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.

The letters O-C-D have become a punch line to describe people who make lists or wash their hands a lot. But for some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the intrusive thoughts and rituals are severely disabling and don't respond to drugs or behavioral therapies.

So doctors have been trying a new treatment for OCD: deep brain stimulation.

Deep brain stimulation is best known as a way to reduce the tremors of Parkinson's disease. A surgeon places wires deep in the brain that carry electrical impulses from an implanted device a bit like a pacemaker.

A experimental device that delivers electrical pulses to the forehead can help control epileptic seizures, say scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The device works by stimulating the trigeminal nerve, which runs just beneath the skin covering the eyebrows. Electrical signals follow that nerve to areas in the brain where seizures often begin, researchers say.

The group that advises the U.S. government on vaccination thinks some new vaccines may not be worth the cost.

In 2009, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, decided it's not cost effective to routinely vaccinate boys for human papillomavirus, though they do recommend the vaccine for girls. Now the group is struggling to decide whether infants and toddlers should get costly new vaccines to prevent a form of meningitis caused by bacteria.

Scientists have finally demonstrated that sex is useful.

A team from Indiana University found that worms that have sex were better able than asexual worms to stay one evolutionary step ahead of dangerous parasites.

The finding, published in the journal Science, provides the first direct evidence that sexual reproduction improves a species' ability to survive in a fast-changing environment. And it suggests that parasites, including bacteria and viruses, are one reason species developed sexual reproduction in the first place.

The next time you're delayed by rain or snow at an airport, consider this: it's possible that an airplane actually caused the bad weather.

When aircraft fly though certain clouds, they can trigger a chain of events that causes precipitation for miles around, according to a study in the journal Science.

The idea for the study came in 2007, when a plane full of weather scientists flew through a very odd snowstorm near Denver International Airport.

Government officials are forecasting a turbulent future for the nation's weather satellite program.

Federal budget cuts are threatening to leave the U.S. without some critical satellites, the officials say, and that could mean less accurate warnings about events like tornadoes and blizzards. In particular, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric are concerned about satellites that orbit over the earth's poles rather than remaining over a fixed spot along the equator.

Tornadoes have killed at least 530 people in the U.S. this year, the highest death toll since 1950.

But researchers say they are working on new detection and forecasting technologies that could help reduce tornado deaths in the future.

One of those technologies got put to the test on May 24 when a tornado touched down near Chickasha, Okla., and began heading northeast at near freeway speed.

Scientists say they have finally figured out how smoking helps people keep off extra pounds.

It turns out that nicotine activates a pathway in the brain that suppresses appetite, according to a study in the journal Science. This discovery should lead to better diet drugs, the researchers say.

The finding comes after decades of research showing that smokers tend to be a bit thinner than nonsmokers, and that smokers who quit tend to put on weight.

A technology that monitors electrical activity in the brain could help identify infants who will go on to develop autism, scientists say.

The technology, known as electroencephalography, or EEG, is also providing hints about precisely how autism affects the brain and which therapies are likely to help children with autism spectrum disorders.

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