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BigBrain: an ultra-high-resolution 3D roadmap of the human brain

June 21, 2013

BigBrain (credit: Montreal Neurological Institute and Forschungszentrum Jülich)

A landmark three-dimensional (3-D) digital reconstruction of a complete human brain, called the BigBrain, shows for the first time the brain anatomy in microscopic detail — at a spatial resolution of 20 microns, smaller than the size of one fine strand of hair — exceeding that of existing reference brains presently in the public domain.

The new tool is made freely available to the broader scientific community to advance… read more

What do memories look like?

Glowing neurons reveal memory formation in vivo
June 21, 2013

A living neuron in culture: Green dots indicate excitatory synapses and red dots indicate inhibitory synapses. (Photo/Don Arnold)

A USC research team has engineered microscopic probes that light up synapses in a living neuron in real time by attaching fluorescent markers onto synaptic proteins, without affecting the neuron’s ability to function.

The fluorescent markers allow scientists to see live excitatory and inhibitory synapses for the first time, and how they change as new memories are formed.

The synapses appear as bright spots along dendrites… read more

How neural stem cells create new and varied neurons

June 21, 2013


A new study examining the brains of fruit flies reveals a novel stem cell mechanism that may help explain how neurons form in humans.

“The question we confronted was ‘How does a single kind of stem cell, like a neural stem cell, make all different kinds of neurons?,’” said Chris Doe, a biology professor.

Researchers have known for some time that stem cells are capable of producing… read more

Reversing the loss of brain connections in Alzheimer’s disease

June 21, 2013

Photomicrograph of nerve cell during an electrical recording (left), fluorescently labeled nerve cell (right) (credit:

The first experimental drug to boost brain synapses lost in Alzheimer’s disease has been developed by researchers at Sanford-Burnham.

The drug, called NitroMemantine, combines two FDA-approved medicines to stop the destructive cascade of changes in the brain that destroys the connections between neurons, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline.

The decade-long study, led by Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Del… read more

Biologists identify chemical behind cancer resistance in naked mole rats

May work in people
June 21, 2013

Naked mole rats are subterranean rodents that have never been known to get cancer. (Photo by Brandon Vick/University of Rochester.)

Researchers at the University of Rochester have discovered the chemical that makes “naked mole rats” cancer-proof.

The findings could eventually lead to new cancer treatments in people, said study authors Andrei Seluanov and Vera Gorbunova.

Naked mole rats are small, hairless, subterranean rodents that have never been known to get cancer, despite having a 30-year lifespan.

The research group led by Seluanov and Gorbunova discovered… read more

Combining materials to make nanoscale 2D electronic components

June 21, 2013

Schematics and experimental images produced by Oak Ridge National Laboratory show defects at the 60-degree grain boundaries in two-dimensional samples of molybdenum disulfide. The defects are 5- and 7-atom dislocation cores; the numbers refer to locations where the atomic arrangements veer from regular six-atom hexagons. Their presence indicates a one-dimensional conductive “wire” that runs along the boundary. In the illustration, the molybdenum atoms are cyan and the sulfur atoms are orange and yellow. (Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Scientists at Rice University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have advanced on the goal of achieving two-dimensional electronics with a method to control the growth of uniform atomic layers of molybdenum disulfide (MDS).

MDS, a semiconductor, is one of three materials needed to make functioning 2D electronic components. The hope is that MDS could be joined with graphene, which has no band gap, and… read more

New step towards silicon-based quantum computer

June 21, 2013


Researchers at the University of New South Wales have proposed a new way to distinguish between quantum bits that are placed only a few nanometers apart in a silicon chip, taking them a step closer to the construction of a large-scale quantum computer.

Quantum bits, or qubits, are the basic building blocks of quantum computers — ultra-powerful devices that will offer enormous advantages for solving… read more

Identifying emotions based on brain activity and machine-learning techniques

Could this be used for "precrime" detection, as in Minority Report?
June 21, 2013

The image shows the average positions of brain regions used to identify emotional states (credit:

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have identified which emotion a person is experiencing based on brain activity.

The study, published in the June 19 issue of PLOS ONE (open access), combines functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and machine learning to measure brain signals to accurately read emotions in individuals.

Led by researchers in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the findings illustrate how… read more

In historic victory for community radio, FCC puts 1,000 low-power FM frequencies up for grabs

June 20, 2013

free radio

In a major victory for the community radio movement after a 15-year campaign, the Federal Communications Commission has announced it will soon begin accepting applications for hundreds of new low-power FM radio stations in October, according to Democracy Now.

“This means nonprofits, labor unions and community groups have a one-time-only chance this year to own a bit of the broadcast airwaves. It is being heralded as ‘the… read more

Diversifying your online world

June 20, 2013


In a new book, MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman asserts that we need to overcome the Internet’s sorting tendencies and create tools to make ourselves “digital cosmopolitans.”

The Internet promises a seemingly frictionless way of connecting individuals from around the globe. But in reality, that’s not what happens online: Instead, we clump together with people similar to ourselves, and have those affinities reinforced by tools that guide us… read more

Carbon nanotube electrode senses individual neuron signals

June 20, 2013


Neuroscientists have developed a new brain electrode that is a millimeter long, only a few nanometers wide and harnesses the superior electromechanical properties of carbon nanotubes to capture electrical signals from individual neurons.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time scientists have used carbon nanotubes to record signals from individual neurons, what we call intracellular recordings, in brain slices or intact brains of vertebrates,” said Bruceread more

Herbal extract boosts fruit fly lifespan by nearly 25 percent

June 20, 2013

Rhodiola rosea (golden root) is a plant in the Crassulaceae family that grows in cold regions of the world.

The herbal extract of a yellow-flowered mountain plant long used for stress relief was found to increase the lifespan of fruit fly populations by an average of 24 percent, according to UC Irvine researchers.

But it’s how Rhodiola rosea, also known as golden root, did this that grabbed the attention of study leaders. They discovered that Rhodiola works in a manner completely unrelated to dietary restriction and… read more

Fiber-optic pen helps see inside brains of children with learning disabilities

June 20, 2013

Todd Richards demonstrates the pen and pad device while inside the fMRI (credit: Center on Human Development and Disability/University of Washington)

For less than $100, University of Washington researchers have designed a computer-interfaced drawing pad that helps scientists see inside the brains of children with learning disabilities while they read and write.

A paper describing the tool, developed by the UW’s Center on Human Development and Disability, was published this spring in Sensors, an online open-access journal.

“Scientists needed a tool that allows them to see… read more

A billion-pixel view of Mars from Curiosity Rover

June 20, 2013


A 1.3-billion-pixel image of the surface of Mars, from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, offers armchair explorers a way to examine one part of the Red Planet in great detail. It stitches together nearly 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity and shows details of the landscape along the rover’s route.

The full image is available with pan and zoom tools at

The… read more

Edward Snowden: NSA whistleblower answers reader questions

June 20, 2013

NSA logo

Edward Snowden took readers’ questions on why he revealed the NSA’s top-secret surveillance of U.S. citizens, the international storm that has ensued, and the uncertain future he now faces, The Guardian reports.

[A few  excerpts --- Editor.]

Q: Some skepticism exists about certain of your claims, including this: “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to… read more

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