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Test of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the brain shows improved multitasking performance

November 15, 2016

tDCS anode electrode

In an experiment at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, researchers* have found that transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) of the brain can improve people’s multitasking skills and help avoid the drop in performance that comes with information overload.

The study was reported in a pre-publication paper in the open-access journal Frontiers of Human Neuroscience. It was motivated by the observation that various… read more

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics leading to rise of resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria

November 15, 2016

Prolonged preventive antibiotics after incision closure do not prevent infections, but they do change the composition of bacteria in the host at other anatomic locations. The result is resistant colonization of the patient and potentially an infection with Clostridium difficile, shown here. (credit: CDC)

Overuse and misuse of antimicrobial agents in hospitals is an urgent problem. Surgeons around the world, who often prescribe antibiotics for surgical prophylaxis, need to take a leadership role in promoting “antimicrobial stewardship programs” (ASPs) that can optimize antimicrobial agent use in the hospital.

That’s the message from the Surgical Infection Society and the World Society of Emergency Surgery in an open-access paper entitled “Antimicrobial Stewardship: A read more

This simple optoelectronic computer could one day outperform supercomputers for complex problems

November 15, 2016

Post-doctoral scholar Peter McMahon, left, and visiting researcher Alireza Marandi examine a prototype of a new type of light-based computer. (credit: L.A. Cicero)

Stanford researchers have designed a new type of computer that combines optical and electronic technology to solve combinatorial optimization problems, which are challenging for traditional computers, even for supercomputers.

An example is  the “traveling salesman” problem, in which a salesman has to visit a specific set of cities, each only once, and return to the first city, taking the most efficient route possible. The… read more

Semiconductor-free microelectronics using metamaterials: faster, can handle more power

Back to the vacuum-tube future
November 13, 2016

This is the designed semiconductor-free microelectronic device. (credit: UC San Diego Applied Electromagnetics Group)

University of California San Diego engineers have made the first semiconductor-free, optically controlled microelectronic device, using metamaterials, with a 1,000 % increase in conductivity when activated by low voltage and a low-power laser.

The discovery may lead to microelectronic devices that are faster and capable of handling more power, and to more efficient solar panels. The work was published Nov. 4 in Nature Communications (open access).… read more

Brain scan better than polygraph in spotting lies

fMRI spots more lies in first controlled comparison of the two technologies
November 10, 2016

Image is a Z-statistic map threshold at voxel-height probability of P

Scanning people’s brains with fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) was significantly more effective at spotting lies than a traditional polygraph test, researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

When someone is lying, areas of the brain linked to decision-making are activated, which lights up on an fMRI scan for experts to… read more

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

brain-spine interface ft

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

consciousness areas ft

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

areas active - task-unrelated ft

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

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