Headlines 

Bionic neurons could enable implants to restore failing brain circuits

Scientists say creation could be used to circumvent nerve damage and help paralysed people regain movement Scientists have created artificial neurons that could potentially be implanted into patients to overcome paralysis, restore failing brain circuits, and even connect their minds to machines. The bionic neurons can receive electrical signals from healthy nerve cells, and process them in a natural way, before sending fresh signals on to other neurons, or to muscles and organs elsewhere in the body. One of the first applications may be a treatment for a form of…

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Brain scans of US embassy staff to Cuba may show abnormalities

Diplomats had reported falling ill after what was thought to be acoustic attack Brain scans of US embassy staff who became ill in mysterious circumstances while serving in Cuba have found potential abnormalities that may be related to their symptoms. The scans taken from 40 US government workers who suffered strange concussion-like symptoms during their deployment to Havana revealed that particular brain features looked different to those in healthy volunteers. Images of the diplomats brains found that on average they had lower volumes of white matter, the tissue made from…

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You Are Getting SleepyTagged Proteins May Point to Why

Two years ago, scientists in Japan reported the discovery of a mouse that just could not stay awake. This creature, which had a mutation in a gene called Sik3, slept upwards of 30 percent more than usual: Although it awoke apparently refreshed, it would need to snooze again long before its normal lab mates’ bedtime. It was as if the mouse had a greater need for sleep. International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine/University of Tsukuba Their experiments compared Sleepy and normal mice that were either well-rested or in various states…

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Headlines 

One Sentence With 7 Meanings Unlocks a Mystery of Human Speech

Ruth Nall is a talented talker. Always has been. When she was a child, her mother taught her to enunciate her words when she spoke, which she did often and at length. So wordy was she that, in grammar school, her friends nicknamed her "Yakky Roo," partly for her ace Yakky Doodle impersonation, but also for her loquaciousness. I know this because Nall, who these days teaches high school kids, told me so, in a pleasantly wide-ranging conversation about her participation in a study led by UCSF Health neurosurgeon Edward…

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When Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks Your Brain Out of Sync

In 1956, the renowned cognitive psychologist George Miller published one of the field’s most widely cited papers, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.” In it, he argued that although the brain can store a whole lifetime of knowledge in its trillions of connections, the number of items that humans can actively hold in their conscious awareness at once is limited, on average, to seven. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studies the interplay of brain waves…

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Mini Brains Just Got CreepierTheyre Growing Their Own Veins

The first human brain balls—aka cortical spheroids, aka neural organoids—agglomerated into existence just a few short years ago. In the beginning, they were almost comically crude: just stem cells, chemically coerced into proto-neurons and then swirled into blobs in a salty-sweet bath. But still, they were useful for studying some of the most dramatic brain disorders, like the microcephaly caused by the Zika virus. Then they started growing up. The simple spheres matured into 3D structures, fusing with other types of brain balls and sparking with electricity. The more like…

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Brainless Embryos Suggest Bioelectricity Guides Growth

The tiny tadpole embryo looked like a bean. One day old, it didn’t even have a heart yet. The researcher in a white coat and gloves who hovered over it made a precise surgical incision where its head would form. Moments later, the brain was gone, but the embryo was still alive. The brief procedure took Celia Herrera-Rincon, a neuroscience postdoc at the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University, back to the country house in Spain where she had grown up, in the mountains near Madrid. When she was 11…

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Nerve implant ‘restores consciousness’ to man in persistant vegetative state

Stimulation of the vagus nerve allows patient who has been in a vegetative state for 15 years to track objects with his eyes and respond to simple requests A 35-year-old man who had been in a persistant vegetative state (PVS) for 15 years has shown signs of consciousness after receiving a pioneering therapy involving nerve stimulation. The treatment challenges a widely-accepted view that there is no prospect of a patient recovering consciousness if they have been in PVS for longer than 12 months. Since sustaining severe brain injuries in a…

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New human rights to protect against ‘mind hacking’ and brain data theft proposed

A response to advances in neurotechnology that can read or alter brain activity, new human rights would protect people from theft, abuse and hacking New human rights that would protect people from having their thoughts and other brain information stolen, abused or hacked have been proposed by researchers. The move is a response to the rapid advances being made with technologies that read or alter brain activity and which many expect to bring enormous benefits to peoples lives in the coming years. Much of the technology has been developed for…

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Odds and Ends 

Accenture, can I ask you a few questions?

Hey Accenture, are you aware that your PR firm is pitching your latest corporate beta for a creepy face and emotion-monitoring algorithm as a party trick? Do you know what a party is? Have you read the definition? Would you call requiring people to download an app before they can get into an event a party-time kind of thing to do? Would you say that demanding that people scan their faces so theycan be recognizedby an algorithm fun times? Doeshaving that same algorithm watch and record every interaction that happens…

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