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
5:03 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Harsh In Hard Times? A Gene May Influence Mom's Behavior

A gene known as DRD2 affects the brain's dopamine system and is known to be associated with aggressive behavior.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 6:51 am

A gene that affects the brain's dopamine system appears to have influenced mothers' behavior during a recent economic downturn, researchers say.

At the beginning of the recession that began in 2007, mothers with the "sensitive" version of a gene called DRD2 became more likely to strike or scream at their children, the researchers say. Mothers with the other "insensitive" version of the gene didn't change their behavior.

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Science
2:47 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Tips For Surviving A Mega-Disaster

Patong beach in Phuket, Thailand, was destroyed by the tsunami on Dec. 25, 2004. More than 230,000 people died.
Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 9:39 am

The U.S. is ready for tornadoes, but not tsunamis.

That's the conclusion of a panel of scientists who spoke this week on "mega-disasters" at the American Geophysical Union's science policy meeting in Washington, D.C.

The nation has done a good job preparing for natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, which occur frequently but usually produce limited damage and relatively few casualties, the panelists said. But government officials are just beginning to develop plans for events like a major tsunami or a large asteroid hurtling toward a populated area.

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Shots - Health News
5:03 pm
Mon June 17, 2013

The Human Voice May Not Spark Pleasure In Children With Autism

Instructional assistant Jessica Reeder touches her nose to get Jacob Day, 3, who has autism, to focus his attention on her during a therapy session in April 2007.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 10:31 am

The human voice appears to trigger pleasure circuits in the brains of typical kids, but not children with autism, a Stanford University team reports. The finding could explain why many children with autism seem indifferent to spoken words.

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Science
5:49 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

'Extremely Active' Atlantic Hurricane Season Predicted

Hurricane Sandy churns off the Atlantic coast on Oct. 29. NOAA officials are forecasting seven to 11 hurricanes, compared with about six in a typical season.
NASA Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 7:23 pm

Unusually warm ocean temperatures and favorable wind patterns mean the Atlantic is likely to see "an active or extremely active" hurricane season this year, say officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency expects between seven and 11 hurricanes and as many as 20 named storms during the 2013 season, which runs from June 1 through November.

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Environment
7:12 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Forecasters Had Chance To Warn Moore, Okla., Before Tornado

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 8:27 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Joining us now is NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton who has done a lot of reporting on tornadoes before. And, Jon, talk a bit about the path of this tornado and the destruction that it's brought.

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Shots - Health News
4:23 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Why Is Psychiatry's New Manual So Much Like The Old One?

Despite significant advances in neurology and imaging, researchers still don't have simple lab tests for diagnosing patients with mental disorders. Diagnoses are still mostly based on a patient's signs and symptoms.
BSIP UIG via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 11:51 am

The American Psychiatric Association is about to release an updated version of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM helps mental health professionals decide who has problems such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

Psychiatry's new manual, DSM-5, has been nearly 20 years in the making. During that time, scientists have learned a lot about the brain. Yet despite some tweaks to categories such as autism and mood disorders, DSM-5 is remarkably similar to the version issued in 1994.

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Shots - Health News
3:37 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

A Sleep Gene Has A Surprising Role In Migraines

Bates experienced migraines as a child. She made this painting to depict how they felt to her.
Courtesy of Emily Bates

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 9:33 am

Mutations on a single gene appear to increase the risk for both an unusual sleep disorder and migraines, a team reports in Science Translational Medicine.

The finding could help explain the links between sleep problems and migraines. It also should make it easier to find new drugs to treat migraines, researchers say.

And for one member of the research team, Emily Bates, the discovery represents a personal victory.

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Shots - Health News
2:31 am
Thu April 25, 2013

A Tale Of Mice And Medical Research, Wiped Out By A Superstorm

In this Jan. 18 photo provided by the NYU Langone Medical Center, a technician examines mice to determine their health at the hospital's complex in New York.
New York University AP

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 1:46 am

When Superstorm Sandy inundated lower Manhattan last year, thousands of lab animals drowned and many scientists lost months or even years of work. One of those scientists is Gordon Fishell, a brain researcher at New York University.

Just hours before Sandy reached New York, Fishell says, he began to worry that animals housed in a basement below his lab were in danger. "I realized Hurricane Sandy and high tide were going to coincide at Battery Park, which is right where my lab is," he says.

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Shots - Health News
4:15 pm
Tue April 9, 2013

Genetically Modified Rat Is Promising Model For Alzheimer's

Scientists hope a new genetically modified rat will help them find Alzheimer's drugs that work on humans.
Ryumin Alexander ITAR-TASS/Landov

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 6:34 pm

A rat with some human genes could provide a better way to test Alzheimer's drugs.

The genetically modified rat is the first rodent model to exhibit the full range of brain changes found in Alzheimer's, researchers report in The Journal of Neuroscience.

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Shots - Health News
6:08 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

Obama's Plan To Explore The Brain: A 'Most Audacious' Project

A colored 3-D MRI scan of the brain's white matter pathways traces connections between cells in the cerebrum and the brainstem.
Tom Barrick, Chris Clark, SGHMS Science Source

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 1:35 pm

President Obama has announced an ambitious plan to explore the mysteries of the human brain.

In a speech Tuesday, Obama said he will ask Congress for $100 million in 2014 to "better understand how we think and how we learn and how we remember." Other goals include finding new treatments for Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury.

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