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Geomagnetic compass hooked to the brain allows blind rats to ‘see’

Research suggests humans could one day sense geomagnetic direction, ultraviolet radiation, ultrasound, other physical data
April 3, 2015

This is an illustration of a rat wearing the geomagnetic device (credit: Norimoto and Ikegaya)

By attaching a microstimulator and geomagnetic compass to the brains of blind rats, researchers found that the animals can spontaneously learn to use new information about their location to navigate through a maze, and nearly as well as normally sighted rats.

The researchers say the findings suggest that a similar kind of neuroprosthesis might also help blind people walk freely through the world.

Most notably, perhaps, the findings,… read more

3D neural reconstruction guided with biocompatible nanofiber scaffolds and hydrogels

April 3, 2015

Images of neuronal cultures in 3D hydrogel with laminin-coated nanofibers (100× magnification). Blue marks nanofibers and red marks neurites. (credit: Richard J. McMurtrey/Journal of Neural Engineering)

Damage to neural tissue is typically permanent and causes lasting disability in patients. But a method for reconstructing neural tissue using patterned nanofibers in 3D hydrogel structures promises to one day help in the restoration of functional neuroanatomical pathways and structures at sites of spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, tumor resection, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Richard J. McMurtrey, director of the Institute of Neural Regeneration &read more

Light therapy for brain injuries

VA study with 160 Gulf War veterans testing red, near-infrared light
April 3, 2015

A staffer in Dr. Margaret Naeser's lab demonstrates the equipment built especially for the research: an LED helmet (Photomedex), intranasal diodes (Vielight), and LED cluster heads placed on the ears (MedX Health). The real and sham devices look identical. Goggles are worn to block out the red light. The near-infrared light is beyond the visible spectrum and cannot be seen. (Credit: Naeser lab)

Researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System are testing the effects of light therapy on brain function in the Veterans with Gulf War Illness study.

Veterans in the study wear a helmet lined with light-emitting diodes that apply red and near-infrared light to the scalp. They also have diodes placed in their nostrils, to deliver photons to the deeper parts of the brain.

The light… read more

Getting enough sleep?

Johns Hopkins mobile app helps physicians identify common sleep disorders in patients
April 2, 2015

My Sleep101 ft.

Experts from the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep hope to help patients get a better night’s sleep by providing health care staff members with a basic educational tool on their smartphones.

Called MySleep101, the mobile learning application offers providers who are not experts in sleep disorders information on how to screen and counsel patients experiencing sleepless nights. Doctors, nurses and other care providers can access basic information about the seven… read more

High-speed, high-res method allows rapid imaging of a living brain

April 2, 2015

Photoacoustic microscopy of oxygen saturation of hemoglobin in the mouse brain, acquired by using the single-wavelength pulse-width-based method with two lasers. (Credit: Lihong Wang, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis)

Using a new high-speed, high-resolution imaging method, researchers at Washington University were able to see blood flow, blood oxygenation, oxygen metabolism, and other functions inside a living mouse brain at faster rates than ever before.

The new method is called “photoacoustic microscopy” (PAM), a single-wavelength, pulse-width-based technique developed by Lihong Wang, PhD, the Gene K. Beare Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and… read more

A hyperspectral smartphone-based Star Trek ‘tricorder’

April 2, 2015

(credit: Unispectral Technologies)

Tel Aviv University researchers hope to turn smartphones into powerful hyperspectral sensors that determine precise spectral data for each pixel in an image.

As with the Star Trek tricorder,* the enhanced smartphones would be capable of identifying the chemical components of objects from a distance, based on unique hyperspectral signatures.

The technology combines an optical component and image processing software, according to… read more

‘Lightning bolts’ in the brain reveal how the brain encodes and stores information without disrupting previously acquired memories

Could help explain the underlying neural circuit problems in disorders like autism and schizophrenia
April 1, 2015

tuft dendrites ft

Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have captured images of dendrite nerve branches that show how mice brains sort, store, and make sense out of information during learning.

