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The large-scale stability of chromosomes

A new study led by the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste and published in PLOS Computational Biology adds detail to the theoretical models used in chromatin simulations and demonstrates that even when made up of a mixture of fibres with different properties chromatin does not alter its three-dimensional structure above a certain spatial resolution. This finding points to a need to improve on current techniques for experimental observation, which are characterized by a resolution that is still too low.

Living, transformed… simply food

Despite the central role of food in our lives, research has done little to discover how food concepts are organized in our brain. A review carried out at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste sorts out the knowledge gained so far, relating it to the current theories of semantic categorization. This in-depth analysis provides a useful conceptual framework for future research and for putting the different theories to the test. The paper has just been published in Psychonomic Bulletin Review.

Oxytocin in the recognition of emotions

Studies have demonstrated that oxytocin (which acts as an hormone and also as a neurotransmitter in the brain) plays a role in facilitating the perception of emotions in other people’s facial expressions. An international study conducted by Sebastian Korb (researcher in the SISSA’s Neurosciences area) and colleagues has tested the idea that this phenomenon is related to facial mimicry. According to embodied cognition theory, in fact, the recognition of others’ emotions is facilitated by their imitation and reproduction with our own face.

Elliptical galaxies not formed by merging

Using an “intuitive” approach, a SISSA study confirms a recent hypothesis on the formation of galaxies, according to which the larger elliptical galaxies formed in very ancient times through a process of local (in situ) star formation. This contradicts the current paradigm that they formed through the merging  of spiral galaxies, a view which, despite being generally accepted by most of the scientific community, has been a source of theoretical inconsistencies.

A look beyond the horizon of events

Black holes are still very mysterious celestial bodies which, according to the majority of physicists, do not, however, escape the laws of thermodynamics. As a result, these physical systems possess an entropy though no real agreement has been reached about the microscopic origin of this propriety and how it should be calculated. A SISSA/Max Planck Institute (Potsdam) group has achieved important results in this calculation by applying a new formalism (Group Field Theory) of Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG), a very popular approach in the area of quantum gravity.

Parrinello at SISSA

30 May 2016, 2.30 pm

SISSA, room 128

Michele Parrinello, a former SISSA professor, has remained a model for the school and a mentor for some of the scientists who work here. On May 30th, the physicist who was awarded the Dirac Medal, amongst others, will be at SISSA for a conference where he will explain his method for the simulation of “rare events”, a major challenge in the multifaceted world of computer simulations.

The protein that assesses distances

A protein of the ISWI family (Imitation Switch, or nucleosome remodelling motors) is endowed with a special property: despite having no organ of sense it is nonetheless able to assess the length of DNA strands. A study just published in the Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment and carried out by SISSA, the MAX Planck Institute and the NIH has discovered how it works.

Words, more words… and statistics

Picking out single words in a flow of speech is no easy task and, according to linguists, to succeed in doing it the brain might use statistical methods. A group of SISSA scientists has applied a statistics-based method for word segmentation and measured its efficacy on natural language, in 9 different languages, to discover that linguistic rhythm plays an important role. The study has just been published in the Journal of Developmental Science.