Discoveries Made in 2015

1. Video Game Effects on the Brain

With all of the people currently playing video games, there are billions of hours spent weekly on this activity. Recent studies have confirmed that video game play increases abilities in visual attention and sequence-based navigation skills. However, it has also been found that regular video game exposure can affect the hippocampus in a way that can increase the risk of neurological problems.

2. Yoga Can Counter Effects of Chronic Pain

It is known that chronic pain can have many negative effects on the brain and can decrease cognitive functionality. It has been discovered that those who practice yoga experience the opposite effects and the brain, and this can counter the negative effects experienced from prolonged pain.

3. Stress around Strangers Can Decrease Empathy

Empathy is an important emotional trait for humans and has allowed people to form society and cultures based on the ability to experience the emotions of others. Even other mammals have evolved the empathy trait in order to work together in groups. People in modern society are taught to avoid strangers and this causes an increased stress level when presented with situations that involve those we do not know. It has been discovered that decreased empathy toward others is a result of the stress associated with interactions with strangers.

4. Fossils of "Yi Qi" or "Strange Wing" in China

The fossils of a winged dinosaur have been found in China with wings resembling those of both birds and bats. This fossil, named Yi Qi, shows evolutionary traits that give more evidence to how birds evolved from dinosaurs. Yi Qi has been discovered to have had odd feathers along its arms and fingers and large backwards-extending wrist bones.

5. Chlorophyll Can Produce Energy in Mammal Cells

It is common knowledge that plants obtain their energy through photosynthesis, which is the processing of chlorophyll and sunlight. It has recently been found that mitochondria in mammals can also produce energy through the synthesis of chlorophyll molecules which absorb light. It is believed that increasing chlorophyll in the diet and studying how to harvest light in the body could one day help increase the life span of mammals.

6. Dogs Understand Human Facial Expressions

In an experiment in which dogs viewed pictures of people making angry and happy expressions, it was discovered that dogs are able to learn the difference in emotional expressions on human faces. Results of the experiment show that dogs may have an inherent ability to distinguish between positive and negative facial expressions. Further studies into this subject may reveal information about the special relationship between dogs and humans. It may also lead to evidence that animals are able to experience complex emotions.

7. Neanderthals and Humans Interbred in the Middle East

There has been a skull fragment discovered in Israel that leads scientists to believe that a human group was likely to have been alive and bred with neanderthals in the region. This piece of skull has allowed scientists to fill in a bit more of the gaps in our knowledge of the evolution of modern humans and other humanoids. Due to exposure to high temperatures, scientists are unlikely to find DNA revealing a definite lineage to neanderthals from the skull fragment, but they hope to discover similar fossils that have been preserved well enough that DNA can be extracted.

8. Liquid Water on Mars

While the temperature of Mars is too cool to support liquid water on its own, the salty substances that coat the surface of the planet allow liquid films and possibly flowing water to form on the surface of Mars. There is believed to be water under the surface of Mars, and while the liquids that form on the surface cannot sustain life as we understand it, there could very well be living organisms below the surface.

9. Cold Sores May Lead to Skin Cancer Treatment

Scientists have modified the virus that causes cold sores and injected it into cancerous tumors. It was revealed that the injected virus helped to fight cancerous cells in the tumor, but did not affect healthy cells. This could lead to more treatment options for Melanoma patients in the future.

10. Solar System has Two More Planets

While many have been upset by the decision by astronomers to no longer count Pluto as one of the planets in our solar system, they may be pleased to find that two extra planets have been discovered to exist orbiting our sun. There may even be more planets within our solar systems, but they have not yet been confirmed. These planets orbit further past the location of Pluto.