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How brain architecture relates to consciousness and abstract thought

Could lead to better ways to identify and treat brain diseases and to new deep-learning AI systems
December 29, 2015

Generated by human-blind automated procedures, this diagram depicts an oversimplified graphical model of the information representation flow from sensory inputs (bottom) to abstract representations (top) in human cortex. Bottom layer of the pyramid included a sample representative description of the 20th percentile of behavioral elements closest to sensory inputs, the next layer up includes a sample description of behavioral elements from the 20–40th percentile…with the top layer containing a sample description of the behavioral elements distributed deepest in the cortical network, at the structural pinnacle of cognition. (credit: P. Taylor et al./Nature Scientific Reports)

Ever wonder how your brain creates your thoughts, based on everything that’s happening around you (and within you), and where these thoughts are actually located in the brain?

UMass Amherst computational neuroscientist Hava Siegelmann has, and she created a geometry-based method for doing just that. Her team did a massive data analysis of 20 years of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from tens of thousands of… read more

Optoelectronic microprocessors shown to dramatically reduce chips’ power consumption

High-performance prototype built using existing chip manufacturing means chipmakers could now start building optoelectronic chips
December 28, 2015

Researchers have produced a working optoelectronic chip that computes electronically but uses light to move information. The chip has 850 optical components and 70 million transistors, which, while significantly less than the billion-odd transistors of a typical microprocessor, is enough to demonstrate all the functionality that a commercial optical chip would require. (credit: Glenn J. Asakawa)

Rsearchers at MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Colorado have produced a working optoelectronic microprocessor, which computes electronically but uses light to move information — using only processes found in existing microchip fabrication facilities.

Optical communication could dramatically reduce chips’ power consumption, which is essential to maintaining the steady increases in computing power that we’ve come to expect.

Demonstrating that… read more

Algorithm turns smartphones into 3-D scanners

December 28, 2015

Unsynchronized structured light-ft

An algorithm developed by Brown University researchers my help bring high-quality 3-D depth-scanning capability to standard commercial digital cameras and smartphones.

“The 3-D scanners on the market today are either very expensive or unable to do high-resolution image capture, so they can’t be used for applications where details are important,” said Gabriel Taubin, a professor in Brown’s School of Engineering — like 3-D printing.… read more

New genes associated with extreme longevity identified

December 23, 2015

genetic overlap ft

What’s the secret of centenarians who have health and diet habits similar to the average person but have remained active and alert at very old ages?

Genes. That’s according to scientists at Stanford University and the University of Bologna, who have written a new report published in PLOS Genetics, based on their finding of several disease variants that may be absent in centenarians compared to… read more

Microfluidic biochip for simple, fast, low-cost blood cell counts

December 23, 2015

Schematic of the leukocyte counting chip with lysing, quenching, and counter modules shown in different colors. The insert (upper left) is an enlarged view of the platinum microfabricated electrodes (yellow). (credit: U. Hassan et al./TECHNOLOGY)

A microfluidic biosensor that can count red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells electrically using just one drop of blood (11 microL) has been developed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) researchers, replacing the standard hematology analyzer, a large, expensive lab device that requires trained technicians and physical sample transportation.

The new biosensor can electrically count the different types of blood cells based on their… read more

A ‘garbage disposal’ drug may slow Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases

Should "clear out everything at once" --- including Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal degeneration, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s
December 23, 2015

Rolipram

Rolipram, a drug that boosts activity in the brain’s “garbage disposal” system, can decrease levels of toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders and improve cognition in mice, a new study by neuroscientists has found.

Rolipram causes nausea, but similar drugs do not, and could be tested in clinical trials quickly, the researchers say.

“This has the potential to open up new avenues of treatment… read more

MIT uses forests of carbon nanotubes with antibodies to capture hard-to-detect molecules

December 22, 2015

A patterned and cylindrical structure made up of carbon nanotubes. (credit: Courtesy of the researchers)

Engineers at MIT have devised a new technique for trapping hard-to-detect molecules, using forests of coated carbon nanotubes.

The team modified a simple microfluidic channel with an array of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes — rolled lattices of carbon atoms that resemble tiny tubes of chicken wire.

