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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Shots - Health News
3:48 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

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

Illustration by Daniel Horowitz for NPR

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

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 β€” cobra!

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Shots - Health News
4:59 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Brains Sweep Themselves Clean Of Toxins During Sleep

Katherine Streeter for NPR

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

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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Shots - Health News
6:14 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Shutdown Imperils Costly Lab Mice, Years Of Research

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
5:39 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

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

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

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

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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Environment
3:43 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Wild Weather Tied To Unusual Jet Stream Activity

Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio NASA

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

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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Shots - Health News
3:37 am
Mon September 23, 2013

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

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

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

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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Environment
6:04 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Spy Drones Turning Up New Data About Hurricanes And Weather

A Global Hawk unmanned aircraft comes in for a landing at the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., on Sept. 7, 2012, after studying Hurricane Leslie. The remotely controlled planes can stay in the air for as long as 28 hours and fly over hurricanes at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet.
NASA

Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 6:57 pm

For several weeks now, two unmanned spy planes have been flying over the Atlantic on an unusual mission: gathering intelligence about tropical storms and hurricanes.

The two Global Hawk drones are a central part of NASA's five-year HS3 (Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel) Mission investigating why certain weather patterns become hurricanes, and why some hurricanes grow into monster storms.

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Shots - Health News
5:49 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Multitasking After 60: Video Game Boosts Focus, Mental Agility

Strenuous mental exercise like reading difficult books, solving tricky math problems β€” or, maybe, playing the right video game β€” can help keep a healthy brain sharp, research suggests.
Images.com/Corbis

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 5:22 pm

A brain that trains can stay in the fast lane. That's the message of a study showing that playing a brain training video game for a month can rejuvenate the multitasking abilities of people in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

"After training, they improved their multitasking beyond the level of 20-year-olds," says Adam Gazzaley, one of the study's authors and a brain scientist at the University of California, San Francisco.

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Shots - Health News
4:24 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

A Single Protein May Help Explain Memory Loss In Old Age

The underlying biology of age-related memory glitches β€” in old mice and old people β€” is different from what happens with Alzheimer's, recent research suggests.
Anthony Bradshaw iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 3:26 pm

If you're finding it harder to remember where you put the car keys, the culprit could be a brain protein with a name that's easy to forget: RbAp48.

A shortage of this protein appears to impair our ability to remember things as we age, researchers report in the current issue of Science Translational Medicine. And boosting levels of RbAP48 in aging brains can reverse memory loss, at least in mice, they say.

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Shots - Health News
3:07 am
Mon August 12, 2013

New Muscle Drugs Could Be The Next Big Thing In Sports Doping

Belgian Blue bulls look like they are made of muscle because they have a mutation in the gene that codes for the protein myostatin. In humans, as in other types of cattle, myostatin normally limits the number of muscle fibers that form before birth and then limits the growth of those fibers later on.
Courtesy of Se-Jin Lee and Alexandra McPherron PNAS

Originally published on Mon August 12, 2013 11:03 am

Research intended to help people with muscle-wasting diseases could be about to launch a new era in performance-enhancing drugs.

The research has produced several muscle-building drugs now being tested in people with medical problems, including muscular dystrophy, cancer and kidney disease. The drugs all work by blocking a substance called myostatin that the body normally produces to keep muscles from getting too big.

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