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The mystery behind anesthesia

December 20, 2011

This spectrogram shows EEG recordings from a patient undergoing general anesthesia. Two doses of the intravenous anesthetic propofol lead to bursts of activity (minute seven). Then an inhaled anesthetic, isoflurane, is added, and at minute 14, a characteristic pattern of slow-wave and alpha oscillations begins. Surgery ends at minute 16, and the isoflurane is switched off. The EEG gradually shifts to high-frequency, less intense oscillations. (Credit: Emery Brown)

Mapping how our neural circuits change under the influence of anesthesia could shed light on one of neuroscience’s most perplexing riddles: consciousness.

Emery Brown, an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, is part of a small but growing group of anesthesiology researchers who are using the electroencephalogram (EEG), a tool for monitoring the brain’s electrical activity, to systematically probe each aspect of anesthesia in humans and animals.

Working with bioengineer… read more

Scientists say poles might flip

December 15, 2003

The Earth’s protective magnetic field has fallen about 10 percent since 1845 and if that continues, the field could flip.

These flips happen every 200,000 years, on average, scientists say. The last one was 780,000 years ago.

Whether the field flips or merely continues to weaken, more harmful particles would flow in from the sun, resulting in an estimated extra 100,000 cancer cases a year; and solar particles… read more

The sound of silence: an end to noisy communications

March 3, 2010

“Silent sounds,” a new technology developed by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, monitors electromyographic signals (from lip muscle movements) and transforms them into a computer-generated voice for the listener at the other end of the phone.

Applications also include helping people who have lost their voice due to illness or accident, and saying a PIN number or password silently to evade eavesdropping.

Self-Assembling Tissues

July 15, 2008
(Ali Khademhosseini)

MIT and Harvard Medical School bioengineers have created “living Legos” — building blocks of biofriendly gels of various shapes studded with cells that can self-assemble into complex structures resembling those found in tissues.

They are currently working on making more-complex self-assembling structures that resemble the repeating units of the liver, the pancreas, and heart muscle.

Comprehensive model is first to map protein folding at atomic level

November 12, 2006

Scientists at Harvard University have developed a computer model that can fully map and predict protein folding for some 10 microseconds — about as long as some proteins take to assume their biologically stable configuration, and at least a thousand times longer than previous methods.

“This appears to have achieved a holy grail: simulating and predicting protein folding from a linear amino acid sequence,” said Ray Kurzweil. “It is… read more

EPFL looks to bats, locusts for jumping and gliding robots

December 28, 2011


Roboticists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are designing robots the emulate the jumping and gliding talents of grasshoppers, locusts, and bats, IEEE Spectrum Automaton reports.

New robot brain takes to the skies

December 23, 2003

“Mantis,” the world’s first small robotic helicopter that can see and think for itself, is based in part on the workings of the human inner ear.

Mantis uses an inertial sensing system and computer vision system to guide the aircraft and provide flight stability. The robot’s two cameras and software detect where objects are and how fast the Mantis is moving relative to objects around it.

Applications include… read more

Disease Cause Is Pinpointed With Genome

March 11, 2010

Two research teams have independently decoded the entire genome of patients to find the exact genetic cause of their diseases. The approach may offer a new start in identifying the genetic roots of major killers like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Geneticists said the new research showed it was now possible to sequence the entire genome of a patient at reasonable cost and with sufficient accuracy to be of… read more

Next big VC market: life extension?

July 21, 2008

Life extension could be the next significant industry targeted by venture capitalists and private investment, says Silicon Valley hedge fund manager and futurist Melanie Swan.

She points out the need for specialist life-extension doctors and suggests a health social network people where patients could share interventions and upload their ongoing bio-marker test data into an aggregated electronic health record.

How to live long and prosper

November 26, 2006

University of Chicago researchers found that first-born children were 1.7 times as likely as their siblings to live to be 100 and those whose mothers were less than 25 years old were twice as likely to survive beyond a century.

Startup promises a revolutionary grid battery

January 4, 2012

eos_energy storage

Battery developer Eos Energy Storage claims to have solved key problems holding back a battery technology that could revolutionize energy storage on the power grid.

If the company is right, its zinc-air batteries will be able to store energy for half the cost of natural gas, the method currently used to meet peak power demands.

First brainstem implants aim to tackle deafness

January 9, 2004

Two deaf women have become the first people to undergo the risky procedure of having implants in their brainstems. The devices are designed to restore hearing by directly stimulating nerves.

The procedure is needed by people with a damaged cochlea or auditory nerve, where cochlear implants cannot help. The researchers hope that the implant, in which eight electrodes of different lengths are inserted into the brainstem, will be able… read more

Firing on all neurons: Where consciousness comes from

March 22, 2010

Recent research using EEG (brain-wave sensing) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) measurements by Steven Laureys of the University of Liege and others supports the “global workspace theory,” proposed by Bernard Baars of The Neuroscience Institute in San Diego: that we only become conscious of “non-conscious” information in different parts of the brain if these signals are broadcast to an assembly of neurons distributed across many different regions of the… read more

Moore’s Law doesn’t work for solar cells

July 28, 2008

Contrary to Al Gore’s assertion of Moore’s law-type cost reductions for solar cells, the price-performance of photovoltaic solar electric cells is not increasing as rapidly.

Stem Cells Are Where It’s At

December 6, 2006

There are now more than 1,000 stem-cell therapies in early human trials around the world.

Last month saw the first patient treated with embryonic cells, which have triggered much debate in the United States. After years of being thought of as science fiction, stem-cell therapies are becoming a scientific fact.

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