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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4:46pm

Fri November 15, 2013
Shots - Health News

Federal Brain Science Project Aims To Restore Soldiers' Memory

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 8:07 pm

President Obama has pledged millions of dollars to fuel research into understanding the workings of the human brain.
Zephyr Science Source

When President Obama announced his plan to explore the mysteries of the human brain seven months ago, it was long on ambition and short on details.

Now some of the details are being sketched in.

The BRAIN Initiative will include efforts to restore lost memories in war veterans, create tools that let scientists study individual brain circuits and map the nervous system of the fruit fly.

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3:02am

Tue November 12, 2013
Shots - Health News

The Case Against Brain Scans As Evidence In Court

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 5:39 pm

When researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College scanned teenage brains, they found that the area that regulates emotional responses has to work harder to keep impulses in check.
Courtesty Kristina Caudle Developmental Neuroscience

It's not just people who go on trial these days. It's their brains.

More and more lawyers are arguing that some defendants deserve special consideration because they have brains that are immature or impaired, says Nita Farahany, a professor of law and philosophy at Duke University who has been studying the use of brain science in court.

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9:27am

Mon November 11, 2013
Shots - Health News

Sweat Your Way To A Healthier Brain

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 8:14 am

He feels smarter already.
iStockphoto.com

Moving your body may be the best way to protect your brain.

Physical exercise can ease depression, slow age-related memory loss and prevent Parkinson-like symptoms, researchers reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting underway in San Diego.

The findings — some in animals, some in people — suggest that people may be making a mistake if they're relying primarily on crossword puzzles and brain-training games for mental wellness.

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5:46pm

Mon November 4, 2013
Shots - Health News

Childhood Maltreatment Can Leave Scars In The Brain

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 12:21 pm

Girls are particularly vulnerable to brain changes caused by stress or trauma, researchers say.
Allen Johnson iStockphoto.com

Maltreatment during childhood can lead to long-term changes in brain circuits that process fear, researchers say. This could help explain why children who suffer abuse are much more likely than others to develop problems like anxiety and depression later on.

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4:36pm

Mon October 28, 2013
Shots - Health News

Eeek, Snake! Your Brain Has A Special Corner Just For Them

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 5:17 pm

Illustration by Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Anthropologist Lynne Isbell was running through a glade in central Kenya in 1992 when something suddenly caused her to freeze in her tracks. "I stopped just in front of a cobra," she says. "It was raised with its hood spread out."

Isbell, who is at the University of California, Davis, says she has spent the past couple of decades trying to understand how she could have reacted before her conscious brain even had a chance to think — cobra!

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4:59pm

Thu October 17, 2013
Shots - Health News

Brains Sweep Themselves Clean Of Toxins During Sleep

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 5:35 pm

Katherine Streeter for NPR

While the brain sleeps, it clears out harmful toxins, a process that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, researchers say.

During sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases dramatically, washing away harmful waste proteins that build up between brain cells during waking hours, a study of mice found.

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6:48pm

Thu October 10, 2013
Shots - Health News

Shutdown Imperils Costly Lab Mice, Years Of Research

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 8:33 pm

Bob Adams is a lab animal veterinarian at Johns Hopkins University.
Maggie Starbard NPR

The government shutdown is likely to mean an early death for thousands of mice used in research on diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's.

Federal research centers including the National Institutes of Health will have to kill some mice to avoid overcrowding, researchers say. Others will die because it is impossible to maintain certain lines of genetically altered mice without constant monitoring by scientists. And most federal scientists have been banned from their own labs since Oct. 1.

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6:05pm

Wed October 2, 2013
Shots - Health News

A DEET-Like Mosquito Spray That Smells Like Jasmine Or Grapes?

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 9:56 am

Scientists have discovered four new DEET-like mosquito repellents. Three of them are safe to eat.
Courtesy of Pinky Kai/University of California, Riverside

California scientists are reporting a pair of victories in the epic struggle between man and mosquito.

A team at the University of California, Riverside, appears to have finally figured out how bugs detect the insect repellent known as DEET. And the team used its discovery to identify several chemical compounds that promise to be safer and cheaper than DEET, according to the report in the journal Nature.

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3:43am

Wed September 25, 2013
Environment

Wild Weather Tied To Unusual Jet Stream Activity

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 6:25 am

Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio NASA

There has been a lot of extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere this year, including the recent torrential rains in Colorado, flooding in Europe, bitter cold in Florida and a heat wave in Alaska. And scientists say all of it is related to some odd behavior by the powerful air currents called the polar jet stream.

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3:37am

Mon September 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

How A Pregnant Woman's Choices Could Shape A Child's Health

Originally published on Tue September 24, 2013 8:58 am

Does a glass or two of wine during pregnancy really increase the child's health risks? Epigenetics may help scientists figure that out.
Katherine Streeter for NPR

Pregnant women hear a lot about things they should avoid: alcohol, tobacco, chemical exposures, stress. All of those have the potential to affect a developing fetus. And now scientists are beginning to understand why.

One important factor, they say, is something called epigenetics, which involves the mechanisms that turn individual genes on and off in a cell.

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