Table of Contents

Volume 501 Number 7465 pp5-130

5 September 2013

About the cover

An artist’s rendition of the NeuroRacer cognitive training video game designed for older adults. Our ability to multitask and our capacity for cognitive control decline linearly as we age. A new study shows that cognitive training can help repair this decline. In older adults aged between 60 and 85 who trained at home by playing NeuroRacer, a custom-designed 3D video game, both multitasking and cognitive control improved, with effects persisting for six months. The benefits of this training extended to untrained cognitive functions such as sustained attention and working memory. These findings suggest that the ageing brain may be more robustly plastic than previously thought, allowing for cognitive enhancement using appropriately designed strategies. Cover illustration: Matt Omernick

This Week


  • The power of treaties

    International weapons conventions may not be perfect, but they are a vital mechanism for making wars less barbaric and less frequent — a cause that should galvanize scientists and others.

  • Nuclear error

    Japan should bring in international help to study and mitigate the Fukushima crisis.

  • The nitrogen fix

    A simple iron complex offers a chance to update how the global supply of ammonia is made.

World View

  • Deep-sea trawling must be banned

    Industry interests should not be allowed to derail a European Union vote on whether to prohibit a destructive fishing technique, says Les Watling.

Seven Days


News in Focus




  • Neuroscience: Map the other brain

    Glia, the non-neuronal cells that make up most of the brain, must not be left out of an ambitious US mapping initiative, says R. Douglas Fields.

Books and Arts

  • Population: Crowd control

    Hania Zlotnik assesses two polarized takes on population growth and planetary capacity.

    • Review of 10 Billion Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?
      Stephen Emmott & Alan Weisman
  • Space exploration: Probing the Universe

    A celebration of uncrewed space missions is less than international in scope, finds John Zarnecki.

    • Review of Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration
      Chris Impey & Holly Henry



  • Chemistry: Greener pastures

    For chemists with an interest in the environment, making a move into green chemistry can be fruitful.

    • Neil Savage



naturejobs job listings and advertising features




  • Self-propagation of pathogenic protein aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases

    • Mathias Jucker
    • Lary C. Walker

    The prion paradigm – the hypothesis that the seeded aggregation of certain proteins is key to understanding age-related neurodegenerative disorders – is evaluated in relation to recent studies and disease models; the paradigm suggests a unifying pathogenic principle with broad relevance to a large class of currently intractable diseases.


  • Bacteria activate sensory neurons that modulate pain and inflammation

    • Isaac M. Chiu
    • Balthasar A. Heesters
    • Nader Ghasemlou
    • Christian A. Von Hehn
    • Fan Zhao
    • Johnathan Tran
    • Brian Wainger
    • Amanda Strominger
    • Sriya Muralidharan
    • Alexander R. Horswill
    • Juliane Bubeck Wardenburg
    • Sun Wook Hwang
    • Michael C. Carroll
    • Clifford J. Woolf

    This study shows that most known mediators of immunity, such as TLR2, MyD88, T cells or B cells, and neutrophils and monocytes, are dispensable for pain produced by Staphylococcus aureus infection; instead, bacterial products, such as N-formylated peptides and α-haemolysin, induce pain by directly activating nociceptor neurons, which in turn modulate inflammation.

    See also
  • Topoisomerases facilitate transcription of long genes linked to autism

    • Ian F. King
    • Chandri N. Yandava
    • Angela M. Mabb
    • Jack S. Hsiao
    • Hsien-Sung Huang
    • Brandon L. Pearson
    • J. Mauro Calabrese
    • Joshua Starmer
    • Joel S. Parker
    • Terry Magnuson
    • Stormy J. Chamberlain
    • Benjamin D. Philpot
    • Mark J. Zylka

    Reducing topoisomerase activity in mouse and human neurons is found to reduce the expression of long genes by impairing transcription elongation: among genes affected are numerous high-confidence candidates for autism spectrum disorder.

    See also
  • Key tissue targets responsible for anthrax-toxin-induced lethality

    • Shihui Liu
    • Yi Zhang
    • Mahtab Moayeri
    • Jie Liu
    • Devorah Crown
    • Rasem J. Fattah
    • Alexander N. Wein
    • Zu-Xi Yu
    • Toren Finkel
    • Stephen H. Leppla

    Cell-type-specific anthrax toxin receptor CMG2-null mice are generated and used to show that the Bacillus anthracis toxins lethal toxin (LT) and oedema toxin (ET) target distinct cell types; in contrast to previous suggestions, it is shown that endothelial cells are not key targets for either toxin and instead LT targets cardiomyocytes and vascular smooth muscle cells whereas ET targets hepatocytes.


  • A quantum access network

    • Bernd Fröhlich
    • James F. Dynes
    • Marco Lucamarini
    • Andrew W. Sharpe
    • Zhiliang Yuan
    • Andrew J. Shields

    An experimental demonstration of the concept of a ‘quantum access network’ based on simple and cost-effective telecommunication technologies yields a viable method for realizing multi-user quantum key distribution networks with efficient use of resources.

    See also
  • Microscopic origin of the ‘0.7-anomaly’ in quantum point contacts

    • Florian Bauer
    • Jan Heyder
    • Enrico Schubert
    • David Borowsky
    • Daniela Taubert
    • Benedikt Bruognolo
    • Dieter Schuh
    • Werner Wegscheider
    • Jan von Delft
    • Stefan Ludwig

    The ‘0.7-anomaly’ — an unexpected feature in the conductance of a quantum point contact — is shown to originate in a smeared van Hove singularity in the local density of states at the bottom of the lowest one-dimensional subband of the point contact.

