Experimental brain implants in monkeys offer hope for restoring vision
Scientists have said they are one step closer to restoring the sight of blind people using brain implants.
[Adapted from an article by Amy Woodyatt, CNN]
Monkey business? After a series of successful experiments, scientists are a step closer to restoring the sight of blind people using brain implants.
Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience developed implants containing 1,024 electrodes — conductors that carry electrical currents into and out of the brain — and implanted them in the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes visual information, in two macaque monkeys. By sending electrical signals to the monkeys’ brains, researchers created “phosphenes” — dots of light that could be “seen” or perceived by the brain, and then used to create the illusion of shapes and objects.
Lead researcher Pieter Roelfsema told CNN that the team wanted to show it was possible to induce “vision of objects” through direct electrical stimulation of the brain, explaining that the visual cortex has “a sort of visual map of space.””You can work with it like a matrix board along the highway. If you stimulate or light up multiple boards, you can see patterns,” he said.The monkeys performed a series of tasks, and, using their artificial vision, were able to recognize shapes and “percepts” including lines, moving dots and letters, according to findings recently published in the journal Science.
Wider implications for restoring sight
The team believes that such technology could one day be used to simulate sight in blind people who have been able to see at some point in their lives.
The World Wildlife Fund reports positive developments in this otherwise hellish year.
“The last 12 months have brought hardship to every corner of the globe that we have not collectively experienced in generations. But they have also brought us closer in unexpected ways and shown us just how connected we all are; that people and nature are intrinsically linked.”
World’s first solar-powered LED fishing net helps sea turtles swim free Hundreds of thousands of turtles are unintentionally caught by commercial fishing vessels every year. WWF partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and scientist Jesse Senko of Arizona State University to design the world’s first solar-powered LED fishing net. This year, the team is working together with the manufacturer to scale and produce the nets.
Images from a new camera trap reveal the highest-elevation sighting of a tiger in Nepal, captured at over 8,000 feet in a densely forested area. High-altitude habitats may provide refuge for tigers and help connect their territory between Nepal and India. The finding also expands understanding of tiger habitats now that there is evidence of their use of high-altitude areas.
A new project produced in collaboration with private landowners across North America’s Northern Great Plains will help improve one million acres of grassland to help fight the climate crisis. WWF joins forces with The Walmart Foundation, McDonald’s, and Cargill to invest more than $6 million in this initiative.
WWF partnered with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe; their economic arm, REDCO; and Rosebud Tribal Land Enterprise to secure nearly 28,000 acres for what will become North America’s largest Native-owned and managed bison herd. The new Wolakota Buffalo Range can support 1,500 bison and is a hallmark of WWF’s partnership with Native nations to develop healthy bison herds for conservation.
The greater one-horned rhinos in Manas National Park—their population once completely decimated by poaching—are making a comeback thanks to joint conservation efforts under the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 initiative.
Today, there are around 3,700 greater one-horned rhinos in Asia, up from only 200 at the beginning of the 20th century.
WWF has invested in Ocean Rainforest, a small for-profit company that operates a seaweed nursery, farms, and processing facility around the North Atlantic’s Faroe Islands. Seaweed is a fast-growing marine vegetable that is both a nutritious food source and—because it is highly efficient at absorbing CO2—a valuable carbon sink.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of the world and has had sweeping negative impacts to people and communities, threatening lives and livelihoods.
As communities try to cope in the short term, the Namibian government, civil society, and passionate conservationists have rallied—with support from WWF and key partners—to help fill the void the pandemic has created. The Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilience Facility (CRRRF) fund was developed—a coordinated national effort to provide immediate financial relief to Namibian conservancies affected by COVID-19.
From coastal shores to the Arctic to coral reefs, plastic pollution negatively affects all ecosystems.
WWF analyzed the plastic use of five companies, including McDonald’s Corporation and The Coca-Cola Company, and identified just how much plastic companies were using and where it went after its disposal. Adding 100 more companies to the project could keep more than 50 million metric tons of plastic out of nature over time.
After years of scientific research, advocacy, and community and government engagement by WWF-Cambodia and other partners, the government of Cambodia abandoned plans to build the Sambor hydropower dam on the Mekong River and put a 10-year halt on future dam construction on the river’s main artery.
