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Concept: Mechanism


Language and face processing develop in similar ways during the first year of life. Early in the first year of life, infants demonstrate broad abilities for discriminating among faces and speech. These discrimination abilities then become tuned to frequently experienced groups of people or languages. This process of perceptual development occurs between approximately 6 and 12 months of age and is largely shaped by experience. However, the mechanisms underlying perceptual development during this time, and whether they are shared across domains, remain largely unknown. Here, we highlight research findings across domains and propose a top-down/bottom-up processing approach as a guide for future research. It is hypothesized that perceptual narrowing and tuning in development is the result of a shift from primarily bottom-up processing to a combination of bottom-up and top-down influences. In addition, we propose word learning as an important top-down factor that shapes tuning in both the speech and face domains, leading to similar observed developmental trajectories across modalities. Importantly, we suggest that perceptual narrowing/tuning is the result of multiple interacting factors and not explained by the development of a single mechanism.

Concepts: Scientific method, Language, Developmental psychology, Mechanism, Human development, Discrimination, Multiplication


There is a familiar opposition between a ‘Scientific Revolution’ ethos and practice of experimentation, including experimentation on life, and a ‘vitalist’ reaction to this outlook. The former is often allied with different forms of mechanism - if all of Nature obeys mechanical laws, including living bodies, ‘iatromechanism’ should encounter no obstructions in investigating the particularities of animal-machines - or with more chimiatric theories of life and matter, as in the ‘Oxford Physiologists’. The latter reaction also comes in different, perhaps irreducibly heterogeneous forms, ranging from metaphysical and ethical objections to the destruction of life, as in Margaret Cavendish, to more epistemological objections against the usage of instruments, the ‘anatomical’ outlook and experimentation, e.g. in Locke and Sydenham. But I will mainly focus on a third anti-interventionist argument, which I call ‘vitalist’ since it is often articulated in the writings of the so-called Montpellier Vitalists, including their medical articles for the Encyclopédie. The vitalist argument against experimentation on life is subtly different from the metaphysical, ethical and epistemological arguments, although at times it may borrow from any of them. It expresses a Hippocratic sensibility - understood as an artifact of early modernity, not as some atemporal trait of medical thought - in which Life resists the experimenter, or conversely, for the experimenter to grasp something about Life, it will have to be without torturing or radically intervening in it. I suggest that this view does not have to imply that Nature is something mysterious or sacred; nor does the vitalist have to attack experimentation on life in the name of some ‘vital force’ - which makes it less surprising to find a vivisectionist like Claude Bernard sounding so close to the vitalists.

Concepts: Science, Mechanism, Vitalism


Organo-mediated Beckmann rearrangement in liquid phase, which has the advantage of high catalytic efficiency and straightforward experimental procedures, plays an important role in the synthesis of amides from oximes. However, the catalytic mechanisms of these ‘organocatalysts’ are still not well understood. In this work, we report a combined experimental and computational study on the mechanism of Beckmann rearrangement mediated by organic-based promoters, using TsCl as an example. A novel self-propagating cycle is proposed and key intermediates of this self-propagating cycle are confirmed by both experiments and DFT calculations. In addition, the reason why cyclohexanone oxime is not a good substrate of the organo-mediated Beckmann rearrangement is discussed, and a strategy for improving the yield is proposed.

Concepts: Science, Empiricism, Mechanism, Beckmann rearrangement, Oxime, Cyclohexanone, Caprolactam, Lactam


Regioselective addition across the alkynes has been achieved in a silver-catalyzed protocol utilizing Langlois reagent (CF3SO2Na) and molecular O2 to access medicinally active α-trifluoromethyl ketone compounds. This method was successful in producing α-trifluoromethyl ketone in heterocyclic scaffolds, which are incompatible with earlier strategies. Experimental findings suggest a mechanism involving α-styrenyl radical intermediate and 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidinone (NMP) solvent, which leads to crystallographically characterized N-methylsuccinimide. Isotope labeling, kinetic studies, and intermediate trapping further helped to gain insight into this energy-demanding process.

Concepts: Oxygen, Functional group, Matter, Molecule, Alkene, Typography, Mechanism


Reaction mechanism of a tandem conjugate addition/α-alkylation of enals leading to functionalized cyclopentanes catalyzed by O-trimethylsilyldiphenylprolinol has been investigated by mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy and DFT calculations. It is shown that the high stereoselectivity of the reaction depends on the energy discrimination between the two stereoisomers formed by the condensation of the alfa,beta-unsaturated aldehyde (cinnamaldehyde) and the catalyst. The stereoselectivity of this step depends on the solvent used. The experimental activation barriers were determined as Ea = 25 ± 7 kJ∙mol-1 (Arrhenius eq.), deltaH‡ = 23 ± 7 kJ∙mol-1 and deltaG‡ = 101 ± 9 kJ∙mol-1 (Eyring eq.).

