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A host of common chemicals endanger child brain development, NIH journal reports

These widely used toxic chemicals "can contribute to learning, behavioral, or intellectual impairment, as well as specific neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorder"
July 1, 2016

In addition to mercury and lead, flame retardants, air pollutants and chemicals found in many plastics, cosmetics and food containers can disrupt child brain development, researchers say. (credit: Graphic by Julie McMahon)

In a new open-access report in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives, 47 scientists, health practitioners, and children’s health advocates have made a consensus statement in “Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks“ — endorsed by nine medical organizations — and issued a call to action for renewed attention to the growing evidence that many common and widely available chemicals endanger neurodevelopment in fetuses and children of all ages.… read more

Prenatal exposure to acetaminophen may increase autism spectrum symptoms

July 1, 2016

Tylenol PM (left) and Tylenol (right) (credit: Ragesoss/CC)

A new study has found that paracetamol (aka acetaminophen; trade names include Tylenol and Panadol), which is used extensively during pregnancy, has a strong association with autism spectrum symptoms in boys and for both genders in relation to attention-related and hyperactivity symptoms.

The findings* were published this week in the International Journal of Epidemiology. This is the first study of its kind… read more

A spectacular survey of the distant universe

Looking back in time at 250,000 galaxies --- some within the first billion years after the Big Bang
June 30, 2016

An image of a small section (0.4 percent) of the UDS field. Most of the objects in the image are very distant galaxies, observed as they were over 9 billion years ago. In the full image, 250,000 galaxies have been detected over an area of sky four times the size of the full moon. (credit: Omar Almaini, University of Nottingham)

Astronomers at The University of Nottingham have released spectacular new infrared images of the distant Universe, providing the deepest view ever obtained over a large area of sky — showing more than 250,000 galaxies, including several hundred observed within the first billion years after the Big Bang.

The images are from the final data release from the Ultra-Deep Survey (UDS), which maps an area four times the size of… read more

First self-driving vehicle death

"Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky"
June 30, 2016

Tesla Model S (credit: Tesla)

A Tesla Model S car was involved in a fatal crash yesterday, Tesla Motors announced today, June 30, on its blog.

“Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old Ohio owner of a Tesla Model S, died when his electric car drove under the trailer of an 18-wheel truck on a highway in Williston, Fla.,” The Wall Street Journal reports, based on local news reports.

“The vehicle was on… read more

A smarter ‘bionic’ cardiac patch that doubles as advanced pacemaker/arrhythmia detector

"Cardiac patches might one day simply be delivered by injection" --- Charles Lieber
June 28, 2016

nanoelectronic scaffold - cardiac tissue ft

Harvard researchers have designed nanoscale electronic scaffolds (support structures) that can be seeded with cardiac cells to produce a new “bionic” cardiac patch (for replacing damaged cardiac tissue with pre-formed tissue patches). It also functions as a more sophisticated pacemaker: In addition to electrically stimulating the heart, the new design can change the pacemaker stimulation frequency and direction of signal propagation.

In addition, because because its electronic components are… read more

AI beats top U.S. Air Force tactical air combat experts in combat simulation

"Genetic fuzzy tree” software enables Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles to function 250 times faster than humans
June 28, 2016

Retired United States Air Force Colonel Gene Lee, in a flight simulator, takes part in simulated air combat versus artificial intelligence technology developed by a team comprised of industry, US Air Force and University of Cincinnati representatives. (credit: Lisa Ventre, University of Cincinnati Distribution A: Approved for public release; distribution unlimited. 88ABW Cleared 05/02/2016; 88ABW-2016-2270)

The U.S. Air Force got a wakeup call recently when AI software called ALPHA — running on a tiny $35 Raspberry Pi computer — repeatedly defeated retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gene Lee, a top aerial combat instructor and Air Battle Manager, and other expert air-combat tacticians at the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) in Dayton, Ohio. The contest was conducted in a high-fidelity air combat simulator.

According to… read more

This remarkable fish has no cortex but intelligently switches between electrical and vision senses

Is the cortex overrated?
June 27, 2016

The elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii) explores objects in its surroundings by using its eyes or its electrical sense. (credit: © Photo: Timo Moritz)

With its tiny brain (and no cortex), the elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii)* achieves performance comparable to that of humans or other mammals in certain tasks, according to zoologists at the University of Bonn and a colleague from Oxford.

