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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3:32am

Tue August 14, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

How A Virus In Snakes Could Offer Clues To Ebola In Humans

Originally published on Tue August 14, 2012 1:55 pm

A newly discovered disease in boa constrictors could provide the missing link in the latent Ebola virus.
iStockphoto.com

Scientists have found a surprising link between deadly Ebola virus and a disease that's been killing boa constrictors in zoos and aquariums.

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4:36pm

Tue August 7, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Scientists See Progress In Alzheimer's Despite Growing List of Drug Failures

A PET scan of the brain of a person with Alzheimer's disease.
U.S. National Institute on Aging via Wikimedia Commons

Another once-promising Alzheimer's drug has just been tossed on the pharmaceutical scrap heap.

This time it's a drug called bapineuzumab. Like several previous experimental drugs, it was designed to attack the plaques that build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

And like those earlier drugs, it failed.

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4:02pm

Mon July 30, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Legal Battle Erupts Over Whose Plastic Consumers Should Trust

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 5:46 pm

CamelBak-brand water bottles on display at an outdoor supply store in Arcadia, Calif., in 2008. The company removed BPA from the plastic in its bottles.
David McNew Getty Images

In 2007, Eastman Chemical began marketing a tough new BPA-free plastic called Tritan. Business was good, says Lucian Boldea, a vice president at Eastman.

"We were able to make the statement that our product is not made with BPA and would release data to consumers to support that fact," he says.

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4:47pm

Thu July 19, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

How You Move Your Arm Says Something About Who You Are

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 1:47 pm

Researchers studying brains want to know what's happening in an area called the premotor cortex — the place in the brain that gears up for something the body is about to do, like swimming. Above, Michael Phelps dives off the starting blocks in the final heat of the men's 400-meter individual medley during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., on June 25.
Jamie Squire Getty Images

When Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps steps onto a starting block a few days from now, a Stanford scientist named Krishna Shenoy will be asking himself a question: "What's going on in Michael Phelps' brain?"

Specifically, Shenoy would like to know what's happening in an area called the premotor cortex. This area doesn't directly tell muscles what to do. But it's the place where the brain gears up for something the body is about to do, like swimming.

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1:54pm

Tue July 17, 2012
The Salt

FDA Bans Chemical BPA From Sippy Cups And Baby Bottles

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 3:04 pm

FDA makes it official, banning the chemical BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups.
Fabrizio Balestrieri iStockphoto.com

It's been years since manufacturers voluntarily stopped using the plastic additive BPA (Bisphenol A) in sippy cups and baby bottles. But now they have no choice. The FDA announced it has formally banned BPA from these products.

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4:31pm

Wed July 11, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Gene Mutation Offers Clue For Drugs To Stave Off Alzheimer's

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 5:03 pm

A PET scan of the brain of a person with Alzheimer's disease.
U.S. National Institute on Aging via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, there's some good news about Alzheimer's disease.

It turns out that a few lucky people carry a genetic mutation that greatly reduces their risk of getting the disease, an Icelandic team reports in the journal Nature.

The mutation also seems to protect people who don't have Alzheimer's disease from the cognitive decline that typically occurs with age.

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4:30pm

Tue July 3, 2012
Humans

Common Parasite May Influence Human Behavior

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 7:06 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Scientists say a parasite carried by cats appears to influence the behavior of humans, in this case, women infected with the parasite were slightly more likely to attempt suicide.

NPR's Jon Hamilton reports this is just the latest study suggesting that parasites can cause subtle changes in our brains.

JON HAMIILTON, BYLINE: This parasite is called Toxoplasma and its primary home is in the intestine of a cat. People can get infected when they eat under-cooked meats or sometimes when they change the litter in a cat box.

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5:34pm

Mon July 2, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

A Parasite Carried By Cats Could Increase Suicide Risk

Originally published on Wed July 4, 2012 4:31 am

What's the link between cats and madness?
Hans Martens iStockphoto.com

There's fresh evidence that cats can be a threat to your mental health.

To be fair, it's not kitties themselves that are the problem, but a parasite they carry called Toxoplasma gondii.

A study of more than 45,000 Danish women found that those infected with this feline parasite were 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than women who weren't infected.

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5:13pm

Mon June 25, 2012
Space

Twin Probes to Investigate Mysteries of Space Weather

Originally published on Tue June 26, 2012 5:27 pm

An artist's illustration of events on the sun changing the conditions in near-Earth space.
NASA

Late this summer, NASA plans to launch two very unusual weather satellites.

These satellites, known as the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), won't be tracking cold fronts or thunderstorms on Earth. They'll be studying the weather in space.

Space weather doesn't usually get much attention — until it makes trouble here on Earth.

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2:17pm

Tue June 19, 2012
The Salt

Why You Shouldn't Panic About Pesticide In Produce

Originally published on Tue June 19, 2012 3:37 pm

Apples made the top of the list for produce containing pesticide residue, but how much is unsafe?
iStockphoto.com

The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit health advocacy organization, says you should be concerned about pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables, but not so concerned that you stop eating these foods.

That's the mixed message delivered in the eighth edition of EWG's annual Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce released today.

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