Jon Hamilton

Jon Hamilton is a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk. Currently he focuses on neuroscience, health risks, and extreme weather.

Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Hamilton was part of NPR's team of science reporters and editors who went to Japan to cover the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Hamilton contributed several pieces to the Science Desk series "The Human Edge," which looked at what makes people the most versatile and powerful species on Earth. His reporting explained how humans use stories, how the highly evolved human brain is made from primitive parts, and what autism reveals about humans social brains.

In 2009, Hamilton received the Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award for his piece on the neuroscience behind treating autism.

Before joining NPR in 1998, Hamilton was a media fellow with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation studying health policy issues. He reported on states that have improved their Medicaid programs for the poor by enrolling beneficiaries in private HMOs.

From 1995-1997, Hamilton wrote on health and medical topics as a freelance writer, after having been a medical reporter for both The Commercial Appeal and Physician's Weekly.

Hamilton graduated with honors from Oberlin College in Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. As a student, he was the editor of the Oberlin Review student newspaper. He earned his master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, where he graduated with honors During his time at Columbia, Hamilton was awarded the Baker Prize for magazine writing and earned a Sherwood traveling fellowship.

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2:27am

Thu July 10, 2014
Shots - Health News

Bingeing On Bad News Can Fuel Daily Stress

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 2:34 pm

Katherine Streeter for NPR

If you're feeling stressed these days, the news media may be partly to blame.

At least that's the suggestion of a national survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

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3:36pm

Mon June 2, 2014
Shots - Health News

Bursts Of Light Create Memories, Then Take Them Away

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 3:38 pm

Katherine Streeter for NPR

You can't just open up a living brain and see the memories inside.

So Roberto Malinow, a brain scientist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent years trying to find other ways to understand how memories are made and lost. The research — right now being done in rats – should lead to a better understanding of human memory problems ranging from Alzheimer's to post-traumatic stress disorder.

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2:33am

Mon June 2, 2014
Shots - Health News

Pregnancy Hormone May Reduce Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 10:30 am

A collage of family photos of Melissa Sherak Glasser.
Mark Turner for NPR

For decades, women with multiple sclerosis have noticed that they tend to do better while they are pregnant. That has led to an experimental drug for the disease that's based on a hormone associated with pregnancy.

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1:08am

Tue May 27, 2014
Shots - Health News

Military Plans To Test Brain Implants To Fight Mental Disorders

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 12:35 pm

In epilepsy, the normal behavior of brain neurons is disturbed. The drug valproic acid appears to help the brain replenish a key chemical, preventing seizures.
David Mack/Science Source

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is launching a $70 million program to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders using electronic devices implanted in the brain.

The goal of the five-year program is to develop new ways of treating problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are common among service members who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.

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4:14pm

Mon May 5, 2014
Science

Max Planck Goes To Florida, Invites Brain Scientists To Join

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 5:35 pm

Germany's famous Max Planck Society has opened a brain research institute in Jupiter, Fla. It's another move in the international competition to attract the best brain researchers.

3:36pm

Wed April 23, 2014
Shots - Health News

Education May Help Insulate The Brain Against Traumatic Injury

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 6:24 am

Proust and algebra may not sound like brain protection, but higher levels of education correlate with cognitive reserve.
iStockphoto

A little education goes a long way toward ensuring you'll recover from a serious traumatic brain injury. In fact, people with lots of education are seven times more likely than high school dropouts to have no measurable disability a year later.

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3:41pm

Fri April 18, 2014
Shots - Health News

One Scientist's Quest To Vanquish Epileptic Seizures

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 6:13 pm

The dream of epilepsy research, says neurobiologist Ivan Soltesz, is to stop seizures by manipulating only some brain cells, not all.
Steve Zylius UC Irvine Communications

In the early 1990s, a young brain researcher named Ivan Soltesz heard a story that would shape his career.

His adviser told him about a school for children whose epileptic seizures were so severe and frequent that they had to wear helmets to prevent head injuries. The only exception to the helmet rule was for students who received an award.

"The big deal for them is that they can take the helmet off while they're walking across the stage," Soltesz says. "And that thing struck me as just wrong."

