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Researchers restore leg movement in primates using wireless neural interface

May lead to a system to help rehabilitate people who have suffered spinal cord injuries
November 10, 2016

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An international team of scientists has used a wireless “brain-spinal interface” to bypass spinal cord injuries in a pair of rhesus macaques, restoring nearly normal intentional walking movement to a temporarily paralyzed leg.

The finding could help in developing a similar system to rehabilitate humans who have had spinal cord injuries.

The system uses signals recorded from a pill-sized electrode array implanted in the motor cortex of the… read more

Could these three brain regions be the seat of consciousness?

We may someday wake up someone from a persistent vegetative state by stimulating this network, the neurologists hope
November 10, 2016

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An international team of neurologists led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has identified three specific regions of the brain that appear to be critical components of consciousness: one in the brainstem, involved in arousal; and two cortical regions involved in awareness.

To pinpoint the exact regions, the neurologists first analyzed 36 patients with brainstem lesions (injuries). They discovered that a specific small area of the brainstem —… read more

A super-high-resolution snapshot of RNA folding

Could lead to future discoveries in basic biology, gene expression, RNA viruses, and disease
November 4, 2016

This matrix of the RNA folding pathway shows how the transcription length and nucleotide positions change over time. (Nucleotide position is along the x-axis; transcription length is along the y-axis.) Each pixel in the matrix is a piece of information about the structure of the RNA molecules. (credit: Northwestern University)

Northwestern University engineers have invented a tool to make a super-high-resolution representation of RNA folding as it is being synthesized. It could potentially lead to future discoveries in basic biology, gene expression, RNA viruses, and disease.

Made up of long chains of nucleotides, RNA is responsible for many tasks in the cellular environment, including making proteins, transporting amino acids, gene expression, and carrying messages between DNA and… read more

New antimicrobial peptide kills strains resistant to existing antibiotics

Resistant strains of E. coli and Staph finally meet their match
November 4, 2016

scanning electron micrograph (SEM) shows a strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria taken from a vancomycin intermediate resistant culture (credit: CDC)

A team of researchers at MIT, the University of Brasilia, and the University of British Columbia has engineered an antimicrobial peptide to wipe out many types of bacteria, including some that are resistant to most antibiotics.

A recent study from a U.K. commission on antimicrobial resistance estimated that by 2050, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections will kill 10 million people per year if no new drugs are developed.

Learningread more

Neuroscience review reframes ‘mind-wandering’ and mental illness

The power of spontaneous thought
November 4, 2016

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In a review of neuroscience literature from more than 200 journals, published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, a University of British Columbia-led team has proposed a radical new framework for understanding “mind wandering” and mental illness.

Within this framework, spontaneous thought processes — including mind-wandering, creative thinking, and dreaming — arise when thoughts are relatively free from deliberate and automatic constraints. Mind-wandering is not… read more

‘Passive haptic learning’ (PHL) system teaches Morse code without trying

New study demonstrates silent, eyes-free text entry
November 3, 2016

Study participants tapped Morse Code into Google Glass after four hours. (credit: Georgia Tech/Caitlyn Seim)

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a “passive haptic learning” (PHL) system that teaches people Morse code within four hours, using a series of vibrations felt near the ear. Participants wearing Google Glass learned it without paying attention to the signals —they played games while feeling the taps and hearing the corresponding letters.

They were 94 percent accurate keying a sentence that included every letter… read more

Scientists find key protein for spinal cord repair in zebrafish

The human CTGF protein is 87% similar in its amino acid building blocks to the zebrafish form
November 3, 2016

Duke University | Spinal Cord Injury and Regeneration in Zebrafish

Duke University scientists have found a protein that’s important for the ability of the freshwater zebrafish’s spinal cord to heal completely after being severed. Their study, published Nov. 4  in the journal Science, could generate new leads for what is a paralyzing and often fatal injury for humans.

Searching for the repair moleculesread more

‘Nanobionic’ spinach plants detect explosives, pollution, drought

First dogs. Then honeybees. And now plants with carbon nanotubes.
November 2, 2016

By embedding spinach leaves with carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have transformed spinach plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone. (credit: Christine Daniloff/MIT)

MIT engineers have implanted spinach leaves with carbon nanotubes, resulting in a hybrid electronic system that they call “plant nanobionics” for detecting dangerous (and other) chemicals.