In a study published online in the journal Nature March 30, the NYU Langone neuroscientists tracked neuronal activity in dendritic nerve branches as the mice learned motor tasks such as how to run forward and backward on… read more

Crowd-funding campaign hopes to accelerate clinical trials of new brain-repair discovery

April 1, 2015

Astrocyte-converted neurons (credit: Ziyuan Guo et al./Cell)

Penn State scientists have started their own crowd-funding campaign to bring brain-repair research from the lab into clinical trials.

The research team recently discovered a way to transform a support brain cell — called a glial cell — into healthy, functioning neural cells to replace nerves damaged by Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, brain or spinal-cord traumas, or stroke.

The campaign’s website features videos about the research, including a video… read more

Delphi completes first coast-to-coast automated drive

March 31, 2015

(credit: Delphi)

A self-driving car equipped by GM spinoff Delphi Automotive completed today a historic, 3,500-mile journey across the U.S. from San Franscisco to New York.

The trip demonstrated the full capabilities of its active safety technologies with the longest automated drive ever attempted in North America. The coast-to-coast trip, launched in San Francisco on March 22, covered approximately 3,500 miles.

Demonstrated on the streets of Las Vegas at… read more

‘Google Maps’ for the body

March 31, 2015

The imaging technique showing early and advanced osteoporosis. Image: Supplied (Credit: UNSW Australia)

UNSWTV | Google Maps for the Body

Biomedical engineer Melissa Knothe Tate at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia is using previously proprietary semiconductor technology to zoom through organs of the human body, down to the level of a single cell.

The imaging technology, developed by high-tech German optical and industrial measurement manufacturer Zeiss, was originally developed to scan silicon wafers for defects.… read more

Researchers build brain-machine interface to control prosthetic hand

Non-invasive technique allows amputee to control hand with his thoughts
March 31, 2015

New UH research has demonstrated that an amputee can grasp with a bionic hand, powered only by his thoughts (credit: University of Houston)

A research team from the University of Houston has created an algorithm that allowed a man to grasp a bottle and other objects with a prosthetic hand, controlled only by his thoughts.

The technique, demonstrated with a 56-year-old man whose right hand had been amputated, uses non-invasive brain monitoring, capturing brain activity to determine what parts of the brain are involved in grasping an object.

With that information,… read more

A ‘Wikipedia’ for neurons

March 31, 2015

neuron types

Carnegie Mellon University | NeuroElectro.org description

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have used data mining to create neuroelectro.org, a publicly available website that acts like Wikipedia, indexing the decades worth of physiological data collected about the billions of neurons in the brain.

The site aims to help accelerate the advance of neuroscience research by providing a centralized resource for collecting and comparing this “brain big… read more

‘Nanoneedles’ generate new blood vessels in mice, paving the way for new regenerative medicine

March 30, 2015

Electron microscope image of a single human cell (brown) on a bed of nanoneedles (blue) (credit: Imperial College London)

Scientists have developed “nanoneedles” that have successfully prompted parts of the body to generate new blood vessels, in a trial in mice.

The researchers, from Imperial College London and Houston Methodist Research Institute in the U.S., hope their nanoneedle technique could ultimately help damaged organs and nerves repair themselves and help transplanted organs thrive.

In a trial described in Nature Materials, the team showed they could deliver nucleic… read more

High-resolution biosensor can report conditions from deep in the body

Going where no light has gone before
March 30, 2015

Geometrically encoded magnetic biosensors (credit: Kelley/NIST PML)

A new microscopic shape-shifting probe capable of sensitive, high-resolution remote biological sensing has been developed by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

If eventually put into widespread use, the design could have a major impact on research in medicine, chemistry, biology, and engineering and ultimately used in clinical diagnostics, according to the researchers.

To date, most efforts… read more

How bacteria can use magnetic particles to create a ‘natural battery’

Could help clean up environmental pollution
March 30, 2015

Rhodopseudomonas palustris bacteria (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Iron-metabolizing bacteria can load electrons from microscopic particles of magnetite (magnetic iron oxides) and later, discharge electrons to the microparticles, which could lead to a new way to clean up environmental pollution and other bioengineering applications, an international team of researchers have found.

For example, using light energy, magnetite can reduce (gain electrons from) the toxic form of chromium, chromium VI, converting it to the less toxic… read more

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