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5:00pm

Mon April 14, 2014
Shots - Health News

Gene Linked To Alzheimer's Poses A Special Threat To Women

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 6:35 pm

Women make up nearly two-thirds of the people in the U.S. diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
iStockphoto

A gene associated with Alzheimer's disease appears especially dangerous to women and may be one reason that more women than men are diagnosed with the disease.

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4:10pm

Tue April 8, 2014
Shots - Health News

The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 5:13 am

Francis Csedrik remembers details of being bonked hard on the head when he was 4, and having to go to the emergency room.
Meg Vogel NPR

Francis Csedrik, who is 8 and lives in Washington, D.C., remembers a lot of events from when he was 4 or just a bit younger. There was the time he fell "headfirst on a marble floor" and got a concussion, the day someone stole the family car ("my dad had to chase it down the block"), or the morning he found a black bat (the furry kind) in the house.

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1:24pm

Wed April 2, 2014
Shots - Health News

Map Of The Developing Human Brain Shows Where Problems Begin

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 1:31 pm

Images of the developing fetal brain show connections among brain regions.
Allen Institute for Brain Science; Bruce Fischl, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital

A high-resolution map of the human brain in utero is providing hints about the origins of brain disorders including schizophrenia and autism.

The map shows where genes are turned on and off throughout the entire brain at about the midpoint of pregnancy, a time when critical structures are taking shape, researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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2:30pm

Thu March 27, 2014
Shots - Health News

Jump In Autism Cases May Not Mean It's More Prevalent

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 3:39 pm

State numbers on autism probably don't accurately reflect children's health status, researchers say.
iStockphoto

The government's latest estimate shows that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder. That's a remarkable jump from just two years ago, when the figure was 1 in 88, and an even bigger jump from 2007, when it was just 1 in 150.

But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the agency's skyrocketing estimates don't necessarily mean that kids are more likely to have autism now than they were 10 years ago.

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5:30pm

Wed March 26, 2014
Shots - Health News

Brain Changes Suggest Autism Starts In The Womb

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 10:03 am

Researchers say intervention in early childhood may help the developing brain compensate by rewiring to work around the trouble spots.
iStockphoto

The symptoms of autism may not be obvious until a child is a toddler, but the disorder itself appears to begin well before birth.

Brain tissue taken from children who died and also happened to have autism revealed patches of disorganization in the cortex, a thin sheet of cells that's critical for learning and memory, researchers report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Tissue samples from children without autism didn't have those characteristic patches.

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5:34pm

Wed March 19, 2014
Shots - Health News

Alzheimer's Diagnosis Expanding To Catch Early Warning Signs

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 7:17 am

Doctors may eventually be able to diagnose "preclinical" Alzheimer's in patients who have abnormal brain scans but who aren't yet showing behavioral symptoms of the disease.
iStockphoto

Alzheimer's disease isn't what it used to be. After 30 years of having doctors diagnose the disease by symptoms alone, researchers and advocacy groups are calling for new diagnostic criteria that recognize changes in the brain as well as changes in behavior.

The goal is to eventually allow doctors to diagnose "preclinical" Alzheimer's in patients who do not have problems with memory or thinking, but who do have an abnormal brain scan or some other sign that the disease may be developing.

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1:04pm

Sun March 9, 2014
Shots - Health News

Alzheimer's Blood Test Raises Ethical Questions

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 8:59 am

Scientists have long sought a way to detect Alzheimer's before symptoms appear.
iStockphoto

An experimental blood test can identify people in their 70s who are likely to develop Alzheimer's disease within two or three years. The test is accurate more than 90 percent of the time, scientists reported Sunday in Nature Medicine.

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4:49pm

Wed February 26, 2014
The Salt

Maybe That BPA In Your Canned Food Isn't So Bad After All

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 11:39 am

Should you fear a chemical inside metal food containers like the ones that hold beans? Government scientists say no.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Maybe BPA isn't so bad after all.

The plastic additive has been vilified by environmental advocacy groups. But the chemical had no effect on rats fed thousands of times the amount a typical person ingests, government scientists are reporting in the journal Toxicological Sciences.

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