A free-flowing Mekong protects the world’s most productive freshwater fishery and supports breathtaking biodiversity, including the largest population of Irrawaddy river dolphins on Earth. WWF-Cambodia is poised to support federal development of a sustainable energy plan that promotes clean and renewable energy alternatives while keeping the mighty Mekong intact.
In response to the 2019-2020 bushfire crisis in Australia, WWF launched the largest and most innovative wildlife and nature regeneration program in the country’s history. The goal is to double koala numbers on the east coast of the country by 2050, with the hope that the recovery of this species will also benefit other local species, as well as boost the local economy of regional communities. WWF is using specialized drones to disperse eucalyptus seeds, with some models able to plant 40,000 seeds per day.
As part of an industry forum that includes more than 70 companies across the seafood supply chain, WWF released the first-ever global standards for tracking seafood products from source to sale. So far nearly 50 brands—including grocery chain Whole Foods Market—have committed to begin implementing these ocean-saving standards.
Kangaroos can learn to communicate with humans, researchers say
Kangaroos can learn to communicate with humans similar to how domesticated dogs do, by using their gaze to “point” and ask for help, researchers said in a study published on Wednesday.
The study involved 11 kangaroos that lived in captivity but had not been domesticated. Ten of the 11 marsupials intently gazed at researchers when they were unable to open a box with food, according to the report. Nine alternately looked at the human and at the container, as a way of pointing or gesturing toward the object.
“We interpreted this as a deliberate form of communication, a request for help,” Alan McElligott, the Irish researcher who led the study, told Reuters in a call from Hong Kong.
“Wild species are not really expected to behave as those subjects were, and that’s why it is surprising.”
The findings challenge the notion that only domesticated animals such as dogs, horses or goats communicate with humans, and suggests many more animals could grasp how to convey meaning to humans, the paper asserts.
“We’ve previously thought only domesticated animals try to ask for help with a problem. But kangaroos do it too,” concluded co-researcher Alexandra Green from the University of Sydney.
“It’s more likely to be a learned behaviour when the environment is right.”
SYDNEY, Dec 16 (Reuters). Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Karishma Singh.
This is all very cool. Now, my question is:
Can kangaroos teach humans how to communicate with each other???
Shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday, vaccinations took place in Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, N.Y. The pandemic has scarred New York State profoundly, leaving more than 35,000 people dead and severely weakening the economy. The vaccinations started after the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday night, and as the U.S. coronavirus death toll approaches 300,000, with a steady surge in new cases daily.
This week, braving dreary weather, R and I visited one of our favorite wineries, where one of our favorite people manages the tasting room. She gently reminded me that I’ve been remiss in my blog posting, so Linda, this one’s for you!
Back to the topic at hand.
I’m all for smart technology, such as the dishwasher that senses when my dishes aren’t dry enough, or when I need to refill the rinsing agent so the glasses don’t have leprosy.
On the other hand, some inanimate objects seem to have been designed with a real smart-alecky attitude. Like my smartphone’s spelling “correction”, which regularly replaces perfectly good English with gibberish. Or its more obscure settings, which convey general condescension toward those of us who grew up with princess phones. (What? You can’t find that function? Bwaa-ha-ha…!)
Where does the term “smart alec” come from, you ask? (OK, you didn’t, but now don’t you want to know?)
It originates from the exploits of one Alec Hoag, an infamous con man in 1840’s New York. He and his wife Melinda, along with an accomplice known as French Jack, operated a con called the Panel Game, in which prostitutes and their pimps robbed customers. Or so says Wikipedia.
What’s next in phones, I wonder. Will the built-in camera automatically subtract 10 pounds and add hair to hairless heads? Will it flash a warning to delete a tactless text before we send it? Will it short-circuit if we drunk dial our ex-lovers or horrible bosses? Wouldn’t any of these features improve our lives more than AutoCorrect? I rest my case.
Smartass tech is poised to invade other aspects of our lives, too. Imagine a fridge equipped with auto-lock if you open it too often. Or between meals. Likewise, a scale that proudly announces your last weight. Or a mirror that self-writes helpful suggestions such as, “Time to color your hair” or “Ever considered Botox?”
Soon we’ll have self-driving cars, which could be useful for those of us who don’t have chauffeurs. But will they refuse to go somewhere they feel isn’t in our best interest, such as the racetrack or the restaurant that gave us heartburn?
The line between human and machine grows ever thinner, my fellow curmudgeons. Stay vigilant!