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.

Nearly two months after the Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm received conditional approval from the Food and Drug Administration, experts are still debating how, and whether, it should be used.

Before she got COVID-19, Cassandra Hernandez, 38, was in great shape — both physically and mentally.

"I'm a nurse," she says. "I work with surgeons and my memory was sharp."

Then, in June 2020, COVID-19 struck Hernandez and several others in her unit at a large hospital in San Antonio.

"I went home after working a 12-hour shift and sat down to eat a pint of ice cream with my husband and I couldn't taste it," she says.

The loss of taste and smell can be an early sign that COVID-19 is affecting a brain area that helps us sense odors.

A man who is unable to move or speak can now generate words and sentences on a computer using only his thoughts.

The ability comes from an experimental implanted device that decodes signals in the man's brain that once controlled his vocal tract, as researchers reported Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The man is currently limited to a vocabulary of just 50 words and communicates at a rate of about 15 words per minute, which is much slower than natural speech.

Soon after Phillip Lynn got married in 2014, he began to forget things. He'd repeat himself. He'd get lost in places close to the couple's home in a suburb of St. Louis.

Then in 2016, his spouse, Kurt Rehwinkel, realized that Lynn's memory problems had become more severe.

They'd just visited some friends who'd gone to Hawaii with them three months earlier. When they'd talked about the trip, Lynn had become confused.

People recovering from a stroke will soon have access to a device that can help restore a disabled hand.

The Food And Drug Administration has authorized a device called IpsiHand, which uses signals from the uninjured side of a patient's brain to help rewire circuits controlling the hand, wrist and arm.

Updated June 7, 2021 at 3:11 PM ET

The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug aducanumab to treat patients with Alzheimer's disease on Monday. It is the first new drug approved by the agency for Alzheimer's disease since 2003.

A drug called aducanumab could become the first approved treatment designed to alter the course of Alzheimer's disease rather than relieve symptoms.

But it's unclear whether the Food and Drug Administration will approve the drug because of persistent questions about its effectiveness.

The FDA has a Monday deadline to make a decision on what would be the first new Alzheimer's drug in nearly two decades.

A robotic arm with a sense of touch has allowed a man who is paralyzed to quickly perform tasks like pouring water from one cup into another.

The robotic arm provides tactile feedback directly to the man's brain as he uses his thoughts to control the device, a team reports Thursday in the journal Science.

Previous versions of the arm required the participant, Nathan Copeland, to guide the arm using vision alone.

An experimental device that turns thoughts into text has allowed a man who was left paralyzed by an accident to construct sentences swiftly on a computer screen.

The man was able to type with 95% accuracy just by imagining he was handwriting letters on a sheet of paper, a team reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

William Stoehr is a prominent artist whose sister died of an overdose. Dr. Nora Volkow is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

Together, the artist and the scientist are on a mission to let people know that drug addiction is a disease, not a moral failing.

"Prevention and treatment and recovery can't take place until we get rid of the stigma and people are willing to seek help," Stoehr says.

An experimental drug intended for Alzheimer's patients seems to improve both language and learning in adults with Fragile X syndrome.

The drug, called BPN14770, increased cognitive scores by about 10% in 30 adult males after 12 weeks, a team reports in the journal Nature Medicine.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

At an animal sanctuary in the Congo, several dozen Congolese schoolchildren are getting a crash course in bonobos.

These gentle, endangered apes, who resemble chimpanzees, are "our closest cousins," educator Blaise Mbwaki tells the students in French. "They have a human character, and they are Congolese."

"So if you eat a bonobo," Mbwaki says, "you are eating your cousin. It is cannibalism."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

When COVID-19 vaccines began arriving in Memphis, Tenn., late last year, some Black residents had questions. Did the vaccines cause infertility? Did they alter a person's DNA?

They don't. And local community leaders worked hard to counter these and other vaccine myths as they came up in public forums around town or appeared online.

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the U.S., more travelers are taking to the skies.

Friday marked the busiest day for the nation's airports since the middle of March 2020, when COVID-19 caused air travel to plummet.

About 1.36 million passengers passed through security checkpoints Friday, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration. That is the highest volume since March 15, 2020, when checkpoints reported more than 1.5 million passengers.

Updated on March 15 at 12:05 p.m. ET

France, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland have joined a number of other European nations in temporarily suspending administration of a COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca after reports of abnormal blood clotting in several people.

Many members of racial and ethnic minority groups say they face extra barriers when seeking care for a friend or family member with Alzheimer's disease.

Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American caregivers were far more likely than whites to encounter discrimination, language barriers and providers who lack cultural competence, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer's Association.

Fossils offer a detailed record of early human skulls but not the brains inside them.

So researchers have been using genetic material taken from those fossils to search for clues about how the human brain has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years.

And now they have succeeded in growing human brain organoids, or "minibrains," that contain the Neanderthal variant of a gene called NOVA1, a team reports in the journal Science.

Early in the pandemic, people with COVID-19 began reporting an odd symptom: the loss of smell and taste.

The reason wasn't congestion. Somehow, the SARS-CoV-2 virus appeared to be affecting nerves that carry information from the nose to the brain.

That worried neurologists.

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