Two years ago, in the first demonstration of plant nanobionics, MIT engineer Michael Strano, PhD, used nanoparticles to enhance plants’ photosynthesis ability and turn them into sensors for nitric oxide, a pollutant produced by combustion.

Detecting trace molecules

In the… read more

New study challenges consensus that math abilities are innate

November 1, 2016

How do you decide which cart to get behind to check out faster? (credit: iStock)

A new theory on how the brain first learns basic math could alter approaches to identifying and teaching students with math-learning disabilities, according to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers.

The widely accepted “sense of numbers” theory suggests people are born with a “sense of numbers,” an innate ability to recognize different quantities, and that this ability improves with age. Early math curricula and tools for diagnosing math-specific… read more

Electroacupuncture lowers hypertension by activating natural opioids

A needle a day keeps the doctor away
November 1, 2016

The UCI study shows that repetitive electroacupuncture evokes a long-lasting action in lowering blood pressure in hypertension. (credit: Chris Nugent / UCI)

A study led by researchers at UC Irvine’s Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine suggests electroacupuncture can effectively reduce hypertension in rats.

The team led by cardiology researcher Zhi-Ling Guo published evidence in Nature’s Scientific Reports (open access) to show how electroacupuncture remediates high blood pressure “by increasing the gene expression of enkephalin, one of three major opioid peptides produced by the body.”

The new study*… read more

How to 3D-print your own baby universe

November 1, 2016

3D-printed CMB model (credit: D. L. Clements et al./European Journal of Physics)

Researchers have created a 3D-printed cosmic microwave background (CMB) — a map of the oldest light in the universe — and have provided the files for download.

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is the “glow” that the universe had in the microwave range. It maps the oldest light in the universe and tells astronomers more about the early universe and the formation of structures within it, such as galaxies.… read more

New MIT technique reveals the basis for machine-learning systems’ hidden decisions

October 31, 2016

A Stanford School of Medicine machine-learning-based method for automatically analyzing images of cancerous tissues and predicting patient survival was found more accurate than doctors in breast-cancer diagnosis, but doctors don’t trust this method, say MIT researchers (credit: Science/AAAS)

MIT researchers have developed a method to determine the rationale for predictions by neural networks, which loosely mimic the human brain. Neural networks, such as Google’s Alpha Go program, use a process known as “deep learning” to look for patterns in training data.

An ongoing problem with neural networks is that they are “black boxes.” After training, a network may be very good at classifying data, but… read more

Neurons from stem cells replace damaged neurons, precisely rewiring into the brain

October 28, 2016

Neuronal transplants (blue) connect with host neurons (yellow) in the adult mouse brain in a highly specific manner, rebuilding neural networks lost upon injury. Picture: Sofia Grade (credit: LMU/Helmholtz Zentrum München)

Embryonic neural stem cells transplanted into damaged areas of the visual cortex of adult mice were able to differentiate into pyramidal cells — forming normal synaptic connections, responding to visual stimuli, and integrating into neural networks — researchers at LMU Munich, the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Martinsried and the Helmholtz Zentrum München have demonstrated.

The adult human brain has very little… read more

Boosting levels of antioxidant may help resist age-related decline

NAC, used in emergency-room toxic crises, boosts glutathione. Could NAC also help resist aging-related toxins?
October 28, 2016

The chemical structure of glutathione, an antioxidant that may help resist the toxins that are an underlying cause of aging. (credit: Graphic courtesy of Oregon State University)

Researchers at Oregon State University have found evidence in a rat study* that levels of glutathione, which helps resist the toxic stresses of everyday life, decline with age, and this sets the stage for a wide range of age-related health problems, they suggest.

The new study, published in the journal Redox Biology, also highlighted a compound called N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), which is used in… read more

A deep-learning system to alert companies before litigation

"The average cost per lawsuit: at least about $350,000"
October 27, 2016

(credit: Intraspexion, Inc.)

Imagine a world with less litigation.

That’s the promise of a deep-learning system developed by Intraspexion, Inc. that can alert company or government attorneys to forthcoming risks before getting hit with expensive litigation.

“These risks show up in internal communications such as emails,” said CEO Nick Brestoff. “In-house attorneys have been blind to these risks, so they are stuck with managing the lawsuits.”… read more

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