March brings the return of the Science Channel’s “Are We Alone?” month, with a lineup of shows exploring whether there is extraterrestrial life. The programming, produced in partnership with the SETI Institute, will focus on the research being done about the existence of life beyond Earth. Two new episodes of the channel’s “Alien Encounters” series, which premiered last year, will examine possible scenarios in the event that aliens were to land on Earth. “Aliens: The Definitive Guide” will break down what scientists know about life beyond our planet, including Earth-like exoplanets. The Science Channel will also air “NASA’s Mission to Mars,” a special about the rover Curiosity’s trip to the Red Planet, and “Transit of Venus,” about the rare event, when the planet passes between Earth and the sun. (The transit happened in 2012, but it will not recur for more than a century.) “Are We Alone?” month kicks off at 10 p.m on March 5.
We’ve all been there. A few days at home with the flu and you start to feel a bit, well, dumb. This illness-induced brain fog was long assumed to be purely imaginary, since the body has barriers that protect the brain from infection. But new research indicates that watching daytime reality shows may not be what makes you feel stupid when sick.
According to Discover magazine’s March issue, researchers have found a possible link between immunity and intelligence: T cells, a type of white blood cell that is key to immune function. These cells not only protect the body against foreign invaders, they also help guard the brain against the body’s own immune response. When new neural connections are made, molecular waste is created. This waste can be mistaken for infection by some immune cells, which then launch an attack and create inflammation around the brain — until T cells near the brain signal them to stand down. But in a body that is fighting the flu or other pathogen, the T cells loosen up. While this allows the other immune cells to fight the illness, it also allows inflammation to affect the brain, temporarily blunting cognitive function.