science + technology news

Controlling individual cortical nerve cells by human thought

October 28, 2010

Two neurons -- one corresponding to the concept of Marilyn Monroe, and another corresponding to Michael Jackson -- are pitted against each other. The subject is asked to fade in one image on the expense of another. (Moran Cerf and Maria Moon/Caltech)

Five years ago, neuroscientist Christof Koch of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried of UCLA, and their colleagues discovered that a single neuron in the human brain can function much like a sophisticated computer and recognize people, landmarks, and objects, suggesting that a consistent and explicit code may help transform complex visual representations into long-term and more abstract memories.

Now Koch and Fried, along with former… read more

Controlling heat like light

New approach using nanoparticle alloys allows heat to be focused or reflected just like electromagnetic waves
January 15, 2013

An MIT researcher has developed a technique that provides a new way of manipulating heat, allowing it to be controlled much as light waves can be manipulated by lenses and mirrors.

The approach relies on engineered materials consisting of nanostructured semiconductor alloy crystals.

Heat is a vibration of matter — technically, a vibration of the atomic lattice of a material — just as sound… read more

Controlling genes with mental states to release drugs

November 18, 2014

mind-controlled genes ft

ETH Zurich researchers have developed a novel gene regulation method that allows specific brainwaves to control gene expression (conversion of a gene into a protein) for therapeutic purposes.

The concept is a thought-controlled implant that could one day help combat neurological diseases, such as chronic headaches, back pain, and epilepsy.

An EEG-based BCI (brain-controlled interface) would detect the patient’s related brainwave patterns, which would be used to trigger… read more

Controlling devices with a beam of light

Could make possible light-activated microrobotic and biomedical devices --- batteries not required
November 14, 2013

Arch-shaped samples were created using a azobenzene-functionalized polymer that deform when irradiated with light (blue). The design of the device triggers an elastic instability when it reaches a certain configuration when irradiated and “snaps” to deliver a large power at millisecond time-scales of actuation. (Credit: M. Ravi Shankar et al./University of Pittsburgh)

University of Pittsburgh and Air Force Research Laboratory researchers are investigating polymers that “snap” when triggered by light, thereby converting light energy into mechanical work and potentially eliminating the need for traditional machine components such as switches and power sources.

“Learning from ideas observed in the natural world, we created mechanical designs that generate ultrafast actuation when triggered with light,” M. Ravi Shankar, lead author of the… read more

Controlling cells’ environments: a step toward building much-needed tissues and organs

August 30, 2011

Regenerative Cells

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have found reproducible methods to control how pluripotent human embryonic stem cells differentiate (grow into specific heart cells, brain cells, and other kinds of cells).

Past approaches to growing stem cells have involved adding growth-regulating substances to cultures of stem cells growing in the laboratory. These conditions left scientists guessing about exactly what wound up in the stem cells.

The… read more

Controlling Cell Behavior with Magnets

January 18, 2008

Harvard Medical School researchers have demonstrated a means of controlling cell functions with a physical, rather than chemical, signal.

Using a magnetic field to pull together tiny beads targeted to particular cell receptors, Harvard researchers made cells take up calcium, and then stop, then take it up again. It could lead to a totally new class of therapies that rely on cells themselves to make and release drugs.

Controlling brain-cancer-cell migration and invasion

May 4, 2012


Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered that the NKCC1 protein, which transports sodium, potassium and chloride may hold clues to how glioblastoma, the most common and deadliest type of brain cancer, moves and invades nearby healthy brain tissue and that a cheap FDA-approved drug already on the market, the diuretic bumetanide, could slow movement of glioblastoma cells and contain their spread.

