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.

Forget where you just left your car keys? A magnetic pulse might help you remember. Some dormant memories can be revived by delivering a pulse of magnetic energy to the right brain cells, researchers report Thursday in the journal Science. The finding is part of a study that suggests the brain's "working memory" system is far less volatile than scientists once thought. "This changes how we think about the structure of working memory and the processes that support it," says Nathan Rose , a...

A nonprofit research group is giving scientists a new way to study the secret lives of human cells. On Wednesday, the Allen Institute for Cell Science provided access to a collection of living stem cells that have been genetically altered to make internal structures like the nucleus and mitochondria glow. "What makes these cells special is that they are normal, healthy cells that we can spy on and see what the cell does when it's left alone," says Susanne Rafelski, director of assay...

You may not remember what you were doing a few minutes ago. But your dog probably does. A study of 17 dogs found they could remember and imitate their owners' actions up to an hour later. The results, published Wednesday in Current Biology, suggest that dogs can remember and relive an experience much the way people do. That's probably not a big surprise to people who own dogs, says Claudia Fugazza , an author of the study and an animal behavior researcher at Eotvos Lorand University in...

There's new evidence that excessive screen time early in life can change the circuits in a growing brain. Scientists disagree, though, about whether those changes are helpful, or just cause problems. Both views emerged during the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego this week. The debate centered on a study of young mice exposed to six hours daily of a sound and light show reminiscent of a video game. The mice showed "dramatic changes everywhere in the brain," said Jan-Marino Ramirez...

Some tiny clusters of brain cells grown in a lab dish are making big news at this week's Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego. Known as "minibrains," these rudimentary networks of cells are small enough to fit on the head of a pin, but already are providing researchers with insights into everything from early brain development to Down syndrome, Alzheimer's and Zika. At a Sunday press conference at the neuroscience meeting, researchers said minibrains are helping them figure out how...

Twelve years ago, a car wreck took away Nathan Copeland's ability to control his hands or sense what his fingers were touching. A few months ago, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center gave Copeland a new way to reach out and feel the world around him. It's a mind-controlled robotic arm that has pressure sensors in each fingertip that send signals directly to Copeland's brain. The scientists published details of their work online Thursday...

Want to be smarter? More focused? Free of memory problems as you age? If so, don't count on brain games to help you. That's the conclusion of an exhaustive evaluation of the scientific literature on brain training games and programs. It was published Monday in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest. "It's disappointing that the evidence isn't stronger," says Daniel Simons , an author of the article and a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign....

What rats can remember may help people who forget. Researchers are reporting evidence that rats possess "episodic memories," the kind of memories that allow us to go back in time and recall specific events. These memories are among the first to disappear in people who develop Alzheimer's disease. The finding, which appears Thursday in Current Biology , suggests that rats could offer a better way to test potential drugs for Alzheimer's. Right now, most of these drugs are tested in mice. "We...

There's growing evidence that a physical injury to the brain can make people susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies of troops who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have found that service members who have suffered a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury are far more likely to develop PTSD , a condition that can cause flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety for years after a traumatic event. And research on both people and animals suggests the reason is that a brain injury...

A rare genetic disorder is helping scientists understand our mysterious ability to sense where we are in space, known as proprioception. This "sixth sense" is what dancers and gymnasts rely on to tell them the exact position of their body and limbs at every moment. It also tells them how much force each muscle is exerting. "The most beautiful demonstration of proprioception in action is Simone Biles when she is spinning and somersaulting through the air," says Carsten Bonnemann , a...

People born without sight appear to solve math problems using visual areas of the brain. A functional MRI study of 17 people blind since birth found that areas of visual cortex became active when the participants were asked to solve algebra problems, a team from Johns Hopkins reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . "And as the equations get harder and harder, activity in these areas goes up in a blind person," says Marina Bedny , an author of the study and an...

An experimental drug dramatically reduced the toxic plaques found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, a team reports in the journal Nature . Results from a small number of patients who received a high dose of the drug, called aducanumab , hint that it may also be able to slow the loss of memory and thinking. "If that hint of a clinical benefit is confirmed, it would be a game changer in the fight against Alzheimer's disease," says Dr. Eric Reiman , executive director of the...

Forget Hawaii or Fiji. The spot that's really got surfers talking these days is a secluded pond more than 100 miles from the ocean, in California's Central Valley. "It's just an amazing, amazing wave," says Robert "Wingnut" Weaver , a longboarder from Santa Cruz, Calif., and one of just a handful of surfers who have ridden the wave. "It's mind-blowing." But it's not natural. A machine generates these breakers in an experimental wave pool south of Fresno, in Lemoore, Calif. And, unlike natural...

When tennis star Maria Sharapova admitted in March to having taken the heart drug meldonium , the public got a rare glimpse of a common practice that's often called "legal doping." It involves taking a legal prescription drug that may improve performance, but hasn't been banned by anti-doping authorities. And lots of athletes competing in the Rio Olympics will be taking advantage of this loophole, doping experts say. "If it's not banned, athletes will use it," says Ronald Evans , director of...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: Today in Your Health, bringing the battlefield into the lab. Last week, we met Kit Parker, a biophysicist who put his academic career on hold to fight in Afghanistan. When Parker returned, he was determined to explain the signature wound of recent wars, an invisible brain injury caused by blast waves from roadside bombs. The military had assumed the damage was purely psychological. Parker had a hunch that blast...

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