Jon Hamilton

Jon Hamilton has served as a correspondent for NPR's science desk since 1998. His current beat includes neuroscience, health risks, behavior, and bioterrorism. Recent pieces include a series on the chemical perchlorate, which is turning up in California's water supply; a government effort to find out just how many autistic children there are in the U.S.; and an exploration of "neuromarketing."

Before joining NPR in 1998, Hamilton was a media fellow with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation studying health policy issues. He completed a project on states that have radically changed their Medicaid programs for the poor by enrolling beneficiaries in private HMOs.

From 1995-1997, Hamilton wrote on health and medical topics as a freelance writer, after having been a medical reporter for both The Commercial Appeal and Physician's Weekly.

Hamilton graduated with honors from Oberlin College in Ohio with a B.A. in English. As a student, he was the editor of the Oberlin Review student newspaper. He earned his master's degree in journalism from Columbia University where he graduated with honors, won the Baker Prize for magazine writing, and earned a Sherwood traveling fellowship.

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3:27pm

Wed September 4, 2013
Shots - Health News

Multitasking After 60: Video Game Boosts Focus, Mental Agility

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 3:22 pm

Strenuous mental exercise like reading difficult books, solving tricky math problems — or, maybe, playing the right video game — can help keep a healthy brain sharp, research suggests.
Images.com/Corbis

A brain that trains can stay in the fast lane. That's the message of a study showing that playing a brain training video game for a month can rejuvenate the multitasking abilities of people in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

"After training, they improved their multitasking beyond the level of 20-year-olds," says Adam Gazzaley, one of the study's authors and a brain scientist at the University of California, San Francisco.

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2:24pm

Thu August 29, 2013
Shots - Health News

A Single Protein May Help Explain Memory Loss In Old Age

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 1:26 pm

The underlying biology of age-related memory glitches — in old mice and old people — is different from what happens with Alzheimer's, recent research suggests.
Anthony Bradshaw iStockphoto.com

If you're finding it harder to remember where you put the car keys, the culprit could be a brain protein with a name that's easy to forget: RbAp48.

A shortage of this protein appears to impair our ability to remember things as we age, researchers report in the current issue of Science Translational Medicine. And boosting levels of RbAP48 in aging brains can reverse memory loss, at least in mice, they say.

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1:07am

Mon August 12, 2013
Shots - Health News

New Muscle Drugs Could Be The Next Big Thing In Sports Doping

Originally published on Mon August 12, 2013 9:03 am

Belgian Blue bulls look like they are made of muscle because they have a mutation in the gene that codes for the protein myostatin. In humans, as in other types of cattle, myostatin normally limits the number of muscle fibers that form before birth and then limits the growth of those fibers later on.
Courtesy of Se-Jin Lee and Alexandra McPherron PNAS

Research intended to help people with muscle-wasting diseases could be about to launch a new era in performance-enhancing drugs.

The research has produced several muscle-building drugs now being tested in people with medical problems, including muscular dystrophy, cancer and kidney disease. The drugs all work by blocking a substance called myostatin that the body normally produces to keep muscles from getting too big.

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4:03pm

Mon August 5, 2013
Shots - Health News

Harsh In Hard Times? A Gene May Influence Mom's Behavior

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 5:51 am

A gene known as DRD2 affects the brain's dopamine system and is known to be associated with aggressive behavior.
iStockphoto.com

A gene that affects the brain's dopamine system appears to have influenced mothers' behavior during a recent economic downturn, researchers say.

At the beginning of the recession that began in 2007, mothers with the "sensitive" version of a gene called DRD2 became more likely to strike or scream at their children, the researchers say. Mothers with the other "insensitive" version of the gene didn't change their behavior.

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1:02am

Mon July 15, 2013
Shots - Health News

BPA-Free Plastics Going On Trial In Texas

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 8:05 am

PlastiPure helps manufacturers create water bottles and other plastic products that have no estrogenic activity.
PlastiPure

Scientists and lawyers are scheduled to debate the safety of certain "BPA-free" plastics this week in a U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas.

At issue is whether a line of plastic resins marketed by Eastman Chemical contains chemicals that can act like the hormone estrogen, and perhaps cause health problems.

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