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Study music, hear better

"Children who take music lessons have better hearing as adults even if they stopped playing their instruments after just a few years of practice, a new study suggests," says The Daily Telegraph. "People who learned to play an instrument while young are more responsive to complex sounds, making them better equipped to listen to a conversation in a noisy café or train carriage. Even those who had only played music for one to five years as a child showed a noticeable improvement over those who had never done so, in their brain's ability to process sounds." The study was led by Dr. Nina Kraus of Northwestern University in Illinois.

Cramming? Better to sleep

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"The old aphorism 'you snooze, you lose' doesn't apply to students who stay up late to cram for a test or finish a class project," says the Los Angeles Times. "New research shows that sacrificing sleep for school work is a bad trade. Researchers from UCLA's Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior enlisted students from three Los Angeles high schools to help them figure out whether academic performance suffered the day after a late night of studying. It turned out their hunch was correct: Lost sleep resulted in less comprehension during class and worse performance on tests, according to their report, published online Tuesday in the journal Child Development."

Why the old get scammed

"Why are the elderly so prone to falling for scams?" writes Janice Wood for Psych Central. "Researchers at the University of Iowa say they have pinpointed the precise location in the human brain, called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), that controls belief and doubt – and that explains why some people are more gullible than others. 'The current study provides the first direct evidence beyond anecdotal reports that damage to the vmPFC increases credulity,' the researchers say in a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience. 'Indeed, this specific deficit may explain why highly intelligent vmPFC patients can fall victim to seemingly obvious fraud schemes.' The elderly are often more vulnerable because the vmPFC tends to lose structural integrity and functionality as we age, the researchers noted."

Toward an ice-free Arctic

"The area of the Arctic Ocean covered by floating sea ice is likely to hit a record low next week," reports The Independent, "with the melting due to continue well into September, according to researchers monitoring the region by satellite. Arctic sea ice partially melts each summer and reforms again in the winter, but over the past 35 years of satellite readings the summer retreat has been getting significantly greater … Computer models initially suggested that the Arctic could be completely ice free in summer by the end of the 21st century, but more recent studies suggest that ice-free summers could occur as early as 2035, and possibly even within the next 10 years."

What women can't study

"Female students in Iran have been barred from more than 70 university degree courses in an officially approved act of sex discrimination," reports Robert Tait of The Telegraph. "It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country's religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year's university entrance exam. … Under the new policy, women undergraduates will be excluded from a broad range of studies in some of the country's leading institutions, including English literature, English translation, hotel management, archeology, nuclear physics, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering and business management."

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Ancient city being recycled

"When Abdus Sattar built his house in Mahasthangarh village in northern Bangladesh, he used materials that once laid the foundations of one of the world's oldest and greatest cities," reports Agence France-Presse. "'I just shovelled into the ground, got these bricks and used them in my new house,' Mr. Sattar, 38, said. 'All three rooms of the house were made of the old bricks we found here within the village boundary.' Mahasthangarh sits on what was once the ancient city of Pundranagar, built 2,500 years ago and, at its height, a renowned seat of learning whose monasteries attracted monks from China and Tibet … The oldest archeological site in what is now Bangladesh, the ruins of the fortified city are a major tourist attraction, but experts fear there will soon be little left for visitors to see."

American Dream is for sale

"A Florida businessman wants to start a new life – so he's selling his old one on eBay," reports Orange Co. UK. "Multi-millionaire Shane Butcher is selling off his chain of computer game shops, two waterfront homes, three supercars and even his pet dog. He plans to use the money to go travelling with his wife before returning to Florida to set up a new enterprise. … Mr. Butcher, 29, from Tampa Bay, said: 'I am selling my American Dream on eBay. You will be taught the ins and outs of the business. You will be granted access to all distributors and trade secrets.'"

Thought du jour

Great daring often conceals great fear.

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Roman poet (AD 39-65)

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