Today’s Headlines: Shivering, Hearing and Bionic Hands

Shivering as a form of exercise: “This winter’s frigid temperatures could be having one desirable side effect. They may be revving up your metabolism.” A small new study, published in Cell Metabolism, shows that shivering from the cold can trigger a biochemical process that ultimately shifts white fat to brown fat, a healthy fat that “burns calories and generates heat.” Researchers found that muscle contractions, whether from exercise or from shivering, raise the amount of a hormone called irisin, which “promotes conversion of white fat to brown.” So if you can’t make it to the gym, you may want to consider “lingering outside at the bus stop and shivering” a little. (The New York Times)

Simulating blindness can help enhance an individual’s hearing: A new study in mice suggests that “minimizing an individual’s sight for just a week can enhance regions of the brain responsible for processing hearing.” The researchers found that mice who had been kept in dark conditions for a week had developed stronger connections between brain cells in the auditory area of the brain, possibly allowing them to process sounds more effectively. If the results are also true in humans, this discovery could “have many clinical applications – especially for those struggling with hearing loss.” (Fox News)

Bionic hand allows amputee to feel again: A man who lost his left hand in a firework accident ten years ago “regained his sense of touch after being attached to a ‘feeling’ bionic hand that allowed him to grasp and identify objects even when blindfolded.” The sophisticated device was wired to nerves in the man’s left arm and allowed for “real-time sensation.” Impressively, he was able to distinguish between different shapes and consistencies, though the hand cannot yet tell the difference between hot and cold. Because the hand was just a prototype, it will be at least several more years before researchers will have a version that can be used long-term or by other individuals. (Reuters)