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Neurons involved in working memory fire in bursts, not continuously

How we are able to keep several things simultaneously in working memory
March 21, 2016

Pictured is an artist’s interpretation of neurons firing in sporadic, coordinated bursts. “By having these different bursts coming at different moments in time, you can keep different items in memory separate from one another,” Earl Miller says. (credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

Think of a sentence you just read. Like that one. You’re now using your working memory, a critical brain system that’s roughly analogous to RAM memory in a computer.

Neuroscientists have believed that as information is held in working memory, brain cells associated with that information must be firing continuously. Not so — they fire in sporadic, coordinated bursts, says Earl Miller, the Picower Professor in MIT’s… read more

We need to forget things to make space to learn new things, scientists discover

Mice study, if confirmed in people, might help forget traumatic experiences
March 21, 2016

The three routes into the hippocampus seem to be linked to different aspects of learning: forming memories (green), recalling them (yellow) and forgetting (red). (credit: John Wood)

While you’re reading this (and learning about this new study), your brain is actively trying to forget something.

We apologize, but that’s what scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University Pablo Olavide in Sevilla, Spain, found in a new study published Friday (March 18) in an open-access paper in Nature Communications.

“This is the first time that a pathway in the brain has… read more

TED releases Meta 2 augmented-reality presentation video

March 18, 2016

Gribetz @ TED

TED just released the full video of Meta CEO Meron Gribetz’s preview of Meta’s next-generation augmented reality (AR) technology at the TED 2016 conference on Feb. 17. It can be found online at metavision.com and TED.com.

The presentation, which Forbes said “dazzles TED crowd” and received a standing ovation from TED attendees, dramatically showcases the capabilities of the Meta 2 Development Kit.… read more

When slower is faster: how to get rid of traffic lights

Communicating vehicles could zip through intersections more efficiently, but would they be hackable?
March 18, 2016

Intersection congestion (credit: Google Earth)

Traffic-light-free transportation design, if it ever arrives, could allow twice as much traffic to use the roads, according to a newly published open-access study in PLoS One co-authored by MIT researchers.

The idea is based on future vehicles equipped with the kind of sensors used in autonomous vehicles and that communicate wirelessly with each other, rather than grinding to a halt at traffic lights.

The researchers created a… read more

You’ll interact with smartphones and smartwatches by writing/gesturing on any surface, using sonar signals

March 17, 2016

FingerIO ft

A new sonar technology called FingerIO will make it easier to interact with screens on smartwatches and smartphones by simply writing or gesturing on any nearby surface. It’s is an active sonar system using the device’s own microphones and speakers to track fine-grained finger movements (to within 8mm).

Because sound waves travel through fabric and do not require line of sight, users can even interact with these… read more

Experiments show magnetic chips could dramatically increase computing’s energy efficiency

Beyond Moore's law: the challenge in computing today is reducing chips' energy consumption, not increasing packing density
March 17, 2016

Magnetic microscope image of three nanomagnetic computer bits. Each bit is a tiny bar magnet only 90 nanometers long. The microscope shows a bright spot at the "North" end and a dark spot at the "South" end of the magnet. The "H" arrow shows the direction of magnetic field applied to switch the direction of the magnets. (credit: Image by Jeongmin Hong and Jeffrey Bokor)

UC Berkeley engineers have shown for the first time that magnetic chips can actually operate at the lowest fundamental energy dissipation theoretically possible under the laws of thermodynamics. That means dramatic reductions in power consumption are possible — down to as little as one-millionth the amount of energy per operation used by transistors in modern computers.

The findings were published Mar. 11 an open-access paper in… read more

Major steps toward a bioengineered heart for transplantation

Using a patient’s own cells may overcome problems associated with receiving a heart donated by another person
March 17, 2016

A partially recellularized human whole-heart cardiac scaffold, reseeded with human cardiomyocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, being cultured in a bioreactor that delivers a nutrient solution and replicates some of the environmental conditions around a living heart. (credit: Bernhard Jank, MD, Ott Lab, Center for Regenerative Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital)

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers have taken early steps towards producing a bioengineered heart for transplantation that would use cells from the patient receiving the heart.

