Jon Hamilton

You may want to read this twice if you're older than 45. In fact, you may have to.

That's because your mental abilities are already in decline, according to a study of 7,390 British civil servants just published in BMJ, the British Medical Journal.

2011 may go down as the year of the retraction in the scientific world.

Among the highly publicized discoveries that got debunked this year: a genetic basis for longevity; a new form of life; an explanation for autism; and a link between a virus and chronic fatigue syndrome.

All of these non-discoveries have something in common: They involved findings that both scientists and the public badly wanted to believe.

A wasp uses a pebble as a hammer. An octopus carries around a coconut shell to hide in. A shrike impales its prey on a sharp thorn.

A little brain stimulation seems to speed up recovery from a stroke.

This isn't the sort of brain stimulation you get from conversation. It's done using an electromagnetic coil placed against the scalp.

Researchers think the treatment encourages brain cells to form new connections, allowing the brain to rewire itself to compensate for damage caused by a stroke.

If you read the ingredient list on a can of soup, you're likely to see items like carrots, wild rice, perhaps some noodles. What you won't see listed: the industrial chemical BPA, or bisphenol A.

But a little canned soup for lunch can dramatically increase exposure to the chemical, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Scientists say they are beginning to understand why brain injuries are so common in very premature infants — and they are coming up with strategies to prevent or repair these injuries.

The advances could eventually help reduce the number of premature babies who develop cerebral palsy, epilepsy or behavioral disorders such as ADHD, researchers told the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington, D.C., this week.

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