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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Shots - Health Blog
3:05 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Common Chemicals Could Make Kids' Vaccines Less Effective

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue January 24, 2012 5:07 pm

The more exposure children have to chemicals called perfluorinated compounds, the less likely they are to have a good immune response to vaccinations, a study just published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association shows.

The finding suggests, but doesn't prove, that these chemicals can affect the immune system enough to make some children more vulnerable to infectious diseases.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:46 am
Fri January 6, 2012

Middle-Aged Brains Are Already Past Their Prime

iStockphoto.com

You may want to read this twice if you're older than 45. In fact, you may have to.

That's because your mental abilities are already in decline, according to a study of 7,390 British civil servants just published in BMJ, the British Medical Journal.

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Science
9:39 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Debunked Science: Studies In 2011 Take Heat

2011 may go down as the year of the retraction in the scientific world.

Among the highly publicized discoveries that got debunked this year: a genetic basis for longevity; a new form of life; an explanation for autism; and a link between a virus and chronic fatigue syndrome.

All of these non-discoveries have something in common. They involved findings that both scientists and the public badly wanted to believe.

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Animals
11:01 pm
Thu December 22, 2011

Myth Busting: The Truth About Animals And Tools

A tufted capuchin uses a stone hammer to crack open a nut in Brazil's Parnaiba Headwaters National Park.
Ben Cranke Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 12:28 pm

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Shots - Health Blog
8:41 am
Thu December 15, 2011

Experimental Magnetic Pulses May Help Heal A Brain After Stroke

A stroke affecting the right side of the brain can lead a person to be visually unaware of what's happening on the left.
Wikimedia Commons

A little brain stimulation seems to speed up recovery from a stroke.

This isn't the sort of brain stimulation you get from conversation. It's done using an electromagnetic coil placed against the scalp.

Researchers think the treatment encourages brain cells to form new connections, allowing the brain to rewire itself to compensate for damage caused by a stroke.

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The Salt
4:05 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Eating Canned Soup Makes BPA Levels Soar

The soup aisle at a grocery store in Washington, D.C.
Maggie Starbard NPR

If you read the ingredient list on a can of soup, you're likely to see items like carrots, wild rice, perhaps some noodles. What you won't see listed: BPA.

But a little canned soup for lunch can dramatically increase exposure to the chemical, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study confirms that canned food is a source of BPA exposure. But it does nothing to clear up the question of whether this sort of exposure to BPA has health consequences.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:01 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Why Brain Injuries Are More Common In Preemies

The most common cause of brain injury in premature infants is a lack of oxygen in the days and weeks after birth, researchers say.
Ibrahim Usta AP

Originally published on Thu November 17, 2011 7:26 pm

Scientists say they are beginning to understand why brain injuries are so common in very premature infants — and they are coming up with strategies to prevent or repair these injuries.

The advances could eventually help reduce the number of premature babies who develop cerebral palsy, epilepsy or behavioral disorders such as ADHD, researchers told the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington, D.C., this week.

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The Salt
2:17 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

What's In That Wine Glass May Not Prevent Aging After All

Red wine's rep as a fountain of youth is facing a challenge.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed September 21, 2011 4:43 pm

If you've been counting on your daily dose of merlot to stave off mortality, you might want to consider Plan B.

The links between red wine and longevity aren't nearly as strong as they once seemed, according to new research in the journal Nature. In fact, the research calls into question the whole mechanism used to explain wine's power to extend life.

Sorry, oenophiles.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:55 am
Tue September 13, 2011

One Price Of Fatherhood: Low Testosterone

You can almost see the testosterone slipping away.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri September 16, 2011 4:30 pm

It turns out daddies are losing more than just sleep after a child arrives. New fathers also experience a sharp decline in levels of the male sex hormone testosterone.

At least that's what scientists have concluded from a long-term study of more than 600 men in the Philippines.

The scientists found that single men who started out with relatively high testosterone levels were more likely than other men to become fathers. But once a baby arrived, testosterone levels plummeted.

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Animals
11:01 pm
Sun September 11, 2011

How A Clever Virus Kills A Very Hungry Caterpillar

A healthy gypsy moth caterpillar on a leaf. Outbreaks of gypsy moths damage roughly 1 million acres of forest in the U.S. each year.
Michael Grove Science/AAAS

Scientists say they have figured out how a very clever virus outwits a very hungry caterpillar.

The caterpillar is the gypsy moth in its larval stage, and the invasive species damages roughly a million acres of forest in the U.S. each year by devouring tree leaves.

But the damage would be greater if it weren't for something called a baculovirus that can infect these caterpillars and cause them to engage in reckless, even suicidal behavior, scientists say. The virus is so effective that the government actually sprays it on trees to help control gypsy moth outbreaks.

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Science
4:19 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Human Brain Responds To Animals, Cute Or Creepy

The brain "seems to be specialized in alerting us to things that are emotionally important to us — either positive or because they're scary," a scientist says.
iStockphoto.com

Animals have a special place in the human heart. Now, researchers are reporting that creatures great and small also have a special place in our heads.

A team led by researchers at Caltech has found individual brain cells that respond when a person sees an animal, but not when that person sees another person, a place, or an object.

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