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Chemical reaction, Matter, Catalysis, Chemical structure, Mechanism, Chemical kinetics, Vitalism


With the development of the latest technologies, scientists are looking to design novel strategies for the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. Advances in medicinal plant research and nanotechnology have attracted many researchers to the green synthesis of metallic nanoparticles due to its several advantages over conventional synthesis (simple, fast, energy efficient, one pot processes, safer, economical and biocompatibility). Medicinally active plants have proven to be the best reservoirs of diverse phytochemicals for the synthesis of biogenic silver nanoparticles (AgNPs). In this review, we discuss mechanistic advances in the synthesis and optimization of AgNPs from plant extracts. Moreover, we have thoroughly discussed the recent developments and milestones achieved in the use of biogenic AgNPs as cancer theranostic agents and their proposed mechanism of action. Anticipating all of the challenges, we hope that biogenic AgNPs may become a potential cancer theranostic agent in the near future.

Concepts: Medicine, Plant, Ayurveda, Nanotechnology, Nanomaterials, Metaphysics, Mechanism, A New Era


Butyryl cholinesterase (BChE) has been seen as a key enzyme in the search for new strategies in the treatment of poisoning by organophosphates (OPs), since human BChE (HssBChE), complexed with the appropriate oxime, can be a suitable scavenger and deactivator for OPs in the blood stream. However, the efficacy of HssBChE is limited by its strict stoichiometric scavenging, slow reactivation and propensity for aging. The improvement of the reactivation rate by new and more efficient oximes could contribute to mitigate this problem and increase the HssBChE efficiency as scavenger. Several oximes have been synthesized and tested with this goal, some with promising results, but the mechanistic aspects of the reactivation reaction are not fully understood yet. In order to better investigate this mechanism, docking and mixed quantum and molecular mechanics (QM/MM) combined with principal components analysis (PCA) were performed here to evaluate the capacity of reactivation and determine the preferred route for the reactivation reaction of two new oximes on HssBChE inhibited by the neurotoxic agents cyclosarin and sarin. Plots of potential energies were calculated and all the transition states (TS) of the reactional mechanism were determined. Our results showed a good correlation with experimental data and pointed to the most efficient oxime with both OPs. The protocol used could be a suitable tool for a preliminary evaluation of the HssBChE reactivation rates by new oximes.

Concepts: Chemical reaction, Matter, Transition state, Computational chemistry, Acetylcholine, Mechanism, Gerhard Schrader, Materialism


Metal halide perovskite nanocrystals are promising materials for a diverse range of applications, such as light-emitting devices and photodetectors. We demonstrate the bandgap tunability of strongly emitting CH3NH3PbBr3 nanocrystals synthesized at both room and elevated (60 °C) temperature through the variation of the precursor and ligand concentrations. We discuss in detail the role of two ligands, oleylamine and oleic acid, in terms of the coordination of the lead precursors and the nanocrystal surface. The growth mechanism of nanocrystals is elucidated by combining the experimental results with the principles of nucleation/growth models. The proposed formation mechanism of perovskite nanocrystals will be helpful for further studies in this field and can be used as a guide to improve the synthetic methods in the future.The development of perovskite nanocrystals is limited by poor mechanistic understanding of their growth. Here, the authors systematically study the ligand-assisted reprecipitation synthesis of CH3NH3PbBr3 nanocrystals, revealing the effect of precursor and ligand concentrations on bandgap tunability.

Concepts: Ligand, Carbon monoxide, Synthesis, Mechanism, Coordination number


At birth, some organs in premature infants are not developed enough to meet challenges of the extra-uterine life. Although growth and maturation continues after premature birth, postnatal organ development may become sluggish or even arrested, leading to organ dysfunction. There is no clear mechanistic concept of this postnatal organ developmental failure in premature neonates. This review introduces a concept-forming hypothesis: Mitochondrial bioenergetic dysfunction is a fundamental mechanism of organs maturation failure in premature infants. Data collected in support of this hypothesis are relevant to two major diseases of prematurity: white matter injury and broncho-pulmonary dysplasia. In these diseases, totally different clinical manifestations are defined by the same biological process, developmental failure of the main functional units-alveoli in the lungs and axonal myelination in the brain. Although molecular pathways regulating alveolar and white matter maturation differ, proper bioenergetic support of growth and maturation remains critical biological requirement for any actively developing organ. Literature analysis suggests that successful postnatal pulmonary and white matter development highly depends on mitochondrial function which can be inhibited by sublethal postnatal stress. In premature infants, sublethal stress results mostly in organ maturation failure without excessive cellular demise.Pediatric Research (2016); doi:10.1038/pr.2016.216.

Concepts: Childbirth, Biology, Mitochondrion, Heart, Myelin, Mechanism, Organs, Functionalism


The mammalian pseudokinase SgK223, and its structurally related homologue SgK269, are oncogenic scaffolds that nucleate the assembly of specific signalling complexes and regulate tyrosine kinase signalling. Both SgK223 and SgK269 form homo- and hetero-oligomers, a mechanism that underpins a diversity of signalling outputs. However, mechanistic insights into SgK223 and SgK269 homo- and heterotypic association are lacking. Here we present the crystal structure of SgK223 pseudokinase domain and its adjacent N- and C-terminal helices. The structure reveals how the N- and C-regulatory helices engage in a novel fold to mediate the assembly of a high-affinity dimer. In addition, we identified regulatory interfaces on the pseudokinase domain required for the self-assembly of large open-ended oligomers. This study highlights the diversity in how the kinase fold mediates non-catalytic functions and provides mechanistic insights into how the assembly of these two oncogenic scaffolds is achieved in order to regulate signalling output.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Structure, Protein kinase, Monomer, Mechanism, The Assembly, User interface