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Blurred photo of a woman clutching her head whilst suffering from a migraine.

About one-third of people who suffer from migraines experience a phenomenon known as aura before the headache.Credit: Tunatura/Getty

Spinal fluid might cause migraine pain

Research in mice hints at how brain activity triggers aural migraines. It suggests that the ‘aura’ phase before the headache — when people experience symptoms such as blind spots — temporarily changes the content of the cerebrospinal fluid, the clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This altered fluid, researchers suggest, travels through a previously unknown gap in anatomy to nerves in the skull where it activates pain and inflammatory receptors. “Migraine is actually protective” in that it signals something abnormal is happening in the brain, says neuroscientist and study co-author Maiken Nedergaard. “The pain is protective because it’s telling the person to rest and recover and sleep.”

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Science paper

Japan’s scientists call for funding boost

Hundreds of thousands of scientists in Japan have signed a petition calling on the government to increase funds for Japan’s most important source of basic-science funding, KAKENHI. In absolute terms, the annual budget for KAKENHI has remained flat for the past decade, hovering at just under 240 billion yen (US$1.5 billion). The petition’s organizers say double this amount is needed to regain the country’s competitiveness on the international stage. Others argue that the country needs to fundamentally restructure its funding mechanisms.

Nature | 4 min read

Scientists welcome Labour landslide

The United Kingdom’s incoming Labour government will have a long list of issues to tackle after winning a decisive victory in yesterday’s election — and scientists who spoke to Nature say that they are hoping that the shake-up will bring positive change. Research and innovation were mentioned in the party’s manifesto, raising hopes that they will be at the forefront of efforts to boost the country’s shaky economy. Also crucial is a growing crisis in university finances that was influenced, says science-policy researcher Kieron Flanagan, by the previous government’s view that universities are “evil, liberal, woke public sector organisations”.

Nature | 5 min read

Read more: A Nature editorial says the new government must take a global view of science, fix university funding and guarantee research autonomy. (5 min read)

Features & opinion

My journey with ‘expanded access’ drugs

Lynn Brielmaier was a 59-year-old father with a demanding, physical job as a maritime electronics engineer when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). As he became progressively more paralyzed, he gained hope from a US programme to allow expanded access to experimental therapies. But “the track is now filled with bureaucratic hurdles”, he writes. “People living with ALS — and those with other fatal diseases — deserve a seamless system that helps them get access to treatments that might extend their lives.”

STAT | 5 min read

Futures: Still listening

YouTube commenters leave heartfelt notes on a song that endures through many future struggles in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

Five best science books this week

Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes a fascinating history of 30 threatened European scientists who were turned away from the United Kingdom during World War II and a valuable book based on a national survey of whether climate anxiety is affecting people’s decisions about procreating.

Nature | 4 min read

Podcast: Frog sauna fights fatal fungus

Endangered Australian green and golden bell frogs (Litoria aurea) who take a ‘mini sauna’ in sun-warmed bricks can develop resistance to chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease that has driven at least 90 amphibian species to extinction. As a bonus, it helps them to become resistant to future infections at cooler temperatures — and anyone can build one in their backyard. “This is one of those examples of a very elegant piece of scientific research that is so obvious and intuitive when you read it, you think ‘why didn’t I do that?’” says biologist Anna Savage, who co-wrote an accompanying Nature News & Views article.

Nature Podcast | 27 min listen

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Infographic of the week

Wearable ultrasound imaging. A graphic showing how adhesive patches interact with the skin and how ultrasound scan images are recorded and transmitted.

Source: C. Wang & X. Zhao

Full-body, continuous wearable ultrasound will benefit health care and biomedical research, argue engineers Chonghe Wang and Xuanhe Zhao. Existing wearables — such as smart watches and glucose monitors — generally collect data from only within millimetres below the skin’s surface. Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to image inside the body like sonar does underwater, could make medical imaging accessible and affordable. But researchers must refine the durability, flexibility and accuracy of these devices, as well as make them more comfortable to wear and extend their battery life. (Nature | 8 min read)

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Something magical yet tangible happens at bridges between disciplines.”

The narrow scope of many science degrees — without social science, humanities or arts modules — hamper researchers’ abilities to build trust, do work relevant to the public and be innovative and creative, says interdisciplinary scholar Furaha Asani. (Nature | 12 min read)