  • Odd and even Kondo effects from emergent localization in quantum point contacts

    • M. J. Iqbal
    • Roi Levy
    • E. J. Koop
    • J. B. Dekker
    • J. P. de Jong
    • J. H. M. van der Velde
    • D. Reuter
    • A. D. Wieck
    • Ramón Aguado
    • Yigal Meir
    • C. H. van der Wal

    Electric conductance through a narrow constriction of width comparable to the electronic wavelength is quantized in units of 2e2/h, but a shoulder at around 0.7 of the conductance quantum is often present in measurements; detailed experiments now confirm that this effect is due to the emergence of localized states that result from many-body interactions between electrons in the constriction.

  • Catalytic conversion of nitrogen to ammonia by an iron model complex

    • John S. Anderson
    • Jonathan Rittle
    • Jonas C. Peters

    Catalysis of the reduction of nitrogen to ammonia under mild conditions by a tris(phosphine)borane-supported iron complex indicates that a single iron site may be capable of stabilizing the various NxHy intermediates generated during catalytic ammonia formation.

  • Asymmetric effects of daytime and night-time warming on Northern Hemisphere vegetation

    • Shushi Peng
    • Shilong Piao
    • Philippe Ciais
    • Ranga B. Myneni
    • Anping Chen
    • Frédéric Chevallier
    • Albertus J. Dolman
    • Ivan A. Janssens
    • Josep Peñuelas
    • Gengxin Zhang
    • Sara Vicca
    • Shiqiang Wan
    • Shiping Wang
    • Hui Zeng

    Correlations between the maximum and minimum daily temperatures and a vegetation index in the Northern Hemisphere suggest that asymmetric diurnal warming (faster warming of the land surface during the night than during the day) produces several different vegetation and carbon storage effects.

    See also
  • Evolutionary origins of the avian brain

    • Amy M. Balanoff
    • Gabe S. Bever
    • Timothy B. Rowe
    • Mark A. Norell

    High-resolution computed tomography is used to compare cranial volumes of extant birds, the early avialan Archaeopteryx lithographica, and non-avian maniraptoran dinosaurs that are close to the origins of Avialae and avian flight; the cranial cavity of Archaeopteryx is not distinct from that of maniraptorans, suggesting that some non-avian maniraptorans may have had the neurological equipment required for flight.

  • Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults

    • J. A. Anguera
    • J. Boccanfuso
    • J. L. Rintoul
    • O. Al-Hashimi
    • F. Faraji
    • J. Janowich
    • E. Kong
    • Y. Larraburo
    • C. Rolle
    • E. Johnston
    • A. Gazzaley

    Training with a multitasking video game is shown to improve cognitive control abilities that decline with age, revealing the plasticity of the ageing brain; these behavioural improvements were accompanied by underlying neural changes that predicted the training-induced boost in sustained attention and enhanced multitasking performance 6 months later.

  • The toxicity of antiprion antibodies is mediated by the flexible tail of the prion protein

    • Tiziana Sonati
    • Regina R. Reimann
    • Jeppe Falsig
    • Pravas Kumar Baral
    • Tracy O’Connor
    • Simone Hornemann
    • Sine Yaganoglu
    • Bei Li
    • Uli S. Herrmann
    • Barbara Wieland
    • Mridula Swayampakula
    • Muhammad Hafizur Rahman
    • Dipankar Das
    • Nat Kav
    • Roland Riek
    • Pawel P. Liberski
    • Michael N. G. James
    • Adriano Aguzzi

    Biochemical and structural investigation of a model for prion-induced neurodegeneration—antibody binding to PrPC—reveals the role of the PrP flexible tail and reactive oxygen species in mediating toxicity.

  • Microbial colonization influences early B-lineage development in the gut lamina propria

    • Duane R. Wesemann
    • Andrew J. Portuguese
    • Robin M. Meyers
    • Michael P. Gallagher
    • Kendra Cluff-Jones
    • Jennifer M. Magee
    • Rohit A. Panchakshari
    • Scott J. Rodig
    • Thomas B. Kepler
    • Frederick W. Alt

    Primary B-cell development is thought to be restricted to the bone marrow; here it is shown to occur also in intestinal tissues of postnatal mice, that it peaks at the time of weaning and is increased upon colonization of germ-free mice, and is thus influenced by commensal microbes.

    See also
  • Vesicular and non-vesicular transport feed distinct glycosylation pathways in the Golgi

    • Giovanni D’Angelo
    • Takefumi Uemura
    • Chia-Chen Chuang
    • Elena Polishchuk
    • Michele Santoro
    • Henna Ohvo-Rekilä
    • Takashi Sato
    • Giuseppe Di Tullio
    • Antonio Varriale
    • Sabato D’Auria
    • Tiziana Daniele
    • Fabrizio Capuani
    • Ludger Johannes
    • Peter Mattjus
    • Maria Monti
    • Piero Pucci
    • Roger L. Williams
    • John E. Burke
    • Frances M. Platt
    • Akihiro Harada
    • Maria Antonietta De Matteis

    Glucosylceramide (GlcCer), a common precursor of different glycosphingolipids, is shown to be channelled to two distinct pathways in the Golgi; non-vesicular transport from the cis- to trans-Golgi network results in the synthesis of the globo series of glycosphingolipids, whereas vesicular transport is the main source of GlcCer for ganglioside synthesis in the Golgi cisternae.

  • Recovery from slow inactivation in K+ channels is controlled by water molecules

    • Jared Ostmeyer
    • Sudha Chakrapani
    • Albert C. Pan
    • Eduardo Perozo
    • Benoît Roux

    A series of long molecular dynamics simulations shows that the K+ channel is sterically locked in the inactive conformation by buried water molecules bound behind the selectivity filter; a kinetic model deduced from the simulations shows how releasing the buried waters can elongate the timescale of the recovery period, and this hypothesis is confirmed using ‘wet’ biophysical experiments.