Jon Hamilton

Jon Hamilton is a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk. Currently he focuses on neuroscience and health risks.

In 2014, Hamilton went to Liberia as part of the NPR team that covered Ebola. The team received a Peabody Award for its coverage.

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 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.

Mounting evidence suggests the coronavirus is more common and less deadly than it first appeared.

The evidence comes from tests that detect antibodies to the coronavirus in a person's blood rather than the virus itself.

The tests are finding large numbers of people in the U.S. who were infected but never became seriously ill. And when these mild infections are included in coronavirus statistics, the virus appears less dangerous.

COVID-19 has given ventilators an undeservedly bad reputation, says Dr. Colin Cooke, an associate professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care at the University of Michigan.

"It's always disheartening to know that some people are out there saying if you end up on a ventilator it's a death sentence, which is not what we are experiencing — and I don't think it's what the data are showing," Cooke says.

Intensive care teams inside hospitals are rapidly altering the way they care for patients with COVID-19.

The changes range from new protective gear to new treatment protocols aimed at preventing deadly blood clots.

When COVID-19 patients began flooding emergency departments at New York hospitals in March, doctors saw some unusual cases of stroke.

"We had a young woman in her early 30s who came in with a profound stroke, the kind of stroke that leaves someone permanently paralyzed and possibly unable to survive," says Dr. J. Mocco, a professor of neurosurgery and director of the cerebrovascular center at Mount Sinai Health System in New York.

On April 8, David Williams got a standing ovation as he was wheeled out of the John L. McClellan Memorial Veteran's Hospital in Little Rock, Ark.

Williams, 54, a Marine Corps veteran, had survived eight perilous days on a ventilator with COVID-19, and the hospital staff had lined up to give him a joyous, fist-bumping send-off.

Today, Williams is back at home with his wife, D'Anna. But a full recovery remains a distant prospect.

Dr. Wayne Riley, president of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, and an NPR science correspondent answer more questions about the racial disparity in how the coronavirus is impacting patients.

Dr. Wayne Riley, president of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, and an NPR science correspondent answer questions about the racial disparity in how the coronavirus is impacting patients.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Most coronavirus patients who end up on ventilators go on to die, according to several small studies from the U.S., China and Europe.

And many of the patients who continue to live can't be taken off the mechanical breathing machines.

"It's very concerning to see how many patients who require ventilation do not make it out of the hospital," says Dr. Tiffany Osborn, a critical care specialist at Washington University in St. Louis who has been caring for coronavirus patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

The coronavirus appears to be much more lethal in some countries than in others.

In Italy, about 10% of people known to be infected have died. In Iran and Spain, the case fatality rate is higher than 7%. But in South Korea and the U.S. it's less than 1.5%. And in Germany, the figure is close to 0.5%.

So what gives?

The answer involves how many people are tested, the age of an infected population and factors such as whether the health care system is overwhelmed, scientists say.

Employees of the University of Washington's UW Medicine system can now get tested for coronavirus without leaving their cars.

The system's medical center in northwest Seattle has turned a hospital garage lot into a drive-through clinic that can test a person every five minutes. They typically get results within a day or so.

But the idea involves more than convenience. It's also about safety.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A song takes words and music and fuses them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BRIAR AND THE ROSE")

NIAMH PARSONS AND THE LOOSE CONNECTIONS: (Singing) I fell asleep down by a stream, and there I had the strangest dream.

A song fuses words and music. Yet the human brain can instantly separate a song's lyrics from its melody.

And now scientists think they know how this happens.

A team led by researchers at McGill University reported in Science Thursday that song sounds are processed simultaneously by two separate brain areas – one in the left hemisphere and one in the right.

Scientists have taken a small step toward personalizing treatment for depression.

A study of more than 300 people with major depression found that brain wave patterns predicted which ones were most likely to respond to the drug sertraline (Zoloft), a team reported Monday in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

If the approach pans out, it could offer better care for the millions of people in the U.S. with major depression.

Scientists have found a clue to how autism spectrum disorder disrupts the brain's information highways.

The problem involves cells that help keep the traffic of signals moving smoothly through brain circuits, a team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The team found that in both mouse and human brains affected by autism, there's an abnormality in cells that produce a substance called myelin.

Brain organoids, often called "minibrains," have changed the way scientists study human brain development and disorders like autism.

But the cells in these organoids differ from those in an actual brain in some important ways, scientists reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

In early December at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, two anxious scientists were about to send 20 years of research into orbit.

"I feel like our heart and soul is going up in that thing," Dr. Emily Germain-Lee told her husband, Dr. Se-Jin Lee, as they waited arm-in-arm for a SpaceX rocket to launch.

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