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Brain-machine interfaces to restore motor function and probe neural circuits

May 2, 2003

“Recent studies have shown that it is possible to create functional, bidirectional, real-time interfaces between living brain tissue and artificial devices. It is reasonable to predict that further research on brain–machine interfaces will lead to the development of a new generation of neuroprosthetic devices aimed at restoring motor functions in severely paralysed patients. In addition, I propose that such interfaces can become the core of a new experimental approach with… read more

Embryonic stem cells turned into eggs

May 2, 2003

Embryonic stem cells have been turned into egg cells — the first time scientists have duplicated the process of egg formation and ovulation in the test tube.

The finding opens the possibility that human eggs could be made in large numbers in a culture dish, instead of relying on donors. That could advance research on infertility, the understanding of menopause, and help perfect the process of cloning. Embryonic stem… read more

Old age’s mental slowdown may be reversible

May 2, 2003

Administering tranquilers to monkeys to increase GABA or its effects can reverse mental decline, say researchers.

As people get older, the neurons in their brains increasingly fire non-selectively. By helping neurons to respond only to specific stimuli, GABA enables the brain to make sense of the vast quantity of incoming information.

Anthrax genome decoded

May 1, 2003

The complete genetic blueprint of Bacillus anthracis has been published in the May 1 issue of Nature.

The researchers found a number of genes encoding proteins that B. anthracis may need to enter its host’s cells. These could provide targets for drugs designed against the organism.

Making Intelligence a Bit Less Artificial

May 1, 2003

Automated programs that look for patterns in customer data and make recommendations (on, for example) are not smart enough to detect a gaffe.

“Something more sophisticated is required…analysts who understand why a particular type of music appeals to some people, categorization experts who know how to cross-reference material, retail executives who tweak the system to improve the bottom line and reviewers who check for nonsensical or offensive results.”

3D ‘Crystal Ball’ Monitors

May 1, 2003

Perspecta, a new display technology using a rotating disk, provides a high-resolution 3D representation of an object that can be viewed from 360 degrees around the display, without the need for special goggles.

Moving Sensor Data onto the Internet

May 1, 2003

A new XML encoding scheme may make it possible for any Web user to remotely discover, access, and use real-time data obtained directly from Web-resident sensors, instruments, and imaging devices, such as flood gauges, stress gauges on bridges, mobile heart monitors, Web cams, and satellite-borne earth imaging devices.

Since the scheme uses XML-based metadata, the sensor data can searched directly. “For example, searching for particular kinds of sensors and… read more

Einstein and Newton showed signs of autism

May 1, 2003

British scientists believe Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton may have suffered from Asperger syndrome — a form of autism.

The disorder causes deficiencies in social and communication skills and obsessive interests.

“Newton seems like a classic case. He hardly spoke, was so engrossed in his work that he often forgot to eat, and was lukewarm or bad-tempered with the few friends he had. If no one turned up… read more

The Grammar of Sound

May 1, 2003

Fast-Talk software lets you index and search audio much faster than in the past. Developed by Fast-Talk Communications, a Georgia Tech spinoff, the software lets users locate clips in an audio file simply by phonetically spelling and entering any term they want to find.

Note: reviewed a beta version of Fast-Talk and found it effective and fast in retrieving information from audio interviews. – Ed.

Georgia Tech researchers use lab cultures to control robotic device

April 30, 2003

The Hybrot (hybrid of living and robotic components), a small robot that moves about using the brain signals of a rat, is the first robotic device whose movements are controlled by a network of cultured neuron cells.

Researchers hope the research will lead to advanced computer systems that could some day assist in situations where humans have lost motor control, memory or information processing abilities. The neural interfacing techniques… read more

DNA re-write could allay cloning fears

April 30, 2003

An extra step could eliminate many objections to the controversial reproductive cloning technique.

Cloned human embryos would be used to derive healthy sperm and eggs that could subsequently be used for in vitro fertilization rather than implanting the embryo directly into the mother’s uterus.

Embryonic stem cells would be removed and nurtured in the lab. Researchers would then treat the cells with molecules that encourage them to develop… read more

Halting nanotech research ‘illogical,’ says pioneer

April 30, 2003

The call for a moratorium on nanoparticle research is more of an attention-grabbing mechanism than a serious proposal, says Eric Drexler, who coined the phrase nanotechnology.

The real threats to nanotechnology are the emergence of the technology in the hands of secretive or irresponsible parties and an attempt to over-control the technology, he adds.

Cognitive Systems

April 30, 2003

The April 2003 issue of ERCIM News is dedicated to cognitive systems, with 21 articles. Some of the more interesting articles are featured in A Gallery of Cognitive Systems, a weblog.

Intel’s sights on lip-reading software

April 29, 2003

Intel has released software that lets computers read lips, a step forward that could lead to better voice recognition applications.

The Audio Visual Speech Recognition (AVSR) software tracks a speaker’s face and mouth movements. By matching these movements with speech, the application can provide a computer with enough data to respond to voice recognition commands, even when these are given in noisy environments.

‘Virgin birth’ method promises ethical stem cells

April 29, 2003

Researchers are on the brink of obtaining human stem cells by parthenogenesis and animal experiments suggest such cells are indistinguishable from normal stem cells.

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