Posts tagged with "Stimulation"

Penguins at England’s Newquay Zoo perk up and play during pandemic with new bubble machine

July 28, 2020

Who can resist a shiny stream of bubbles—blowing willy-nilly in front of them? Certainly not the penguins at the Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, England, who were both fascinated and delighted when a patron recently donated a bubble machine for their amusement, the Good News Network reports.

The bubbles, which cause no harm to the animals, have in the past also proven popular among the zoo’s squirrel monkeys and Sulawesi crested macaques. But they were particularly appreciated by the penguins, who had been sorely lacking in entertainment since the pandemic began.

Penguin caretaker Dan Trevelyan told Good News Network that the bubbles help to keep the penguins’s predatory reflexes sharp.

“In the wild, these guys are marine predators who are very sensitive to objects and movement,” said Trevelyan. “The bubble machine is fantastic, as all the movement and new shapes and colors really stimulate these guys. They have a great time chasing them around. And all these donations are really appreciated.”

Animal enrichment programs are used to provide zoo animals with specialized stimulation designed to encourage their natural behaviors and prevent them from getting bored. Enrichment usually consists of branches and foliage, but can also come in the form of food hidden in hard-to-reach places for the animals to find.

These birds in particular are usually kept occupied by feeding shows and guests visiting the zoo, but due to the novel coronavirus, their daily routine was forced to change. Thankfully, Newquay Zoo fully re-opened to the general public on July 1.

Research contact: @goodnews_ntwrk

‘Sensational’ study: Coffee’s bitter taste gives drinkers a ‘buzz’

November 19, 2018

While the aroma of coffee is enticing and pleasurable, most people find the taste to be bitter. However, a study published in Scientific Reports this month—and covered in a report by NPR—has found that, the more sensitive you are to the bitter taste of coffee, the more of it you tend to drink.

A team of researchers from the Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States conducted the investigation using data stored in the UK Biobank, a major global health resource established over a decade ago by the Wellcome Trust medical charity, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, and the Scottish Government—and supported by the National Health Service..

More than 500,000 residents of England , Scotland, and Wales between the ages of 37 and 73 contributed blood, urine, and saliva samples to the Biobank between 2006 and 2010—and agreed to have their health status tracked, in order to determine which diseases and health conditions they would develop during the remainder of their lives.

The same volunteers also filled out questionnaires asking a variety of health-related questions—including how much coffee, tea, and alcohol they drank on a daily basis.

Since most of us inherit our taste preferences from our parents, the researchers used genetic analysis of samples from the Biobank to find people who were more or less sensitive to three bitter substances: caffeine, quinine (think tonic water) and a chemical called propylthiouracil that is frequently used in genetic tests of people’s ability to taste bitter compounds.

The objective was to determine whether people sensitive to one or more of these three substances drank more or less coffee than other drinkers. Surprising, NPR reports, people who exhibited greater sensitivity to caffeine reported higher coffee consumption, compared with people who did not strongly perceive the bitter taste. Strangely enough, the researchers said, “opposite relationships were observed for tea consumption.”

Conversely, those who were sensitive to quinine and propylthiouracil—neither of which is in coffee—tended to drink less coffee on a daily basis. For alcohol, a higher perceived intensity of propylthiouracil (bitterness) was associated with lower overall consumption.

How to explain these results? NPR reports that Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of Preventative Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and one of the study authors, says people may “learn to associate that bitter taste with the stimulation that coffee can provide.” In other words, they get hooked on the buzz.

And it turns out those who drink two or three cups a day just might live longer, too.

Research contact: @joesbigidea