Jon Hamilton

Jon Hamilton is a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk. Currently he focuses on neuroscience, health risks, and extreme weather.

Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Hamilton was part of NPR's team of science reporters and editors who went to Japan to cover the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Hamilton contributed several pieces to the Science Desk series "The Human Edge," which looked at what makes people the most versatile and powerful species on Earth. His reporting explained how humans use stories, how the highly evolved human brain is made from primitive parts, and what autism reveals about humans social brains.

In 2009, Hamilton received the Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award for his piece on the neuroscience behind treating autism.

Before joining NPR in 1998, Hamilton was a media fellow with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation studying health policy issues. He reported on states that have improved their Medicaid programs for the poor by enrolling beneficiaries in private HMOs.

From 1995-1997, Hamilton wrote on health and medical topics as a freelance writer, after having been a medical reporter for both The Commercial Appeal and Physician's Weekly.

Hamilton graduated with honors from Oberlin College in Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. As a student, he was the editor of the Oberlin Review student newspaper. He earned his master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, where he graduated with honors During his time at Columbia, Hamilton was awarded the Baker Prize for magazine writing and earned a Sherwood traveling fellowship.

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3:57am

Mon July 27, 2015
Shots - Health News

A Scientist Deploys Light And Sound To Reveal The Brain

Originally published on Wed July 29, 2015 3:51 pm

A nanosecond pulsed laser beam starts the photoacoustic imaging process.
Geoff Story/Courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis

Lihong Wang creates the sort of medical technology you'd expect to find on the starship Enterprise.

Wang, a professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has already helped develop instruments that can detect individual cancer cells in the bloodstream and oxygen consumption deep within the body. He has also created a camera that shoots at 100 billion frames a second, fast enough to freeze an object traveling at the speed of light.

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3:47am

Thu July 23, 2015
Shots - Health News

Younger Adults With Alzheimer's Are Key To Drug Search

Originally published on Thu July 23, 2015 4:42 pm

Giedre (left) and Tal Cohen in March 2013, while Giedre was still healthy. Since then, she's begun having symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. In Giedre's case, the illness is tied to a rare genetic mutation she inherited.
Courtesy of Tal Cohen

The face of Alzheimer's isn't always old. Sometimes it belongs to someone like Giedre Cohen, who is 37, yet struggles to remember her own name.

Until about a year ago, Giedre was a "young, healthy, beautiful" woman just starting her life, says her husband, Tal Cohen, a real estate developer in Los Angeles. Now, he says, "her mind is slowly wasting away."

People like Giedre have a rare gene mutation that causes symptoms of Alzheimer's to appear before they turn 60.

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4:21pm

Tue July 21, 2015
Shots - Health News

Women's Brains Appear More Vulnerable To Alzheimer's Than Men's

Originally published on Thu July 23, 2015 6:05 am

Women with mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer's, tend to decline faster than men.
Lizzie Roberts Getty Images/Ikon Images

There's new evidence suggesting that women's brains are especially vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease and other problems with memory and thinking.

Women with mild cognitive impairment, which can lead to Alzheimer's, tend to decline faster than men, researchers reported this week at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Washington, D.C.

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9:38am

Sun July 19, 2015
Shots - Health News

Alzheimer's Drugs In The Works Might Treat Other Diseases, Too

Originally published on Tue July 21, 2015 5:31 pm

In this colorized image of a brain cell from a person with Alzheimer's, the red tangle in the yellow cell body is a toxic tangle of misfolded "tau" proteins, adjacent to the cell's green nucleus.
Thomas Deerinck/NCMIR Science Source

Efforts to find a treatment for Alzheimer's disease have been disappointing so far. But there's a new generation of drugs in the works that researchers think might help not only Alzheimer's patients, but also people with Parkinson's disease and other brain disorders.

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12:34pm

Thu July 16, 2015
Shots - Health News

Screaming For Science: The Secrets Of Crying Babies And Car Alarms

Originally published on Fri July 17, 2015 5:08 pm

It's almost impossible to ignore a screaming baby. (Click here if you doubt that.) And now scientists think they know why.

"Screams occupy their own little patch of the soundscape that doesn't seem to be used for other things," says David Poeppel, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at New York University and director of the Department of Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt.

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2:09pm

Wed July 8, 2015
Shots - Health News

Genetic Tweaks Are Restoring Hearing In Animals, Raising Hopes For People

Originally published on Fri July 10, 2015 8:02 am

Researchers have taken another step toward reversing deafness using gene therapy.

The latest success involves mice with an inherited form of deafness, a team reports Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine. And a similar approach is already being tried in people with hearing loss caused by damage to cells in the inner ear.

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4:39pm

Wed July 1, 2015
Shots - Health News

How Your Brain Remembers Where You Parked The Car

Originally published on Mon July 6, 2015 2:48 pm

The experiment used a fake photo of actor Clint Eastwood and Pisa's leaning tower to test how the brain links person and place.
Courtesy of Matias Ison/Neuron

If you run into an old friend at the train station, your brain will probably form a memory of the experience. And that memory will forever link the person you saw with the place where you saw him.

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4:51am

Sat June 13, 2015
Shots - Health News

Science Of Sadness And Joy: 'Inside Out' Gets Childhood Emotions Right

Originally published on Mon June 15, 2015 2:26 pm

Joy (left, voiced by Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) catch a ride on the Train of Thought in Pixar's Inside Out. The movie opens in theaters nationwide June 19.
Disney/Pixar

Hollywood's version of science often asks us to believe that dinosaurs can be cloned from ancient DNA (they can't), or that the next ice age could develop in just a few days (it couldn't).

But Pixar's film Inside Out is an animated fantasy that remains remarkably true to what scientists have learned about the mind, emotion and memory.

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2:35pm

Wed June 3, 2015
The Salt

Chimps Are No Chumps: Give Them An Oven, They'll Learn To Cook

Originally published on Thu June 4, 2015 12:34 am

Kanzi the bonobo (a species closely related to chimps) holds a pan of vegetables he cooked at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, November 2011. Kanzi was taught to cook. However, a new study is the first to show that animals can acquire a cooking-like skill on their own.
Laurentiu Garofeanu Barcroft Media /Landov

If you give a chimp an oven, he or she will learn to cook.

That's what scientists concluded from a study that could help explain how and when early humans first began cooking their food.

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11:51am

Thu May 28, 2015
Shots - Health News

Depression Treatments Inspired By Club Drug Move Ahead In Tests

Originally published on Mon June 1, 2015 7:36 am

Experimental medicines related to ketamine, an anesthetic and club drug, are making progress in clinical tests.
Wikipedia

Antidepressant drugs that work in hours instead of weeks could be on the market within three years, researchers say.

"We're getting closer and closer to having really, truly next-generation treatments that are better and quicker than existing ones," says Dr. Carlos Zarate, a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health.

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