Ever wonder why you can't eat just one chip or a single fry? It's not just the carbohydrates at fault. UCI researchers Daniele Piomelli, Nicholas DiPatrizio and colleagues found that fats in these foods make them nearly irresistible and trigger a surprising biological mechanism that likely drives our gluttonous behavior. The apparent culprit? Natural marijuana-like chemicals in the body called endocannabinoids. In their study, the Piomelli team discovered that when rats tasted something fatty, cells in their upper gut started producing endocannabinoids. Sugars and proteins, the researchers noted, did not have this effect.
Physics & astronomy professor Steven White and grad student Simeng Yan made the June 3 cover of Science with an illustration of their complex and groundbreaking work identifying the true ground state of a quantum spin liquid. Physicists have tried for more than 20 years to make such an identification. White and Yan did it using a well-known Japanese basket pattern called a kagome lattice. As a young UCI assistant professor in 1992, White published a pioneering computer algorithm that helped crack quantum mechanics conundrums and has since led to a whole new field of computational physics.
UCI and French researchers have identified a central switch responsible for the transformation of healthy brain cells into epileptic ones, opening the way to both treat and prevent temporal lobe epilepsy, the most common form of the disorder in adults. UCI neurologist and neuroscientist Dr. Tallie Z. Baram and her colleagues found that TLE manifests after a major reorganization of the molecules governing the behavior of neurons, the cells that communicate within the brain. These alterations often stem from prolonged febrile seizures, brain infections or trauma.
UCI chemist Wilson Ho has received the American Vacuum Society Medard W. Welch Award for his scanning tunneling microscope. The Donald Bren Professor of Physics & Astronomy and his team created the two-story-high microscope, which allows researchers to see and interact with individual atoms and molecules 500,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The prize consists of a $6,500 cash award, a struck gold medal, a certificate, and an honorary lectureship at the 58th AVS International Symposium & Exhibition in Nashville this fall.