To perceive objects in the water, the fish uses electrolocation (similar to the echolocation of bats) to perceive objects in the water, aided by an electrical organ in… read more

Artificial synapse said to rival biological synapses in energy consumption and function

June 27, 2016

neuronal network & ONW ST

An artificial synapse that emulates a biological synapse while requiring less energy has been developed by Pohang University Of Science & Technology (POSTECH) researchers* in Korea.

A human synapse consumes an extremely small amount of energy (~10 fJ or femtojoules** per synaptic event).

The researchers have fabricated an organic nanofiber (ONF), or organic nanowire (ONW), electronic device that emulates the important working principles and… read more

Are you ready for mood-altering drugs precisely inserted into your brain?

June 24, 2016

PFC-directed oscillatory interactions ft

Imagine if doctors could precisely insert a tiny amount of a custom drug into a specific circuit in your brain and improve your depression (or other mood problems) — instead of treating the entire brain.

That’s exactly what Duke University researchers have explored in mice. Stress-susceptible animals that appeared depressed or anxious were restored to relatively normal behavior this way, according to a study appearing in the… read more

How exercise improves memory

The hippocampus in the brain switches to fat as an energy source after glucose is depleted from exercise), leading to release of BDNF, associated with cognitive improvement. Researchers have found out how.
June 24, 2016

Exercise induces synthesis of a chemical called DBHB in the liver. In the hippocampus, DBHB induces Bdnf expression, which in turn has positive effects on memory, cognition and synaptic transmission. (credit: Sama F. Sleiman et al./eLife)

Physical exercise after learning improves memory and memory traces if the exercise is done four hours later, and not immediately after learning, according to findings recently reported (open-access) in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

It’s not yet clear exactly how or why delayed exercise has this effect on memory. However, earlier studies of laboratory animals suggest that naturally occurring chemical compounds in the body known as catecholamines, including… read more

The ‘ultimate discovery tool’ for nanoparticles

Similar to what gene chips offer biology; could test billions of different nanoparticles at one time
June 24, 2016

ultimate-discovery-tool ft

The discovery power of the gene chip is coming to nanotechnology, as a Northwestern University research team develops a  tool to rapidly test millions — and perhaps even billions — of different nanoparticles at one time to zero in on the best nanoparticle for a specific use.

When materials are miniaturized, their properties — optical, structural, electrical, mechanical and chemical — change, offering new possibilities. But determining what nanoparticle… read more

The top 10 emerging technologies of 2016

June 23, 2016


The World Economic Forum’s annual list of this year’s breakthrough technologies, published today, includes “socially aware” openAI, grid-scale energy storage, perovskite solar cells, and other technologies with the potential to “transform industries, improve lives, and safeguard the planet.” The WEF’s specific interest is to “close gaps in investment and regulation.”

“Horizon scanning for emerging technologies is crucial to staying abreast of developments that can radically transform our world,… read more

Unexpected discovery reveals secret of how cancer spreads in the body

Could help develop treatments to prevent metastasis (awesome animated video)
June 23, 2016

primary tumor (credit: Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL)

Metastasis (spread of cancer) is one of the biggest challenges in cancer treatment. It is often not the original tumor that kills, but secondary growths. But a key question in cancer research has been how vulnerable cancer cells are able to survive once they break away from a tumor to spread around the body.

“Metastasis is currently incurable and remains one of the key targets of cancer research,” said… read more

Brain markers of numeric, verbal, and spatial reasoning abilities found

June 23, 2016

A new study found that higher concentrations of NAA (N-acetyl aspartate) in the medial parietal and posterior cingulate cortices of the brain were associated with better performance on verbal and spatial tests. NAA is a byproduct of glucose metabolism and an indicator of brain health. (credit: Graphic by Julie McMahon and Erick Paul)

A new study helps explain how brain structure and chemistry relate to “fluid intelligence” — the ability to adapt to new situations and solve problems one has never encountered before.

The study, reported in an open-access paper in the journal NeuroImage, observed two facets of fluid intelligence*:

  • Verbal or spatial reasoning was linked to higher concentrations of a compound called NAA (N-acetyl aspartate) in the medial parietal

read more

Real-time robot-motion planning

New processor can plan an optimal, energy-efficient robot motion path up to 10,000 times faster
June 21, 2016

New computer processor allows for fast, energy-efficient robot motion planning (credit: Duke Robotics)

Duke University researchers have designed a new computer processor that’s optimized for robot motion planning (for example, for quickly picking up and accurately moving an object in a cluttered environment while evading obstacles). The new processor can plan an optimal motion path up to 10,000 times faster than existing systems while using a small fraction of the required power.

The new processor is fast enough to plan… read more

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