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Article Released Wed-18th-February-2009 18:15 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 How to survive the recession

Summaries of newsworthy papers include MRI: The big picture; Climate: Carbon storage in African forests; Neuroscience: We know what you’re thinking; Molecular pathway for neuronal cull and Self-assembled ‘daisies’


This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.457 NO.7232 DATED 19 FEBRUARY 2009

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

MRI: The big picture

Climate: Carbon storage in African forests

Commentary: How to survive the recession

Neuroscience: We know what you’re thinking

Developmental biology: Molecular pathway for neuronal cull

Materials: Self-assembled ‘daisies’

· Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] MRI: The big picture (pp 994-998; N&V)

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans could become a more comfortable experience for patients, thanks to research published this week in Nature. By tinkering with the detection technique, researchers have freed up more space inside the machine.

Traditional MRI techniques rely on close proximity between the sample and detector to produce high resolution images. Klaas Pruessmann and colleagues show that the nuclear magnetization signal used to create these images can be excited and detected over a longer range — using travelling radio-frequency waves. These waves can be guided by installing a specialized conductive lining in the machine. This allows both the source and detector to be situated at the end of the magnet, and frees up space in the centre of the machine for the subject.

As well as offering greater comfort, the new approach can provide more uniform coverage over larger samples, biological or otherwise. And having more space offers the opportunity to position additional equipment, such as stimulation devices for studies of brain function. The authors hope their new technique will permit the design of experiments that were not possible before.

Klaas Pruessmann (ETH Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel: +41 44 632 6696; E-mail:

Richard Bowtell (University of Nottingham, UK) N&V author
Tel: +44 115 951 4737; E-mail:

[2] Climate: Carbon storage in African forests (pp 1003-1006; N&V)

Tropical forests store 40–50% of carbon in terrestrial vegetation and are therefore an important, but poorly quantified, component of the terrestrial carbon cycle. A paper in this week’s Nature reveals that intact African tropical forests are becoming an increasingly significant carbon sink.

Simon Lewis and colleagues analysed data from a ten-country network of seventy-nine long-term monitoring plots across African tropical forests and found that the trees are storing more and more carbon. Carbon storage in live trees increased by 0.63 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 between 1968 and 2007, a figure that is comparable with Amazonian forest carbon sequestration. Extrapolating to unmeasured forest components and scaling up to the continent as a whole, this means that African tropical forests have increased their carbon storage by 0.34 Pg C yr−1. The authors’ analyses also point towards changes in resource availability, such as increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, as a possible cause for the increase in carbon stocks.

Simon Lewis (University of Leeds, UK)
Tel: +44 113 343 3337; Email:

Helene Muller-Landau (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City, Panama) N&V author
Tel: +507 212 8268; E-mail:

Commentary: How to survive the recession (pp 957-963)

How will the recession affect science? Eight global thinkers provide analysis, experience and advice for scientists and policy-makers in the Opinion section of Nature this week.

We could perhaps have seen this recession coming, and avoid the next one, if economists paid less attention to interest rates and more attention to collateral (the amount you need to provide in cash for a loan), says economist John Geanakoplos. Regulators have been - and still are - regulating the wrong thing, he says. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare was correct to focus on the collateral ‘pound of flesh’ rather than the zero interest for the loan Shylock grants to Antonio, according to Geanakoplos, who argues the Federal Reserve should follow this lead.

Other authors point out the lessons we can learn from the Great Depression in the United States (Eric Rauchway argues that now is a good time for scientists to speak out and be heard, and get their dreams turned into policies), the 'lost decade' in Japan (Atsushi Sunami and Kiyoshi Kurokawa say that now is a great time to reform science policy), and the last recession in Britain (Ian Taylor warns that scientists need to prove their worth to society now, so that when we emerge from the recession their funding is protected).

Jeffrey Sachs and Noreena Hertz are hoping that the recession may spur a better world. Hertz predicts that the recession will bring about a more egalitarian form of capitalism; Sachs hopes the planet will win out by pumping funding into sustainable development in the poorest countries. At the same time John Browning offers up some sobering advice for start-up companies: cut deep, and sell what you can.

Two things are near-certain in a recession. The first is that it is a painful experience for many. The second is that, if history is to be believed, the world will eventually come through and prosperity will return. Nature offers advice from the experts to guide that process for the benefit of science and the planet.

