Jon Hamilton

Jon Hamilton has served as a correspondent for NPR's science desk since 1998. His current beat includes neuroscience, health risks, behavior, and bioterrorism. Recent pieces include a series on the chemical perchlorate, which is turning up in California's water supply; a government effort to find out just how many autistic children there are in the U.S.; and an exploration of "neuromarketing."

Before joining NPR in 1998, Hamilton was a media fellow with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation studying health policy issues. He completed a project on states that have radically changed 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 B.A. 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, won the Baker Prize for magazine writing, and earned a Sherwood traveling fellowship.

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6:28pm

Mon May 23, 2011
Science

Scientists At A Loss To Predict Bad Tornado Seasons

There have been nearly 1,200 tornadoes in the U.S. so far this year. That's nearly twice the usual number of twisters, and it comes as something of a surprise to the scientists who study them. It turns out there is still no good way to predict tornado outbreaks more than a couple of days ahead of time.

Every year, government meteorologists tell the public about how many hurricanes to expect during the Atlantic season. But the government doesn't do that with tornadoes.

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5:56pm

Mon May 23, 2011
NPR Story

Scientists Have A Tough Time Predicting Tornado Outbreaks

So far this year, there have been nearly 1,200 tornadoes in the U.S. That's close to twice the usual number — and it comes as something of a surprise to the scientists who study them.

12:01am

Fri May 20, 2011
Humans

Psst! The Human Brain Is Wired For Gossip

Learning juicy details about someone can change the way you see them — literally, according to a new study.
August Darwell Getty Images

Hearing gossip about people can change the way you see them — literally.

Negative gossip actually alters the way our visual system responds to a particular face, according to a study published online by the journal Science.

The findings suggest that the human brain is wired to respond to gossip, researchers say. And it adds to the evidence that gossip helped early humans get ahead.

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9:18am

Thu May 12, 2011
Mental Health

After Brain Injuries, Troops Hit The Mental Gym

Frederick Simpson jokes with actor Tony Sirico at a "Wounded Warriors" lunch event at Walter Reed Medical Center last summer. Simpson's leg was shattered by a bullet in Afghanistan and he was knocked unconscious by a grenade blast.
Jan Somma-Hammel Staten Island Advance Photo

Wounded troops often spend months in physical therapy to regain strength in their damaged bodies. Now, the military is trying something similar for military personnel with injured brains.

The Department of Defense is using computerized brain training programs to help personnel with traumatic brain injuries.

The approach is intended for people like 1st Lt. Frederick Simpson.

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12:01am

Thu May 12, 2011
Research News

Mind Reading: Technology Turns Thought Into Action

A patient participates in a brain-computer interface study. By placing an array of sensors directly on the brain and connecting them to a computer, researchers are able to decode brain signals into meaningful information, including some words.
American Museum of Natural History Science Bulletins

An old technology is providing new insights into the human brain.

The technology is called electrocorticography, or ECoG, and it uses electrodes placed on the surface of the brain to detect electrical signals coming from the brain itself.

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12:01am

Mon May 9, 2011
Children's Health

Autism May Be Far More Common, Study Suggests

An exhaustive study of autism in one community has found that the disorder is far more common than suggested by earlier research.

The study of 55,000 children in Goyang, South Korea, found that 2.64 percent — one in every 38 children — had an autism spectrum disorder.

"That is two and a half times what the estimated prevalence is in the United States," says Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at The George Washington University and one of the study's authors.

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6:02am

Sat April 30, 2011
Science

Deadly Tornadoes Remain Hard To Predict

Two days before hundreds of deadly tornadoes swept through the South on April 27 and 28, meteorologists were telling people in that part of the country to get ready for powerful twisters.

But those same meteorologists have no idea whether there will be a similar outbreak of tornadoes next week or next month.

"This could be it for the rest of the season or it could continue to be crazy — we absolutely don't know," says Howard Bluestein, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.

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4:07pm

Thu April 28, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Test Flags Babies With Autism, But Also Feeds False Alarms

Pediatricians can use a five-minute questionnaire to identify many 1-year-olds with autism, according to a new study in Journal of Pediatrics.

But the screening test also flags a whole lot of babies who aren't autistic.

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11:00am

Wed April 20, 2011
Health

Babies' Developing Brains Fed By Placenta, Not Mom

Researchers have found evidence that the placenta plays an important role in fetal brain development during the early stages of pregnancy.

Experiments in mice show that during a key period, the placenta becomes a source of the chemical serotonin, which helps determine the wiring of key circuits in the brain.

The finding, published in the journal Nature, could help explain what leads to brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. And it shows that the placenta does a lot more than simply transport nutrients from a mother to her unborn baby.

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4:59am

Thu April 7, 2011
The Science Of Japan's Nuclear Crisis

In Japan, Shaken Soil Turned Soft After Quake

The earthquake that struck Japan on March 11 will be remembered primarily for the devastating tsunami it created. The quake itself did remarkably little damage to buildings in most areas, thanks to strict construction codes. But in a few places, particularly around Tokyo, buildings didn't fare as well.

These are places built on land reclaimed from the sea. When the earthquake struck, the soil in these areas acted like a liquid, a phenomenon known as liquefaction.

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4:00am

Thu March 24, 2011
Asia

Japan Nuclear Update

NPR's Jon Hamilton reports on the latest developments relating to Japan's damaged nuclear power complex.

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