Using a patient’s own cells would help to overcome some of the problems associated with receiving a heart donated by another person, including immune rejection of the donated heart, as well as the long-term side effects of life-long treatment with the immunosuppressive… read more

A roadmap for the next generation of additive manufacturing materials and processes

Materials currently used in 3D printing are costly, not readily available, and limited
March 16, 2016

3D printing roadmap ft

Penn State University researchers have released a roadmap for developing future additive manufacturing (3D printing) materials and processes.

It’s much needed. Most of the feedstock materials currently used in 3D printing are costly, not readily available, and limited, according to the researchers. The first additive manufacturing (AM) processes were actually developed 30 years ago. All of the metal alloys currently used, for example, were developed to be… read more

Electron microscope reveals bacteria motor parts in incredible unprecedented detail

May make it possible to design specific drugs to attack targeted bacterial species
March 16, 2016

three bacterial motors-ft

A new study of the exotic “motors” that bacteria use to swim reveals details of how they “swim” that may make it possible to design specific drugs that sabotage the flagella (tails) in targeted bacterial species.

Using a newly installed high-powered electron microscope, researchers at Imperial College London, led by Morgan Beeby, PhD from the Department of Life Sciences, has been able visualize these motors… read more

New ‘machine unlearning’ technique deletes unwanted data

March 16, 2016

machine unlearning concept-ft

Machine learning systems are becoming ubiquitous, but what about false or damaging information about you (and others) that these systems have learned? Is it even possible for that information to be ever corrected? There are some heavy security and privacy questions here. Ever Google yourself?

Some background: machine-learning software programs calculate predictive relationships from massive amounts of data. The systems identify these predictive relationships using advanced algorithms — a… read more

How to turn carbon dioxide into sustainable concrete

May help eliminate two key sources of greenhouse gases
March 15, 2016

concrete ft

A UCLA research team has developed a plan for capturing carbon from power-plant smokestacks (the largest source of harmful global greenhouse gas in the world) and use it to create a new building material — CO2NCRETE — that would be fabricated using 3D printers while replacing production of cement (which creates about 5 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions).

“I decided to get involved in this project because… read more

Electrical control of bacteria-powered microrobots

Uses include delivering medication and manipulating stem cells to direct their growth
March 15, 2016

microbacteria navigation ft

Drexel University engineers have developed a method for using electric fields to help microscopic bacteria-powered robots detect obstacles in their environment and navigate around them. Uses include delivering medication, manipulating stem cells to direct their growth, or building a microstructure, for example.

The method is a follow-up to a 2014 report that presented a way to use the flagellated bacteria Serratia marcescens and an electric field to make a microrobot mobile.… read more

A neurofeedback technique for self-motivation

fMRI visual feedback reinforces pleasurable brain sensations
March 15, 2016

thermometer

Duke University scientists have developed a “neurofeedback” technique to improve self motivation by manipulating specific neural circuits using thoughts and imagery. (Neurofeedback is a specialized form of biofeedback that can help generate strategies to overcome anxiety and stress or to cope with other medical conditions.)

“These methods show a direct route for manipulating brain networks centrally involved in healthy brain function and daily behavior,” said the study’s… read more

New synthesized molecule could reduce brain damage in stroke victims

March 14, 2016

This graphic depicts a new inhibitor, 6S, locking up an enzyme (red) to block the production of hydrogen sulfide (yellow and white). Hydrogen sulfide concentrations have been shown to climb after the onset of a stroke, leaving to brain damage. (credit: Matthew Beio, University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

A new molecule known as 6S has reduced the death of brain tissue from ischemic stroke by up to 66 percent in rats while reducing the accompaning inflammation, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the National University of Singapore reported March 9 in an open-access paper published by the journal ACS Central Science.

The inhibitor molecule works by binding to cystathionine beta-synthase… read more

Using machine learning to rationally design future electronics materials

Why machine-learning algorithms will replace lab experiments
March 14, 2016

prediction inverse design ft

Replacing inefficient experimentation, UConn researchers have used machine learning to systematically scan millions of theoretical compounds for qualities that would make better materials for solar cells, fibers, and computer chips.

Led by UConn materials scientist Ramamurthy ‘Rampi’ Ramprasad, the researchers set out to determine which polymer atomic configurations make a given polymer a good electrical conductor or insulator, for example.

A polymer is a large… read more

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