The researchers had previously devised a method for standing carbon nanotubes on their ends, like trees in a… read more

How to teach machines to see

May lead to smarter future vision systems for driverless cars, smartphones, and cameras
December 22, 2015

This is an example of SegNet in action: the separate components of the road scene are all labelled in real time. (credit: Alex Kendall)

Two new technologies that use deep-learning techniques to help machines see and analyze images (such as roads and people) could improve visual performance for driveless cars and create a new generation of smarter smartphones and cameras.

Designed by University of Cambridge researchers, the systems can recognize their own location and surroundings. Most driverless cars currently in development use radar and LIDAR sensors, which often cost more than the… read more

Genetic ‘intelligence networks’ discovered in the brain

Could lead to future genetic engineering of superintelligence?
December 22, 2015

Gene-expression heatmap ft

Scientists from Imperial College London have identified two clusters (“gene networks”) of genes that are linked to human intelligence. Called M1 and M3, these gene networks appear to influence cognitive function, which includes memory, attention, processing speed and reasoning.

Importantly, the scientists have discovered that these two networks are likely to be under the control of master regulator switches. The researcher want to identify those switches and… read more

AI ‘alarmists’ nominated for 2015 ‘Luddite Award’

December 21, 2015

An 1844 engraving from the Penny magazine, showing a post-1820s Jacquard loom (credit: public domain/Penny Magazine)

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) today (Dec. 21) announced 10 nominees for its 2015 Luddite Award. The annual “honor” recognizes the year’s most egregious example of a government, organization, or individual stymieing the progress of technological innovation.

ITIF also opened an online poll and invited the public to help decide the “winner.” The result will be announced in late January.

The nominees include (in no specific order):… read more

Magnetic nanoparticles combat biofilms, a source of chronic bacterial infections

December 21, 2015

Staphylococcus aureus bacterial biofilm on an indwelling catheter. (credit: CDC)

A solution for biofilms* — a scourge of infections in hospitals and kitchens formed by bacteria that stick to each other on living tissue and medical instruments — has been developed by University of New South Wales researchers: Injecting iron oxide nanoparticles into the biofilms, and using an applied magnetic field to heat them, triggering them into dispersing.

“Chronic biofilm-based infections are often extremely resistant to antibiotics… read more

Deep-learning algorithm predicts photos’ memorability at ‘near-human’ levels

December 21, 2015

LaMem image

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a deep-learning algorithm that can predict how memorable or forgettable an image is almost as accurately as humans, and they plan to turn it into an app that tweaks photos to make them more memorable.

For each photo, the “MemNet” algorithm also creates a “heat map” (a color-coded overlay) that identifies exactly which parts of the… read more

Pulsed laser light turns whole-brain activity on and off

Study may guide deep brain stimulation therapies used for traumatic brain injury and other neurological disorders
December 18, 2015

Optogenetic light delivery

By flashing high-frequency (40 to 100 pulses per second) optogenetic lasers at the brain’s thalamus, scientists were able to wake up sleeping rats and cause widespread brain activity. In contrast, flashing the laser at 10 pulses per second suppressed the activity of the brain’s sensory cortex and caused rats to enter a seizure-like state of unconsciousness.

“We hope to use this knowledge to develop better treatments for… read more

‘Robot locust’ can jump 11 feet high

Can traverse rocky terrain and assist in search and rescue and reconnaisance missions
December 18, 2015

Real vs. robot (credit: Tel Aviv University)

A locust-inspired miniature robot that can jump 3.35 meters (11 ft.), covering a distance of 1.37 meters (4.5 ft.) horizontally in one leap is designed to handle search-and-rescue and reconnaissance missions in rough terrain.

The new locust-inspired robot, dubbed “TAUB” (for “Tel Aviv University and Ort Braude College”), is 12.7 cm (5 in.) long and weighs weighs 23 grams (less than one ounce). It was developed by Tel Aviv… read more

Mystery material stuns scientists

It's a UV light, semiconductor, sensor, superconductor, ferromagnet, optoelectronic device. Just add water.
December 18, 2015

How does water on the surface of this material control UV light emission and conductivity? (credit: Mohammad A. Islam et al./Nano Letters)

In a remarkable chance landmark discovery, a team of researchers at four universities has discovered a mysterious material that emits ultraviolet light and has insulating, electrical conducting, semiconducting, superconducting, and ferromagnetic properties — all controlled by surface water.

It happened while the researchers were studying a sample of lanthanum aluminate film on a strontinum titanate crystal. The sample mysteriously began to glow, emitting intense levels of ultraviolet light from… read more

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