Tag Archives: science

Good News Monday: Hope In Sight


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.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.

Good News Monday: It’s Not You, It’s Your Brain

Unhealthy, processed food, snacks
(© beats_ – stock.adobe.com)

[Reprinted from studyfinds.org]

Our brains may be wired to seek out junk food, scientists say

by Chris Melore

Share Tweet

WAGENINGEN, Netherlands — If you’ve ever snuck into your kitchen for a midnight snack, you probably know exactly where all the sweet and tasty treats are hidden with your eyes closed. Researchers in the Netherlands say this isn’t just about good memory, the human brain may actually be wired to hunt down high-calorie food. Their study finds humans are significantly better at remembering where junk foods are kept than they are with healthier options.

A team from Wageningen University & Research believes the human brain has evolved to focus on memorizing where high-calorie foods are located. Study authors theorize this allowed our hunter-gatherer ancestors to survive in tough environments with few food options.

The study tested 512 participants who were put through a sort of food-memory maze. Researchers had the group follow a fixed route through a room where eight foods or food-scented pads were strategically placed.

As each participant walked through the maze, they either tasted the food or smelled the pads. These tasty options ranged from apples and cucumbers to potato chips and chocolate brownies. The group was also asked to rate how much they like each food they encountered. Researchers then gave the volunteers a surprise quiz on where these snacks were located.

Junk food more appealing to our mind, too

The results reveal the group was 27 percent more accurate at picking the right locations of high-calorie foods than low-calorie options. Participants were even better with food scents, spotting high-calorie pads with 28 percent more accuracy than low-calorie ones.

Researchers report that the results weren’t affected by whether the high-calorie snack was sweet or savory. It also didn’t seem to matter if the participants liked the foods or not. Overall, people were 2.5 times (or 243 percent) better at memorizing where actual food was compared to food-scented pads.

Is there a downside to this skill?

While this ability likely served humans well in the distant past, the study suggests it could lead to problems today. Researchers hint that the memory bias towards high-calorie foods can create dieting issues for many people.

They add that brains which can resist the urge to hunt down sweeter snacks will likely avoid these dieting problems. Researchers are now looking at how the high-calorie memory bias affects present day eating habits.

The study appears in Scientific Reports.

Good News Monday: The Eyes Have It

Sharing a cool article today on a major scientic advance for the blind.

Doctors Are Preparing to Implant the World’s First Human Bionic Eye

Photo by Eternal Happiness on Pexels.com

The same implants could potentially treat paralysis as well.

by VICTOR TANGERMANN on Futurism.com

A team of researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, has built a bionic device that they say can restore vision to the blind through a brain implant.

The team is now preparing for what they claim will be the world’s first human clinical trials of a bionic eye — and are asking for additional funding to eventually manufacture it on a global scale.

It’s essentially the guts of a smartphone combined with brain-implanted micro electrodes, as TechCrunch reports. The “Gennaris bionic vision system,” a project that’s more than ten years in the making, bypasses damaged optic nerves to allow signals to be transmitted from the retina to the vision center of the brain.

The system is made up of a custom-designed headgear, which includes a camera and a wireless transmitter. A processor unit takes care of data crunching, while a set of tiles implanted inside the brain deliver the signals.

“Our design creates a visual pattern from combinations of up to 172 spots of light (phosphenes) which provides information for the individual to navigate indoor and outdoor environments, and recognize the presence of people and objects around them,” Arthur Lowery, professor at Monash University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering, said in a statement.

The researchers are also hoping to adapt the system to help those with untreatable neurological conditions, such as limb paralysis, to regain movement.

“If successful, the MVG [Monash Vision Group] team will look to create a new commercial enterprise focused on providing vision to people with untreatable blindness and movement to the arms of people paralyzed by quadriplegia, transforming their health care,” Lewis said.

trial in July showed that the Gennaris array was able to be transplanted safely into the brains of three sheep using a pneumatic insertor, with a cumulative 2,700 hours of stimulation not causing any adverse health effects.

