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While on court, beach volleyball players need to act as a whole in order to prevent the ball from touching the sand: in a fraction of a second - just before the opponent's hand spikes the ball - the passer has to predict and adjust to the attacker's action as well as to their teammate's block position. Thanks to her Consolidator Grant, cognitive science professor Natalie Sebanz is studying the cognitive and psychological mechanisms underlying joint action expertise – in other words, how individuals learn skilled actions, such as those performed by professional athletes, together.
The Earth is made of layers, just like a big onion, composed of different materials. However, the compounds forming these layers are not static, flowing from one stratum to another, following patterns still not entirely understood. Prof. Patrick Cordier tries to model the real conditions minerals are subjected to beneath the Earth’s crust. His aim is to understand the forces driving tectonic plates so we can better comprehend phenomena like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Through her work with the fruit fly Drosophila santomea, Dr Virginie Orgogozo aims to answer one of the most challenging questions of modern evolutionary biology: how do observable characteristics change between species and yet remain stable in a given species?
The Theory of Mind - the ability to understand that others may have thoughts, beliefs, desires, and intentions different from ours - develops in early childhood and is considered as a key process to explain our social interactions. How do children acquire this ability? What are the cognitive and brain mechanisms that allow human beings to learn from others, to predict their behaviour and to communicate with them? These are some of the questions Dr Agnes Melinda Kovacs addresses, thanks to an ERC grant, in her laboratory in Budapest.
Researchers supported by the ERC have sampled magmatic gases derived from the Earth's mantle in the Eifel region in Germany. Their analysis of xenon, a rare and inert gas, sampled in bubbling mineral water could bring new insights into the origin of volatile elements, water and gases, that allowed life to develop on Earth.
A team of researchers at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona deciphered the genetic mechanisms responsible for the evolutionary success of animals, including humans. The findings give insight on how life evolved from its simple one-cell form to complex multi-cellular organisms. The results, published on 21/4/2016 in Cell journal, may also provide hints how the life will evolve in future.
While women inherit two X chromosomes, the expressions of one of them is shut down during embryonic development. Men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. The switching off of women’s second X chromosome is thought to compensate for the presence of only one X in males versus two in females, to balance for X-linked gene products between the sexes. X-chromosome inactivation is also one of the clearest examples of what epigenetic mechanisms do to our genetic material: the DNA of the genes on the X is still present but not actively expressed or needed. Prof. Edith Heard was awarded ERC grants to understand the intricate processes behind the phenomenon, with unexpected results that changed the way gene regulation is now looked at.
People suffering from prostate cancer usually go through surgery and radiotherapy. When these treatments are ineffective, drugs are used to stop the tumour progression. However, after a few years, patients stop responding to this therapy. Prof. Xavier Salvatella from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) may have found how to address this resistance, caused by alterations of the androgen receptor protein including mutations.
The ocean is filled with microscopic algae that take up carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere in order to grow. A new study by researchers from the Geology Department at the University of Oviedo (Spain) shows that the algae may adapt to rising levels of atmospheric CO2 much sooner than previously thought, and in an unexpected way. This study, published today in Nature and co-authored by ERC grantee Heather Stoll, also provides evidence for a much closer link between atmospheric CO2 decrease and cooling and glaciations in the geological past.