About Egghead

Egghead is a blog about research by, with or related to UC Davis. Comments on posts are welcome, as are tips and suggestions for posts. General feedback may be sent to Andy Fell. This blog is created and maintained by UC Davis Strategic Communications, and mostly edited by Andy Fell.

Shedding Light on the Energy-Efficiency of Photosynthesis

By Amy Quinton

Photosynthesis is one of the most crucial life processes on earth. It’s how plants get their food, using energy from sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide from the air into sugars. It’s long been thought that more than 30 percent of the energy produced during photosynthesis is wasted in a process called photorespiration.

A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, suggests that photorespiration wastes little energy and instead enhances nitrate assimilation, the process that converts nitrate absorbed from the soil into protein.

Study shows plants may not lose energy during photosynthesis. (Getty Images)

Pay Attention: $2.7 Million Grant to Map Brain’s Attention Network

By Becky Oskin

From moment to moment, the brain processes millions of pieces of information. When people need to focus on a critical task, special circuits in the brain’s attention network kick in to filter the information firehose.

A new project with UC Davis neuroscientists and bioengineers from the University of Florida will explore the brain circuits that allow us to focus our attention.

Zika Virus May Pose Greater Threat Of Miscarriages Than Previously Thought

26 Percent Of Nonhuman Primates Lost Pregnancies Despite Not Showing Symptoms

By AJ Cheline

Research from several institutions, including the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, suggests that more women could be losing their pregnancies to the Zika virus without knowing they are infected.

The study, published in Nature Medicine July 2, found 26 percent of nonhuman primates infected with Zika during early stages of pregnancy experienced miscarriage or stillbirth even though the animals showed few signs of infection.

Young monkeys

Non-human primates such as these Rhesus macaques have similar brain development and reproductive physiology to humans, making them a good model to study Zika virus infection. (Photo by K. West, CNPRC)

Playing It Cool at Ocean Vents

“Black smokers,” or high-temperature hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, have generated a lot of scientific interest since they were discovered forty years ago. By belching hot, mineral-laden water, these vents support communities of microbes and animals far from sunlight.

Octopuses incubate their eggs near the slightly warmer streams of water from cool hydrothermal vents deep in the ocean. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

But not all ocean vents are hot. Cool hydrothermal systems, or cool vents, are much harder to spot because the fluids they release are clear and only a bit warmer than surrounding water. Yet they could play a major role in releasing minerals into the deep ocean.

Immigrants, Jobs and Local Economies: Not So Simple

By Lisa Howard

During the early days of the Great Depression, when many Americans were desperate to find jobs, state and local officials in the United States began forcibly repatriating Mexicans, including American citizens of Mexican descent, to Mexico. Between 1929 and 1935, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans left the United States. Some estimates put the number at 500,000 to over a million.

Latino farmworkers 1930s

Mexicans picking cantaloupes in Imperial Valley, California, May 1937. Although the intent of Mexican repatriation was to create more jobs for Americans, a UC Davis study shows most native-born workers didn’t take the jobs left behind by Mexican laborers. (Credit: Dorothea Lange, Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress)

Lab-grown Cartilage Transplant Eases Temporomandibular Joint Disease in Animal Model

A first-ever tissue implant to safely treat a common jaw defect, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, has been successfully tested in animals by researchers from UC Irvine and UC Davis.

“We were able to show that we could achieve exceptional healing of the TMJ area after eight weeks of treatment,” said UCI Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering Kyriacos Athanasiou, senior author on the study, published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine. Athanasiou, who joined UC Irvine last year after several years at UC Davis’ Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been working on the condition for nearly two decades.

Success Is Not Just How You Play Your Cards, But How You Play Your Opponents

  •  Poker-playing techniques can apply to strategies in many situations
  • Study can influence scientific approaches to negotiation
  • By Karen Nikos-Rose

    In high-stakes environments, success is not just about playing your cards right, but also playing your opponents right.

    Looking at how more than 35,000 individuals interacted when playing millions of poker hands online during a three-week period, a University of California, Davis, study published today reveals that game experts are an excellent source of insight into how people process strategic information in competitive settings.

    New Insight Into Why Pierce’s Disease Is So Deadly to Grapevines

    photo of grapeleaf

    Symptoms of Pierce’s Disease on a grapevine.(Jack Kelly Clark / UCANR)

    By Amy Quinton

    Scientists are gaining a better understanding of Pierce’s disease and how it affects grapevines. The disease, which annually costs California more than $100 million, comes from a bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa. While the bacterium has been present in the state for more than 100 years, Pierce’s disease became a more serious threat to agriculture with the arrival of the glassy-winged sharpshooter insect, which can carry the bacterium from plant to plant.

    Curiosity Finds Organic (Carbon-based) Material in Gale Crater, Mars

    The Mars Curiosity rover team announced today (June 7) finding organic matter – carbon-based compounds – in three billion year old mudstone sediments from Gale Crater. They also found seasonal changes in the amount of methane in the local atmosphere.

    Scientist and Mars rover

    Dawn Sumner is a member of the Mars Curiosity team.

    Dawn Sumner, professor of earth and planetary sciences at UC Davis, is a member of the Mars Curiosity team and coauthor on the first paper. She helps with sample selection and mission planning and was instrumental in promoting Gale Crater as a landing site for Curiosity.

    Could Prison Studies End the Salt Wars?

    Medical research studies involving prison inmates have a bad reputation, but now a group of nutrition researchers proposes to use prisoners to answer a long running question in nutrition: what is the connection between salt intake and health? They recently published their proposal in the journal Hypertension, reported by Gina Kolata in the New York Times.

    Arguments over the role of dietary salt in heart health — the “Salt Wars” — have been raging for years. David McCarron, a nephrologist and former research affiliate with UC Davis’s Department of Nutrition is a prominent “Salt Skeptic,” arguing that Americans eat about the same amount of salt now as 40 years ago, and that salt intake in humans is regulated by the brain, not by how much is added to food.