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Multitasking neurons found essential to the brain’s computational power

May 21, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

There are many neurons, especially in brain regions that perform sophisticated functions such as thinking and planning, that react in different ways to a wide variety of things.

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller first noticed these unusual activity patterns about 20 years ago, while recording the electrical activity of neurons in animals that were trained to perform complex tasks.

“We started noticing early on that… read more

ACT confirms clinical trial participant showed improvement in vision from 20/400 to 20/40 following treatment

May 21, 2013

Intermediate age-related macular degeneration (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. (ACT) has confirmed that the vision of a patient enrolled in a clinical investigation of the company’s retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) has improved from 20/400 to 20/40 following treatment.

ACT is currently enrolling patients in three clinical trials in the U.S. and Europe for treatment of Stargardt’s macular dystrophy (SMD) and dry age-related… read more

Beyond Second Life: more realistic avatars

May 21, 2013

avatar

Philip Rosedale, founder of once-popular virtual world Second Life, has created a new company called High Fidelity. As suggested by the video above and the blog, the company is developing more natural ways for avatars to communicate (with heads and hand movements, for example) and with low latency (faster response time).

“Imagine holding your phone and being able to twist and move your avatar’s hand.… read more

A new tool for precise brain mapping

Optogenetic infrared light precisely illuminates neural pathways in the brain
May 21, 2013

A new tool that could help map and track the interactions between neurons in different areas of the brain is being developed by University of Texas Arlington assistant professor of physics Samarendra Mohanty.

The technology would be useful in the BRAIN (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) mapping initiative.

This new method, which uses a fiber-optic, two-photon, optogenetic stimulator, has been used on… read more

Electrical brain stimulation helps people learn math faster

May 20, 2013

TRNS-NIRS

A harmless form of brain stimulation called transcranial random noise stimulation (TRNS) can help you learn math faster, researchers report.

“With just five days of cognitive training and noninvasive, painless brain stimulation, we were able to bring about long-lasting improvements in cognitive and brain functions,” says Roi Cohen Kadosh of the University of Oxford.

The enhancements to the speed of calculation- and memory-recall-based arithmetic learning held for a… read more

Transforming graphene into a semiconductor

New technique creates the necessary "band gap," opening the possibility of new electronic and optical devices
May 20, 2013

graphene_hbn

It’s been a long-sought goal that has proved elusive: how to engineer a property called a band gap into graphene, needed to use graphene in making transistors and other electronic devices.

Now MIT researchers have taken a major step toward making graphene with a band gap.

The new technique involves placing a sheet of graphene — a carbon-based material whose structure is… read more

First fully integrated artificial photosynthesis nanosystem

May 20, 2013

Arrays of tree-like nanowires consisting of Si trunks and TiO2 branches facilitate solar water-splitting in a fully integrated artificial photosynthesis system (credit:

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) scientists have developed the first fully integrated nanosystem for artificial photosynthesis,  in which solar energy is directly converted into chemical fuels.

“Similar to the chloroplasts in green plants that carry out photosynthesis, our artificial photosynthetic system is composed of two semiconductor light absorbers, an interfacial layer for charge transport, and spatially separated co-catalysts,” says Peidong Yang, a… read more

World record for wireless data transmission

May 20, 2013

The high frequency chip only measures 4 x 1.5 mm², as the size of electronic devices scales with frequency / wavelength. Photo: Sandra Iselin / Fraunhofer IAF

Researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics and the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology have achieved wireless transmission of 40 Gbit/s over a distance of one kilometer, a new world record.

The technology may help provide future broadband access to the Internet in rural areas and places which are difficult to access.

Using a high frequency range between 200 and 280 GHz… read more

The world of wearable computers

May 20, 2013

watch

(Credit: Credit Suisse)

“The next big thing” is the rise of sophisticated wearable technology, such as smart watches, and other accessories, according to Credit Suisse semiconductor analysts, Fortune reports.

The wearables market is perhaps $3 billion to $5 billion today, rising to perhaps $30 billion to $50 billion over the next three to five years, the analysts forecast, adding that there may… read more

NSA Google search tips

May 20, 2013

NSA

A book Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research (PDF) produced by the The National Security Agency to uncover intelligence hiding on the web has just been released by the NSA, following a FOIA request, Wired reports.

It offers advice for using search engines, the Internet Archive, and other online tools. But the most interesting is the chapter titled “Google Hacking.” For example: to… read more

Thought experiment: build a supercomputer replica of the human brain

May 17, 2013

Neocortical column in Henry Markram's Blue Brain project (Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)

Henry Markram’s Human Brain Project (HBP), backed by 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) funding Jan. 2013 from the European Commission, plans to integrate findings from the Allen Brain Atlas, the National Institutes of Health-funded Human Connectome Project, and the Brain (“Brain Activity Map”) project, Wired reports.

The HBP is an ambitious attempt to build a complete model of a human brain using predictive reverse-engineering and simulate it… read more

A paper-thin wearable pulse sensor

May 17, 2013

This flexible skin-like heart monitor is small enough to wear under a bandage (credit:

Engineers combine layers of flexible materials into pressure sensors to create a wearable heart monitor thinner than a dollar bill. The skin-like device could one day provide doctors with a safer way to check the condition of a patient’s heart.

Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford, has developed a heart monitor thinner than a dollar bill and no wider than… read more

Brain rewires itself after damage or injury, life scientists discover

May 17, 2013

connectome_brain_wiring

When the hippocampus, the brain’s primary learning and memory center, is damaged, complex new neural circuits — often far from the damaged site — arise to compensate for the lost function, say life scientists from UCLA and Australia who have pinpointed the regions of the brain involved in creating those alternate pathways.

The researchers found that parts of the prefrontal cortex take over when the hippocampus is… read more

Cells as living calculators

May 17, 2013

MIT engineers have created synthetic biology circuits that can perform analog computations such as taking logarithms and square roots in living cells (credit:

By combining existing genetic “parts,” or engineered genes, in novel ways, MIT engineers have transformed bacterial cells into living calculators that can compute logarithms, divide, and take square roots, using three or fewer genetic parts.

The circuits perform those calculations in an analog fashion by exploiting natural biochemical functions that are already present in the cell rather than by reinventing them with digital logic.… read more

Google and NASA launch Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab

May 17, 2013

dwave.quantumx

Google, in partnership with NASA and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), has launched an initiative to investigate how quantum computing might lead to breakthroughs in machine learning, a branch of AI that focuses on construction and study of systems that learn from data..

The new lab will use the D-Wave Two quantum computer.A recent study (see “Which is faster:read more

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