Weird Science takes antibiotics to ward off a case of idiocy

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2013-05-11

An antibiotic that also helps prevent stupidity. Alternately, one of the most useful side effects of a drug that I've ever heard of. There's an antibiotic called minocycline, which is a close chemical relative of the more commonly prescribed tetracycline. But recently, some researchers discovered it has an intriguing off-label effect: the drug can "improve symptoms of psychiatric disorders and ... facilitate sober decision-making in healthy human subjects." To get a better grip on this effect, some researchers turned to a classic example of human stupidity, the "honey trap." In this case, rather than honey, the trap was baited with an attractive female, because "Males tend to cooperate with physically attractive females without careful evaluation of their trustworthiness."

Given photos from a panel of females who had already decided to exploit their partners, the men were asked to rate the photos' attractiveness, and to decide whether they'd trust the woman as a partner. As expected, the decision to trust a woman became more common as the attractiveness rating went up. But the affect completely vanished if the men were given minocycline first.

Killing cancer with a radioactive bacterial infection. There's an unexpected bit of logic behind the approach in this study. The immune system normally helps keep cancer in check, and many tumors only survive because they evolve the ability to tone down an immune response. So, the people behind this study reasoned, a tumor and the cells around it should be susceptible to infection by a weakened bacterial strain that the body usually clears with ease.

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