Siri and Watson may seem brainy in certain situations, but to build truly smart, world-changing machines, researchers must understand how human intelligence emerges from brain activity. To help encourage progress in this field, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded $25 million to establish a Center for Brains, Minds and Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
New research suggests it might be possible to spot early signs of multiple sclerosis in patients' spinal fluid, findings that offer a new clue about how this mysterious disease forms. The study released Tuesday was small and must be verified by additional research. But if it pans out, the finding suggests scientists should take a closer look at a different part of the brain than is usually linked to MS.
“Eat less salt” is a mantra of our health-conscious times and is seen as an important step in reducing heart disease and hypertension. Too much salt in the diet, specifically sodium, is widely acknowledged as a major risk factor for high blood pressure. However, scientists have found that salt’s other oft-overlooked constituent chloride might also play an important role.
Product development firm Cambridge Consultants is helping conservationists protect some of the world’s most rare and endangered species. As part of the Instant Wild project, new satellite-connected and motion-triggered cameras are beaming near-real-time images of animals from the remotest areas of Africa. A mobile app allows users anywhere in the world to view the photos, providing early warning of illegal poaching activity.
Researchers have taken detailed images and measurements of the morphing structure of a brain protein thought to play a role in Parkinson's disease, information that could aid the development of medications to treat the condition. The protein, called alpha synuclein, ordinarily exists in a globular shape. However, the protein morphs into amyloid fibrils, which are linked to protein molecules that form and cause neurodegenerative diseases.
Scientists estimate that there is a minimum of 320,000 viruses in mammals awaiting discovery. Collecting evidence of these viruses, or even a majority of them, they say, could provide information critical to early detection and mitigation of disease outbreaks in humans. This undertaking would cost approximately $6.3 billion, or $1.4 billion if limited to 85% of total viral diversity.
Gardiner’s frogs from the Seychelles islands, one of the smallest frogs in the world, do not possess a middle ear with an eardrum yet can croak themselves, and hear other frogs. An international team of scientists using x-rays has now solved this mystery and established that these frogs are using their mouth cavity and tissue to transmit sound to their inner ears.
Biological cells are surrounded by a membrane, which researchers in Denmark have can contain beautiful, mysterious patterns. Formed by highly organized lipids, the patterns vary according to conditions such as temperature and the type of lipid molecules. Extremely difficult to detect, these patterns have as yet no known biological function.
Darwin referred to the origin of species as "that mystery of mysteries," and even today, more than 150 years later, evolutionary biologists cannot fully explain how new animals and plants arise. For decades, nearly all research in the field has been based on the assumption that the main cause of the emergence of new species, a process called speciation, is the formation of barriers to reproduction between populations. Until now.
The Department of Systems Biology at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) have formed a collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific to pursue breakthroughs in the understanding of how cellular protein networks drive important diseases. Under the collaboration, Thermo Fisher will provide early access to new technology and designs, and DTU proteomics scientists will provide feedback and collaborate on new applications.
By lowering the expression of a single gene, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have extended the average lifespan of a group of mice by about 20%—the equivalent of raising the average human lifespan by 16 years. The research team targeted a gene called mTOR, which is involved in metabolism and energy balance, and may be connected with the increased lifespan associated with caloric restriction.
“Where” and “how” memories are encoded in a nervous system is one of the most challenging questions in biological research. Researchers have recently provided the first experimental evidence that a specific form of memory association is encoded in the cerebral cortex and is not localized in the hippocampus as once thought. The new study suggests that the motor cortical circuits itself, and not the hippocampus, is used as memory storage.
As blind people can testify, humans can hear more than one might think. The blind learn to navigate using as guides the echoes of sounds they themselves make. This enables them to sense the locations of walls and corners by tapping a stick to generate sound waves that bounce off surfaces. Biologists in Germany have now shown that sighted people can also learn to echolocate objects in space.
Can't get enough shuteye? Nearly 9 million U.S. adults resort to prescription sleeping pills—and most are white, female, educated or 50 or older, according to the first government study of its kind. But that's only part of the picture. Experts believe there are millions more who try options like over-the-counter medicines or chamomile tea, or simply suffer through sleepless nights.
Since the genetic code’s discovery in the 1960s, researchers have wondered: How is it that a near-optimal code became so universal? To address this question, the researchers created a model of genetic code evolution in which multiple “translating” RNAs and “genomic” RNAs competed for survival. The approach revealed phenomena that offers new insights into how RNA signaling likely developed into the modern genetic code.
Stem cell technology has long offered the hope of regenerating tissue to repair broken or damaged neural tissue. Findings from a team of Univ. of California, Davis investigators have brought this dream a step closer by developing a method to generate functioning brain cells that produce myelin, the fatty, insulating sheath essential to normal neural conduction.
Scientists have found a compelling clue in the quest to learn what causes age-related memory problems. Wednesday's report offers evidence that age-related memory loss really is a distinct condition from pre-Alzheimer's—and offers a hint that what we now consider the normal forgetfulness of old age might eventually be treatable.
Scientists at A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore have discovered an unusual gene that controls the generation of neurons. Surprisingly, this new discovery is not a protein. Rather, it is a non-coding RNA, which tells researchers that RNA does not produce a protein to handle this regulatory process.
Univ. of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher. Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of campus, causing Stocco’s finger to move on a keyboard.
In a new study, biologists have compiled and analyzed all available data on the reaction of marine animals to ocean acidification. From this collection of 167 studies with data from more than 150 different species, they found that while the majority of animal species investigated are affected by ocean acidification, the respective impacts are specific and can vary widely from species to species.
In an era of widespread genetic sequencing, the ability to edit and alter an organism's DNA is a powerful way to explore the information within and how it guides biological function. A paper from the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison takes genome editing to a new level in fruit flies, demonstrating a remarkable level of fine control and, importantly, the transmission of those engineered genetic changes across generations.
Research awards to the Univ. of Florida (UF) held steady last year at $640.6 million despite a slowdown in federal funding brought on by the budget sequestration. The total is within 1% of 2012’s $644.4 million. Researchers from the six colleges of UF Health brought in $363.1 million.
They're called "super agers"—men and women who are in their 80s and 90s, but with brains and memories that seem far younger. Researchers are looking at this rare group in the hope that they may find ways to help protect others from memory loss. And they've had some tantalizing findings: Imaging tests have found unusually low amounts of age-related plaques along with more brain mass related to attention and memory in these elite seniors.
Since the first test-tube baby was born more than three decades ago, in vitro fertilization has evolved into a highly sophisticated lab procedure. Now, scientists are going back to basics and testing a simpler method that could cost as little as $265 and use basic laboratory equipment that could fit inside a shoebox.
By any measure, tuberculosis (TB) is a wildly successful pathogen. It infects as many as two billion people in every corner of the world, with a new infection of a human host estimated to occur every second. Now, thanks to a new analysis of dozens of tuberculosis genomes gathered from around the world, scientists are getting a more detailed picture of why TB is so prevalent and how it evolves to resist countermeasures.