Jon Hamilton | WAMC

Jon Hamilton

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

In 2014, Hamilton went to Liberia as part of the NPR team that covered Ebola. The team received a Peabody Award for its coverage.

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 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.

At an animal sanctuary in the Congo, several dozen Congolese schoolchildren are getting a crash course in bonobos.

These gentle, endangered apes, who resemble chimpanzees, are "our closest cousins," educator Blaise Mbwaki tells the students in French. "They have a human character, and they are Congolese."

"So if you eat a bonobo," Mbwaki says, "you are eating your cousin. It is cannibalism."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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When COVID-19 vaccines began arriving in Memphis, Tenn., late last year, some Black residents had questions. Did the vaccines cause infertility? Did they alter a person's DNA?

They don't. And local community leaders worked hard to counter these and other vaccine myths as they came up in public forums around town or appeared online.

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the U.S., more travelers are taking to the skies.

Friday marked the busiest day for the nation's airports since the middle of March 2020, when COVID-19 caused air travel to plummet.

About 1.36 million passengers passed through security checkpoints Friday, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration. That is the highest volume since March 15, 2020, when checkpoints reported more than 1.5 million passengers.

Updated on March 15 at 12:05 p.m. ET

France, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland have joined a number of other European nations in temporarily suspending administration of a COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca after reports of abnormal blood clotting in several people.

Many members of racial and ethnic minority groups say they face extra barriers when seeking care for a friend or family member with Alzheimer's disease.

Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American caregivers were far more likely than whites to encounter discrimination, language barriers and providers who lack cultural competence, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer's Association.

Fossils offer a detailed record of early human skulls but not the brains inside them.

So researchers have been using genetic material taken from those fossils to search for clues about how the human brain has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years.

And now they have succeeded in growing human brain organoids, or "minibrains," that contain the Neanderthal variant of a gene called NOVA1, a team reports in the journal Science.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Early in the pandemic, people with COVID-19 began reporting an odd symptom: the loss of smell and taste.

The reason wasn't congestion. Somehow, the SARS-CoV-2 virus appeared to be affecting nerves that carry information from the nose to the brain.

That worried neurologists.

A chemically tweaked version of the psychedelic drug ibogaine appears to relieve depression and addiction symptoms without producing hallucinations or other dangerous side effects.

The results of a study in rodents suggest it may be possible to make psychedelic drugs safe enough to become mainstream treatments for psychiatric disorders, the authors report Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The actual number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. reached nearly 53 million at the end of September and could be approaching 100 million now, according to a model developed by government researchers.

The model, created by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calculated that the true number of infections is about eight times the reported number, which includes only the cases confirmed by a laboratory test.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

During deep sleep, the brain appears to wash away waste products that increase the risk for Alzheimer's disease.

A host of new research studies suggest that this stage of sleep — when dreams are rare and the brain follows a slow, steady beat – can help reduce levels of beta-amyloid and tau, two hallmarks of the disease.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In other news, hopes for an experimental drug for Alzheimer's disease took a big hit today. It failed to win support from a panel of experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration. NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton is on the line.

If you fall off a bike, you'll probably end up with a cinematic memory of the experience: the wind in your hair, the pebble on the road, then the pain.

Medical research was an early casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After cases began emerging worldwide, thousands of clinical trials unrelated to COVID-19 were paused or canceled amid fears that participants would be infected. But now some researchers are finding ways to carry on in spite of the coronavirus.

Researchers appear to have shown how the brain creates two different kinds of thirst.

The process involves two types of brain cells, one that responds to a decline in fluid in our bodies, while the other monitors levels of salt and other minerals, a team reports in the journal Nature.

Together, these specialized thirst cells seem to determine whether animals and people crave pure water or something like a sports drink, which contains salt and other minerals.

Mental illness can run in families. And Dr. Kafui Dzirasa grew up in one of these families.

His close relatives include people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. As a medical student, he learned about the ones who'd been committed to psychiatric hospitals or who "went missing" and were discovered in alleyways.

Dzirasa decided to dedicate his career to "figuring out how to make science relevant to ultimately help my own family."

Out-of-body experiences are all about rhythm, a team reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

In mice and one person, scientists were able to reproduce the altered state often associated with ketamine by inducing certain brain cells to fire together in a slow, rhythmic fashion.

Some mighty mice have overcome one of the major obstacles to interplanetary space flight: muscle and bone loss.

The mice got a drug that prevented the usual decreases in muscle and bone mass during a month on the International Space Station, a team reports in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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A combination of two experimental drugs appears to slow the decline of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an illness often known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

A six-month study of 137 patients with a fast-progressing form of the disease found that those who got daily doses of a two-drug combination called AMX0035 scored several points higher on a standard measure of function, a team reports in the Sept. 3 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

COVID-19 forced Keriann Wilmot's son to trade his classroom for a computer. It was a tough transition for a 10-year-old with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"It was a different environment for him," Wilmot says. "He wasn't used to this kind of work from school coming in the format of an email in his Chromebook every single day."

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a variant of the anesthetic and party drug ketamine for suicidal patients with major depression.

The drug is a nasal spray called Spravato and it contains esketamine, a chemical cousin of ketamine.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

This is the story of a fatal genetic disease, a tenacious scientist and a family that never lost hope.

Conner Curran was 4 years old when he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that causes muscles to waste away.

Conner's mother, Jessica Curran, remembers some advice she got from the doctor who made that 2015 diagnosis: "Take your son home, love him, take him on trips while he's walking, give him a good life and enjoy him because there are really not many options right now."

For years, public health officials have been trying to dispel the myth that people who get a flu shot are more likely to get Alzheimer's disease.

They are not. And now there is evidence that vaccines that protect against the flu and pneumonia may actually protect people from Alzheimer's, too.

The same process that causes dew drops to form on a blade of grass appears to play an important role in Alzheimer's disease and other brain diseases.

Scientists are monitoring the virus that causes COVID-19 for genetic changes that could make a vaccine ineffective. But so far, they're not seeing any.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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