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Creating a transparent brain

BRAIN initiative just got a powerful new mapping tool
April 10, 2013

CLARITY_stained

Combining neuroscience and chemical engineering, researchers at Stanford University have developed a process that renders a mouse brain transparent. The postmortem brain remains whole — not sliced or sectioned in any way — with its three-dimensional complexity of fine wiring and molecular structures completely intact and able to be measured and probed at will with visible light and chemicals.

The process, called CLARITY, ushers in… read more

A ‘light switch’ in the brain illuminates neural wiring

April 10, 2013

Virus-induced optogenetic labeling of neurons. Right: closeup of rectangular area.  (Credit: Sheng-Jia Zhang et al./Science)

In a vivid example of how neuroscientists are meticulously tracing the microwiring of the brain, Norwegian researchers have used an optogenetic light switch to see (literally) which neurons communicate with each other in one small section of the brain.

The researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)’s Kavli Institute of Systems Neuroscience use a virus that acts as a… read more

A video game that teaches how to program in Java

April 10, 2013

One of the characters in the CodeSpells game environment (credit: UC San Diego)

CodeSpells, an immersive, first-person player video game designed to teach students in elementary to high school how to program in the popular Java language, has been developed by University of California, San Diego computer scientists.

The researchers tested the game on a group of 40 girls, ages 10 to 12, who had never been exposed to programming before. In just one hour of play, the girls… read more

‘Artificial leaf’ gains the ability to self-heal damage and produce energy from dirty water

April 10, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Another innovative feature has been added to the world’s first practical “artificial leaf,” making the device even more suitable for providing people in developing countries and remote areas with electricity, scientists reported here today.

It gives the leaf the ability to self-heal damage that occurs during production of energy.

Daniel G. Nocera, Ph.D., described the advance during the “Kavli Foundation Innovations inread more

Moving cells with light holds medical promise

April 10, 2013

light-controlled migration

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown they can coax cells to move toward a beam of light. The feat is a first step toward manipulating cells to control factors such as insulin secretion or heart rate using light.

Their research is published April 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We have succeeded in using light as a… read more

Breakthrough in hydrogen fuel production could ‘revolutionize alternative energy market’

April 9, 2013

Sources of hydrogen: plants (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A team of Virginia Tech researchers has discovered a way to extract large quantities of hydrogen from any plant, a breakthrough that has the potential to bring a low-cost, environmentally friendly fuel source to the world, the researchers say.

“Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agricultureread more

Miniature chip detects rogue cancer cells

April 9, 2013

A cancer cell (left) can cause havoc if it enters the bloodstream. Researchers use micro-scale instruments (right) to hunt for cancer cells in blood samples. (Credit: (left) Emre Ozkumur, (right) Berkin Cilingiroglu/National<br />
University of Singapore)

Researchers at at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a device that can detect even a single cell of any type of cancer circulating in blood, allowing early treatment of metastasis and new insights into cancer genetics, Science Now reports.

Called the CTC-iChip system (the “i” is for “inertial focusing”), it targets blood cells instead of cancer cells. Sorting by cell size, the first chip skims off small… read more

3D-printing synthetic tissues

April 9, 2013

Schematic of printing in aqueous solution. Aqueous droplets are ejected into a<br />
drop of oil suspended in bulk aqueous solution.

A custom-built programmable 3D printer can create materials with some the properties of living tissues, Oxford University scientists have demonstrated.

The new type of material consists of tens of thousands of picoliter connected water droplets encapsulated within lipid films, which can perform some of the functions of the cells inside our bodies.

These printed “droplet networks” might be interfaced with tissues, used as tissue… read more

The BRAIN Initiative: BAM or BUST?

April 9, 2013

President Barack Obama is introduced by Dr. Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health, at the BRAIN Initiative event in the East Room of the White House, April 2, 2013 (credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

What is the BRAIN* Project about? What are its goals?

“Well, nobody knows, actually. I certainly don’t know. But it appears that no one else knows either.” So says Scicurious, a PhD in Physiology and currently a postdoc in biomedical research, on her The Scicurious Brain blog on Scientific American.

“Basically, BRAIN is a very fancy initiative, with a fancy name … and so far,… read more

Solar achieves grid parity in India and Italy, others to follow in 2014

April 8, 2013

Solar panels

Analysts at Deutsche Bank have predicted that the global solar PV sector will transition from a subsidized market to a sustainable market within a year, citing the arrival of “grid parity” in a number of key markets, unexpectedly strong demand and rebounding margins, reports Renew Economy.

The Deutsche Bank team said key markets such as India, China and the U.S. are experiencing strong demand and solar… read more

The real Limitless drug

April 8, 2013

Modafinil (Provigil in the United States) was first approved by the FDA in 1998 for the treatment of narcolepsy, but since has become better known as a nootropic, a “smart drug,” especially among entrepreneurs, says New York magazine.

Rumored to be the model for the fictional pills in the movie Limitless, no scientist has conducted a study of its long-term effects on healthy brains yet. At the very… read more

Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars

April 8, 2013

University of Washington researchers and scientists are building components of a fusion-powered rocket aimed to clear many of the hurdles that block deep space travel, including long times in transit, exorbitant costs, and health risks.

“Using existing rocket fuels, it’s nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth,” said lead researcher John Slough, a UW research associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

“We are hoping… read more

Dreamcatcher: scientists predict images seen in dreams

April 8, 2013

dream_analysis

Japanese researchers have successfully predicted images seen in sleep based on MRI scans of brain activity.

As reported in Science, they recruited three volunteers to sleep in fMRI machines for 3-hour sessions over the course of 10 days while the researchers monitored each volunteer’s brain activity. They also used EEG to track the brain’s overall electrical activity.

The researchers woke subjects every six or seven minutes, asked them… read more

Non-invasive brain-to-brain interface: links between two brains

Direct communication between the brains of human and rat .... or between humans
April 8, 2013

brainstorm

We reported last month how Duke University researchers remotely linked the brains of two rats. Now researchers from the U.S and South Korea have have taken it a step further: a non-invasive functional link between the brains of different species (human and rat) — a brain-to-brain interface (BBI).

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School set up a system intended to allow a human to… read more

Listening to the Big Bang — in high fidelity audio

April 8, 2013

A decade ago, University of Washington physicist John Cramer devised an audio recreation of the Big Bang that started our universe nearly 14 billion years ago.

Now, armed with more sophisticated data from a satellite mission observing the cosmic microwave background — a faint glow in the universe that acts as sort of a fossilized fingerprint of the Big Bang — Cramer has produced new … read more

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