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.

Updated September 15, 2021 at 1:15 PM ET

A treatment that simulates the loss of an eye may help adults with the vision impairment known as amblyopia or "lazy eye."

Studies in mice and cats suggest that the approach allows the brain to rewire in a way that restores normal vision, a team reports this week in the journal eLife.

Updated August 10, 2021 at 9:40 AM ET

Immune cells, toxic protein tangles and brain waves are among the targets of future Alzheimer's treatments, scientists say.

These approaches are noteworthy because they do not directly attack the sticky amyloid plaques in the brain that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's.

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.

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.

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The Food and Drug Administration will decide whether to approve the first new drug for Alzheimer's disease since 2003. Scientists disagree about whether it works. NPR's Jon Hamilton reports.

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A technique that induces imaginary sounds in both mice and people could help scientists understand the brain circuits involved in schizophrenia and other disorders that cause hallucinations.

The technique appears to offer "a way to study psychotic disorders in animals," says Adam Kepecs, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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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.

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.

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In other news, hopes for an experimental drug for Alzheimer's disease took a big hit today. It failed to win support from a panel of experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration. NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton is on the line.

Medical research was an early casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After cases began emerging worldwide, thousands of clinical trials unrelated to COVID-19 were paused or canceled amid fears that participants would be infected. But now some researchers are finding ways to carry on in spite of the coronavirus.

Researchers appear to have shown how the brain creates two different kinds of thirst.

The process involves two types of brain cells, one that responds to a decline in fluid in our bodies, while the other monitors levels of salt and other minerals, a team reports in the journal Nature.

Together, these specialized thirst cells seem to determine whether animals and people crave pure water or something like a sports drink, which contains salt and other minerals.

Out-of-body experiences are all about rhythm, a team reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

In mice and one person, scientists were able to reproduce the altered state often associated with ketamine by inducing certain brain cells to fire together in a slow, rhythmic fashion.

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A combination of two experimental drugs appears to slow the decline of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an illness often known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

A six-month study of 137 patients with a fast-progressing form of the disease found that those who got daily doses of a two-drug combination called AMX0035 scored several points higher on a standard measure of function, a team reports in the Sept. 3 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

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A neurologist who encased his healthy right arm in a pink fiberglass cast for two weeks has shown how quickly the brain can change after an injury or illness.

Daily scans of Dr. Nico Dosenbach's brain showed that circuits controlling his immobilized arm disconnected from the body's motor system within 48 hours.

But during the same period, his brain began to produce new signals seemingly meant to keep those circuits intact and ready to reconnect quickly with the unused limb.

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.

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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.

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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.

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