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.

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Shots - Health News
1:15 am
Tue March 19, 2013

Alzheimer's 'Epidemic' Now A Deadlier Threat To Elderly

Social worker Nuria Casulleres shows a portrait of Audrey Hepburn to elderly men during a memory activity at the Cuidem La Memoria elderly home in Barcelona, Spain, last August. The home specializes in Alzheimer's patients.
David Ramos Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 5:44 am

Alzheimer's disease doesn't just steal memories. It takes lives.

The disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and figures released Tuesday by the Alzheimer's Association show that deaths from the disease increased by 68 percent between 2000 and 2010.

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Shots - Health News
2:30 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Hear That? In A Din Of Voices, Our Brains Can Tune In To One

Scientists say that understanding how the cocktail party effect works could help people who have trouble deciphering sounds in a noisy environment. Guests make it look easy at a Dolce and Gabbana Lounge party in London in 2010.
Paul Jeffers AP

Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 9:49 am

Scientists are beginning to understand how people tune in to a single voice in a crowded, noisy room.

This ability, known as the "cocktail party effect," appears to rely on areas of the brain that have completely filtered out unwanted sounds, researchers report in the journal Neuron. So when a person decides to focus on a particular speaker, other speakers "have no representation in those [brain] areas," says Elana Zion Golumbic of Columbia University.

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The Salt
2:50 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

How Did Our Brains Evolve To Equate Food With Love?

Bonobos share a piece of fruit at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Jingzhi Tan Duke University

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 10:12 am

If food is love, Americans must love their kids a lot. About one-third of children and adolescents in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

And our emotional response to food may be one of the reasons so many kids eat so much, according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. The poll found that in more than a quarter of families, food is considered an important way to show affection.

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Shots - Health News
2:31 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Folic Acid For Pregnant Mothers Cuts Kids' Autism Risk

Despite public health campaigns urging women in the U.S. to take folic acid, many are still not taking the supplements when they become pregnant.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 11:19 am

A common vitamin supplement appears to dramatically reduce a woman's risk of having a child with autism.

A study of more than 85,000 women in Norway found that those who started taking folic acid before getting pregnant were about 40 percent less likely to have a child who developed the disorder, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Shots - Health News
1:31 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Shortage Of Brain Tissue Hinders Autism Research

Jonathan Mitchell is autistic and wants to donate his brain to science when he dies.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 6:39 am

Research on autism is being hobbled by a shortage of brain tissue.

The brain tissue comes from people with autism who have died, and it has allowed researchers to make key discoveries about how the disorder affects brain development.

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Shots - Health News
2:28 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Mental Health Gun Laws Unlikely To Reduce Shootings

State Senator Jeff Klein (L-R), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins congratulate New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after he signed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act on Tuesday.
Hans Pennink Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 9:11 am

States aren't likely to prevent many shootings by requiring mental health professionals to report potentially violent patients, psychiatrists and psychologists say.

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Shots - Health News
12:16 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Alzheimer's Drug Dials Back Deafness In Mice

If you know some mice that took This Is Spinal Tap too literally, they might want to know about an experiment to restore hearing with a failed Alzheimer's drug.
The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 6:34 am

If you've spent years CRANKING YOUR MUSIC UP TO 11, this item's for you.

A drug developed for Alzheimer's disease can partially reverse hearing loss caused by exposure to extremely loud sounds, an international team reports in the journal Neuron.

Before you go back to rocking the house with your Van Halen collection, though, consider that the drug has only been tried in mice so far. And it has never been approved for human use.

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Environment
1:29 am
Mon December 31, 2012

A Busy And Head-Scratching 2012 Hurricane Season

This satellite image from Oct. 28 shows Hurricane Sandy in the Atlantic Ocean before making landfall.
NASA via Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 3:46 am

Superstorm Sandy is what most people will remember from the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. But Sandy was just one of 10 hurricanes this year — a hurricane season that was both busy and strange.

Late summer is when the hurricane season usually gets busy. But Greg Jenkins, a professor of atmospheric science at Howard University, says this year was different.

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Shots - Health News
1:22 pm
Wed December 26, 2012

Despite Uneven Results, Alzheimer's Research Suggests A Path For Treatment

Brain scans using Amyvid dye to highlight beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. Clockwise from top left: a cognitively normal subject; an amyloid-positive patient with Alzheimer's disease; a patient with mild cognitive impairment who progressed to dementia during a study; and a patient with mild cognitive impairment.
Slide courtesy of the journal Neurology

Originally published on Wed December 26, 2012 5:24 pm

It's been a mixed year for Alzheimer's research. Some promising drugs failed to stop or even slow the disease. But researchers also found reasons to think that treatments can work if they just start sooner.

Scientists who study Alzheimer's say they aren't discouraged by the drug failures. "I actually think it was a phenomenal year for research," says Bill Rebeck, a brain scientist at Georgetown University.

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Shots - Health News
1:49 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Killer's DNA Won't Explain His Crime

A person's DNA can say a lot about a person, but not why someone has committed a horrific crime like mass murder.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 7:21 pm

Connecticut's chief medical examiner, Wayne Carver, has raised the possibility of requesting genetic tests on Adam Lanza, the man responsible for the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Carver hasn't said precisely what he may want geneticists to look for, but scientists who study the links between genes and violence say those tests won't reveal much about why Lanza did what he did.

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