It’s still unclear when the first human trials will take place.

“With extra investment, we’ll be able to manufacture these cortical implants here in Australia at the scale needed to progress to human trials,” Marcello Rosa, professor of physiology at Monash and MVG member, said in the statement.

The news comes after Elon Musk’s brain computer interface company Neuralink announced it’s testing its coin-sized interface prototype in live pigs. The end goals are similar: to treat brain issues including blindness and paralysis.

Whether the Monash device is technically the first bionic eye, though, may come down to semantics.

A separate brain implant, a “visual prosthetic” device, developed by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, recently allowed both blind and sighted participants to “see” the shape of letters, as detailed in a paper published in May.

Good News Monday: Game of Drones

If the word “drone” conjures negative thoughts of spying and remote warfare, here’s something cheerful to contemplate.

Drones and digital tags are helping scientists study humpback whales in remote areas of the Antarctic, where in-person access is limited.

A partnership among Duke University Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab (MaRRS), Friedlaender Lab, California Ocean Alliance, and the World Wildlife Fund is using drone photography to study how the whales feed, how healthy they are, and how they’re being affected by climate change.  Drone images are also used to count local populations.

Game-changing technology, at its best.

brown dolphin figurine

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: More Buzz About Endangered Bees

Have you ever heard of National Pollinators Week? Neither had I.  Apparently, it’s in June, and after this year’s meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to begin the process of classifying four species of native bumble bees as endangered.

Why does this matter? Wild bees pollinate 80% of crops on our planet, and one out of every three bites of food we eat results from pollination. With California leading the way, it’s hoped that more states will join to protect these fuzzy little creatures.

Two of the four species are named Crotch’s and Suckley.  Sounds like a degenerate law firm. Or a strip club.

bee bumblebee insect macro

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Music Helps Preemies Build Better Brains

Scientists have learned what India’s snake charmers have known for years: flute music has calming properties. But it’s not just about stress relief: hearing certain instruments actually improved brain function in premature babies.

Quick — someone please commission this composer to create music for our government buildings!

adult art band blur

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Hey, Honey!

Bee-lieve it or not, scientists in Finland recently discovered a vaccine that could help save honeybees.

Still undergoing safety tests before it becomes commercially available, the vaccine helps the bee’s immune system identify and fight against harmful diseases, similar to the way antibodies work in our own bodies.

And no, they won’t have to catch the bees and inject them with tiny little needles! The vaccine will be delivered via an edible sugar patty.  (I know you were worried.)

animal beautiful bee bloom

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Encouraging Research on Climate Change

Yes, the first hurdle is getting people to actually admit there is such a thing, and that it poses a major threat.

But here’s reason for guarded optimism: According to recent reports, a new technique can convert carbon dioxide back into coal. In theory, this could make huge inroads into eliminating the global dangers of greenhouse gases. 

Of course, a massive undertaking would be enormously expensive. But where there’s money to be made, there’s a way. 

That alone might convert some skeptics.

black close up coal dark

Coal: It’s not just for barbecues anymore! Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Good News Monday: Turning Waste Into Fuel

Doing the right thing may soon be very lucrative. Researchers have been finding ways to turn plastic waste into usable sources of energy.

Of course, it will help if politicians admit that immense tons of discarded plastic actually constitute a problem.  (Hope springs eternal if they stand to make a profit.)

Speaking of which, it’s Presidents’ Day in the US, which means no mail; ergo, no bills today. More good news!

blue and white abstract painting

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Plastic Fantastic

beige algae on brown rock formation near body of water

Photo by Saad Bouzaid on Pexels.com

Two Dutch scientists have developed a bioplastic made from algae– vegetation that takes in carbon and releases oxygen through the same photosynthesis as other plants.

So far, they’ve been able to turn the dried material into something that 3D printers can use to create items such as bottles, tableware and trash cans!