation to finally ensure that children’s safety is non-negotiable,” she said.

According to Facebook, the company has safeguards to protect children. However, the campaigners warn that the networking giant must do more to stop groomers who use the site to become friendly with children.

facebook, U.S. Politicals ads, dating
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“Grooming is incredibly serious, and we have teams specifically focused on keeping children safe, informed by extensive research and outside experts,” said a spokesman for Facebook, the Daily Mail reported on Saturday.

“We use artificial intelligence to proactively identify cases of inappropriate interactions with minors and we refer potential abuse to law enforcement.

“We limit how children can be found in search, we remind them to only accept friend requests from people they know and we caution them before making public posts.”

Also Read: Twitter Giving Its Users More Freedom To Report Fake, Suspicious Accounts

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity with the help of previously undisclosed machine learning software that automatically flagged such photos during the last quarter.

The company has said that it is also considering rolling out systems for spotting child nudity and grooming to Instagram. (IANS)