John Geanakoplos (Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA)
Tel: +1 203 432 3397; E-mail:

Eric Rauchway (University of California, Davis, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 530 752 6380; E-mail:

Atsushi Sunami (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo, Japan)

Ian Taylor (Member of Parliament, London, UK)
Tel: +44 20 7219 4490; E-mail:

Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University, New York, NY, USA)

This author is best contacted through:
Kyu Young Lee (Media Relations, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 646 337 3528; E-mail:

Noreena Hertz (Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

This author is best contacted through:
Marianne Schouten (Media Relations, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Tel: +31 10 408 2877; E-mail:

[3] Neuroscience: We know what you’re thinking (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature07832

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 18 February at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 19 February, but at a later date. ***

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can be used to predict which of two simple images a person has in their memory, seconds after the image has been removed, a paper in this week’s Nature reveals. The technique, which is around 80% accurate, helps to elucidate the brain areas involved in this type of visual working memory.

Although we can hold several different items in our working visual memory, how we remember specific details is unclear — the neurons in higher-order areas, such as the prefrontal cortex, do not seem sensitive enough to detect detail. This study, carried out by Frank Tong and Stephenie Harrison, suggests that parts of the primary visual cortex are involved, and that they can retain information even when no physical stimulus is present.

Frank Tong (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA)
Tel: +1 615 322 1780; E-mail:

Stephenie Harrison (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA)

[4] Developmental biology: Molecular pathway for neuronal cull (pp 981-989; N&V)

A molecular pathway that helps to cull the excess neurons formed early in development is reported in this week’s Nature. Molecules involved in the pathway shares links with Alzheimer’s disease, a finding that may point towards new therapeutic targets.

Nerves cells express an inactive version of the beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP). But when APP is released and cleaved by the beta-secretase enzyme, the ‘suicide ligand’ APP activates the ominously named death receptor 6 (DR6), also found on neurons. This triggers a caspase-dependent self-destruction pathway, say Marc Tessier-Lavigne and colleagues, which in turn helps to prune the excess nerve cells formed during development.

Three of the pathway’s components are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. So it’s possible that this normal developmental pathway is hijacked by the Alzheimer’s brain to cause the pathological neuronal death in later life.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne (Genentech Inc, South San Francisco, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 650 225 1175; E-mail:

Donald Nicholson (Merck Research Laboratories, Rahway, NJ, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 732 594 0556; E-mail:

[5] Materials: Self-assembled ‘daisies’ (pp 999-1002)

A new, versatile method for making complex colloidal superstructures is revealed in this week’s Nature. The self-assembly technique offers a way to achieve complex structures and has already been used to generate a variety of shapes, including ring and flower-like structures.

The materials, produced by Benjamin Yellen and colleagues, were made by applying a magnetic field to a mixture of magnetic and non-magnetic particles suspended in a fluid containing iron oxide. The colloidal components then self-assemble into ordered, symmetric structures. The structures can be manipulated by changing the size, type and magnetization of the different components. For example, ‘daisies’ can have more or less petals by raising or lowering the ferrofluid concentration.

Benjamin Yellen (Duke University, Durham, NC, USA)
Tel: +1 919 660 8261; E-mail:


[6] A hierarchical model for evolution of 23S ribosomal RNA (pp 977-980)

[7] Massive star formation within the Leo ‘primordial’ ring (pp 990-993)


***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 18 February at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 19 February, but at a later date. ***

[8] Neisseria meningitidis recruits factor H using protein mimicry of host carbohydrates
DOI: 10.1038/nature07769


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see the PDF of the paper for full details.

Bad Aussee: 2

Yaounde: 2

Montreal: 6
Toronto: 2

Kinshasa: 2

Marseille: 7
Paris: 2

Libreville: 2

Kumasi: 2

Bogor: 2
Jakata: 2

Dublin: 2

Culemborg: 2
Wageningen: 2

Abeokuta: 2

Madrid: 7

Zurich: 1

Dar es Salaam: 2

Kabale: 2

Aberdeen: 2
Leeds: 2
London: 8
Oxford: 2, 8
Salisbury: 2
York: 2


La Jolla: 4
Pasadena: 7
San Francisco: 4

District of Columbia
Washington: 2

Baltimore: 7

Amherst: 5
Boston: 8

New York
New York: 7

North Carolina
Durham: 5

Nashville: 8

Fredericksburg: 2


From North America and Canada
Katherine Anderson, Nature New York
Tel: +1 212 726 9231; E-mail:

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington
Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail:

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan
Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail:

From the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above
Jen Middleton, Nature London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4502; E-mail

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