“The biggest challenge in brain cancer is the migration of cancer cells.… read more

Controlling brain waves to stay visually aware

The car of the future might stimulate your brain electrically to keep you from drifting off into alpha waves and not paying attention to dangers
April 29, 2014

Experimental setup showing the event-related optical signal (EROS) equipment, with source and detector fibers traveling to and from the head attached with a modified motorcycle helmet (credit: Kyle E. Mathewson et al./Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

Researchers at Beckman Institute have used a novel technique to determine how the brain processes external stimuli that reach (or don’t reach) our awareness.

“When we have different things competing for our attention, we can only be aware of so much of what we see,” said Kyle Mathewson, Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellow.

“For example, when you’re driving, you might … see something brief or faint while… read more

Controlling brain cells with ultrasound

Sonogenetics may be able to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle, and other cells using ultrasonic waves, similar to optogenetics
September 15, 2015

For the first time, sound waves are used to control brain cells. Salk scientists developed the new technique, dubbed sonogenetics, to selectively and noninvasively turn on groups of neurons in worms that could be a boon to science and medicine. (credit: Salk Institute)

Salk scientists have developed a new method, dubbed sonogenetics, to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle and other cells using ultrasonic waves (the same type of waves used in medical sonograms).

This new method may have advantages over the similar light-based approach known as optogenetics, particularly for human therapeutics. It is described today (Sept. 15, 2015) in the journal Nature Communications.

Sreekanth Chalasani,… read more

Controlling an avatar with your brain

November 1, 2011

fMRI images

The Advanced Virtuality Lab (AVL) at the Interdisciplinary Center Israel, is developing a system for controlling a virtual or physical body using only the mind, Israeli Innovation News reports.

The VERE (Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-embodiment) project is one of the first to use an fMRI brain scanner to control a computer application interactively in real time, — an innovation which could help… read more

Controlling acoustic properties with algorithms and computational methods

October 28, 2015

A “zoolophone” with animal shapes automatically created using a computer algorithm. The tone of each key is comparable to those of professionally made instruments as a demonstration of an  algorithm for computationally designing an object's vibrational properties and sounds. (credit: Columbia Engineering)

Computer scientists at Columbia Engineering, Harvard, and MIT have demonstrated that acoustic properties — both sound and vibration — can be controlled by 3D-printing specific shapes.

They designed an optimization algorithm and used computational methods and digital fabrication to alter the shape of 2D and 3D objects, creating what looks to be a simple children’s musical instrument — a xylophone with keys in the shape of zoo animals.… read more

Controlling a robot with your mind

July 13, 2012


Brain researcher Nick Ramsey of the UMC Utrecht has developed a brain-computer interface that will some day allow paralyzed people to control a computer.

The system uses a 7 Tesla MRI scanner. Subjects keep their eyes focused on a single point on a computer screen showing what a robot’s camera could “see.” The computer learned when the subjects were thinking left, right or forwards and redirected the robot.… read more

Controlling a Gut Bot’s Position

July 31, 2008
(Metin Sitti, Carnegie Mellon University)

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a tiny capsule robot adhesive enough to anchor inside an intestine and yet gentle enough not to tear soft tissue.

They looked to beetles, which secrete oil-like liquids along their foot hairs to stick securely to surfaces, and coated the robot’s feet with a similarly viscous liquid for more adhesion, using a surface-tension component.

Future possible uses include biopsy and… read more

Controlling a flying robot with only the mind

Could help people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases
June 7, 2013


Researchers in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering have developed a new noninvasive system that allows people to control a flying robot using a brain-computer interface.

The study has the potential to help people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases.

The open access study was published in IOP Publishing’s Journal of Neural Engineering.

Five subjects (three female and two… read more

Controlled by a synthetic gene circuit, self-assembling bacteria build working electronic sensors

October 11, 2017

bacterial create a pressure sensor ft

Using a synthetic gene circuit, Duke University researchers have programmed self-assembling bacteria to build useful electronic devices — a first.

Other experiments have successfully grown materials using bacterial processes (for example, MIT engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate nonliving materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots). However, they have relied entirely on external control over where the bacteria grow and… read more

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