Imaginary friends are a sign of a lively, creative mind. But they are leaving us | Daisy Buchanan

Children have fewer invisible playmates than before. We must help them rediscover the art of being bored, says author Daisy Buchanan When I was three, I had a very good friend named Gemma. She was fearless where I was fretful, rebellious where I was conservative and dextrous where I was clumsy. She was also entirely imaginary. With Gemmas help and support, I almost made it to the top shelf of the bookcase before my parents found me and Gemma said it was OK! did not save me from a telling off. Gemma was also very fond of Discos crisps and Bourbon biscuits, and I became very good at smuggling them into my bedroom for her. I cant remember when or …

Motor neurone disease researchers find link to microbes in gut

Study could eventually lead to new treatments for neurodegenerative condition Scientists have found tantalising clues that the devastating condition motor neurone disease may be linked to changes in microbes that live in the gut. Studies in mice revealed that animals bred to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of the disease that affected microbiome to the neurodegenerative illness, the work raises the possibility of new treatments for the condition. Eran Elinav at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel began by showing that mice with a mutation common in ALS patients fared much worse when their gut microbes were all but wiped out with strong antibiotics. The finding suggested that somehow, microbes in the animals guts were involved in …

Which is the most hayfever-prone city and is ‘botanical sexism’ to blame?

Allergy sufferers from Tokyo to London are struggling as pollen levels surge in cities, possibly due to a preference for male trees In 2016, Melbourne experienced a rare and extreme case of thunderstorm asthma that led to ten deaths and 8,500 people being abundant allergenic pollen. Some are dioecious plants, which have their own distinct sex, and some are monoecious plants (those with male and female flowers on the same plant) that have been cloned to be male. The last few times I was in London, for example, almost every single willow tree I saw was now a male clone; almost all of the bay trees being sold and planted were males; virtually all of the many species of poplar …