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Krause corpuscles are distributed across female (left) and male (right) mouse genitalia.

Researchers have learnt that sensory nerve cells called Krause corpuscles are denser on the clitoris of female mice (left) than on the penis of male mice (right).Credit: Lijun Qi, Michael Iskols, and David Ginty

How nerve bundles in genitalia are triggered

Researchers have figured out how nerve cells on the mouse penis and clitoris activate sexual behaviours such as erections: vibrations trigger bundles of nerve endings called Krause corpuscles. As sex-toy manufacturers had already worked out, low-frequency vibrations in the range of 40–80 hertz work best. The genitalia of male and female mice contain about the same number of corpuscles, which spread out spatially as the organs grow. And the corpuscles are 15 times as concentrated on the clitoris as on the penis, because the clitoris is smaller. “It’s almost wall-to-wall Krause corpuscles” on the clitoris, says neurobiologist David Ginty.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Nature paper

‘Open-washing’ plagues big AI

‘Open-source’ artificial intelligence (AI) is nowhere near as open as its name would suggest. “To our surprise, it was the small players, with relatively few resources, that go the extra mile,” says language scientist Mark Dingemanse, who co-analysed 40 large language models’ openness. In fact, the study by Dingemanse and his colleagues suggests that many AI models are ‘open-washing’ — claiming to be open-source while disclosing as little as possible.

Nature | 7 min read

Reference: 2024 ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency proceedings

Spinal-cord atlas maps 500,000 cells

A 4D map of almost half a million mouse spinal cord cells charts precisely how different tissues respond over time to injuries of varying severity. It revealed, among other things, that astrocytes — cells that form protective barrier around a lesion — become dysfunctional in old mice. When these animals were given a gene therapy designed to boost astrocyte growth, they recovered from spinal cord injuries as well as young mice. “There are a lot of hidden treasures” in this cell atlas, says neuroscientist Binhai Zheng.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Nature paper

Features & opinion

Put people at the heart of schizophrenia research

Schizophrenia researcher Constanza Morén’s love for her father, who lived with paranoid schizophrenia, comes through in her moving essay calling for better communication and collaboration between the scientific community, health-care professionals and the public — including individuals affected by schizophrenia and their families. “My father sometimes shouted at people in the street, and passers-by would stare and scold,” she writes. “If they had known more about schizophrenia, he might have been met with compassion, instead.”

Nature | 5 min read

Futures: Lights in the storm

A woman’s quiet life is punctuated by a brave and kind act in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

Podcast: How fish know sound direction

Fish can identify the direction a sound comes from, but how they do it has been a mystery. Now, using a specialist set-up, a team of researchers have demonstrated that some fish can independently detect two components of a sound wave — pressure and particle motion — and combine this information to localize a sound source.

Nature Podcast | 32 min listen

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Rats are much more content to do repetitive work than dogs are, so they tend to stay much more reliable throughout the session and across days.”

African giant pouched rats (Cricetomys ansorgei) trained to sniff out tuberculosis in sputum samples are faster and more sensitive than a human using a microscope, and smaller and cheaper to care for than dogs, says Cindy Fast, head of training and behavioural research at the non-profit organization APOPO. (Nature | 11 min read)

This editorially independent article is part of Nature Outlook: Medical diagnostics, a supplement produced with financial support from Seegene.