Biotech

Hacking Your Body Through a Nerve In Your Neck 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.
agent elevator writes: IEEE Spectrum has a feature (part of its Hacking the Human OS issue) on the future of vagus nerve stimulation, a device-based therapy with the potential to treat a ridiculously wide variety of ailments: epilepsy, depression, stroke, tinnitus, heart failure, migraines, asthma, the list goes on. One problem is that, because it required an implant (a bit like a pacemaker), it was never anybody's first-choice therapy. But now there's a non-invasive version, a device you just hold to your neck twice a day for a few minutes. It's being trialed first for migraines and cluster headaches (which sound horrible). If it works, vagus nerve stimulation could compete directly with drug treatments on cost and convenience and it would let doctors find new ways to hack human physiology.
Sci-Fi

Secret Files Reveal UK Police Feared That Trekkies Could Turn On Society 214

Posted by samzenpus
from the live-long-and-riot dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Scotland Yard was worried that fans of shows like the X Files and Star Trek might run amok during the Millennium according to secret files. The file, called UFO New Religious Movements (NRMs) And The Millennium, reveals that anti-terrorism experts were also concerned about the brain-washing effect of Dark Skies, Roswell, Millennium and The Lawnmower Man on viewers. According to the Telegraph: "The secret briefing note was obtained from the Met under the Freedom of Information Act by Sheffield-based British X-Files expert Dr Dave Clarke while researching a new book, How UFOs Conquered the World. Dr Clarke, who teaches investigative journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, said: 'The documents show the police and security services were concerned about the export of some new religious movements concerning UFOs and aliens from the USA in the aftermath of the mass suicide by followers of the Heaven's Gate.'"
Biotech

After a Year of Secret Field-Testing, Brain-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Here 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Today, an Icelandic prosthetic-maker announced that two amputees have been testing brain-controlled bionic legs for over a year. The devices respond to impulses in the subjects' residual limbs, via sensors that were implanted in simple, 15-minute-long procedures. "When the electrical impulse from his brain reaches the base of his leg, a pair of sensors embedded in his muscle tissue connect the neural dots, and wirelessly transmit that signal to the Proprio Foot. Since the command reaches the foot before the wearer's residual muscles actually contract, there's no unnatural lag between intention and action." This is a huge step forward (sorry) for this class of bionics. It may seem like a solved problem based on reports and videos from laboratories, but it's never been exposed to real world use and everyday wear and tear like this.
Science

Scientists Discover First Warm-Blooded Fish 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-warm dept.
sciencehabit writes: The opah lives in the dark, chilly depths of the world's oceans, using heated blood to keep warm. It's the first fish found to be fully warm-blooded. Certain sharks and tuna can warm regions of their body such as swimming muscles and the brain but must return to the surface to protect vital organs from the effects of the cold. The opah on the other hand, generates heat from its pectoral muscles, and conserves that warmth thanks to body fat and the special structure of its gills. “It’s a remarkable adaptation for a fish,” says Diego Bernal, a fish physiologist at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
Music

What Happens To Our Musical Taste As We Age? 361

Posted by timothy
from the it-gets-righter-of-course dept.
An anonymous reader writes: New research from Spotify and Echo Nest reveals that people start off listening to chart-topping pop music and branch off into all kinds of territory in their teens and early 20s, before their musical tastes start to calcify and become more rigid by their mid-30s. "Men, it turns out, give up popular music much more quickly than women. Men and women have similar musical listening tendencies through their teens, but men start shunning mainstream artists much sooner than women and to a greater degree."
Math

John Urschel: The 300 Pound Mathematician Who Hits People For a Living 170

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-your-head dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Kate Murphy writes at NYT about mathematician John Urschel whose latest contribution to the mathematical realm was a paper for the Journal of Computational Mathematics with the impressively esoteric title, "A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians." "Believe me, I am aware that terms such as multigrid, Fiedler, and vector are not words that people use in their daily lives," says Urshel.

But as an offensive guard for the Baltimore Ravens, John Urschel regularly goes head to head with the top defensive players in the NFL and does his best to keep quarterback Joe Flacco out of harm's way. "I play because I love the game. I love hitting people," Urshel writes. "There's a rush you get when you go out on the field, lay everything on the line and physically dominate the player across from you. This is a feeling I'm (for lack of a better word) addicted to, and I'm hard-pressed to find anywhere else."

Urschel acknowledges that he has faced questions from NFL officials, journalists, fans and fellow mathematicians about why he runs the risk of potential brain injury from playing football when he has "a bright career ahead of me in mathematics" but doesn't feel able to quit. "When I go too long without physical contact I'm not a pleasant person to be around. This is why, every offseason, I train in kickboxing and wrestling in addition to my lifting, running and position-specific drill work."
Games

Psychologist: Porn and Video Game Addiction Are Leading To 'Masculinity Crisis' 950

Posted by Soulskill
from the suggests-going-outside-and-chopping-some-wood dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Philip Zimbardo is a prominent psychologist from Stanford, most notable for leading the notorious Stanford prison experiment. He has published new research findings based on the lives of 20,000 young men, and his conclusion is stark: there is a developing "masculinity crisis" caused by addiction to video games and pornography. "Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation — they are alone in their room," says Zimbardo. "It begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward center of the brain, and produces a kind of excitement and addiction. What I'm saying is — boys' brains are becoming digitally rewired."

As an example, Zimbardo uses this quote from one young man: "When I'm in class, I'll wish I was playing World of Warcraft. When I'm with a girl, I'll wish I was watching pornography, because I'll never get rejected." Zimbardo doesn't think there's a specific time threshold at which playing video games goes from being acceptable to excessive. He says it varies by individual, and is more based on a "psychological change in mindset." To fight the problem, he suggest families need to track how much time is being spent on video games compared to other activities. "He also called for better sex education in schools — which should focus not only on biology and safety, but also on emotions, physical contact and romantic relationships."
Patents

Brainwave-Reading Patents Spike On Increase In Commercial Mind-Reading Apps 29

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-out-of-my-brain dept.
smaxp writes: Consumer market researcher Nielsen leads the pack, with patents describing ways to detect brain activity with EEG and translate it into what someone truly thinks about, say, a new product, advertising, or packaging. Microsoft Corp. holds patents that assess mental states, with the goal of determining the most effective way to present information. "Neurotech has gone well beyond medicine, with non-medical corporations, often under the radar, developing neurotechnologies to enhance work and life," said SharpBrains Chief Executive Alvaro Fernandez at the NeuroGaming conference in San Francisco.
Medicine

Space Radiation May Alter Astronauts' Neurons 73

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-saw-that-episode-of-star-trek dept.
sciencehabit writes: NASA hopes to send the first round-trip, manned spaceflight to Mars by the 2030s. If the mission succeeds, astronauts could spend several years potentially being bombarded with cosmic rays—high-energy particles launched across space by supernovae and other galactic explosions. Now, a study in mice suggests these particles could alter the shape of neurons, impairing astronauts' memories and other cognitive abilities. In the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with executive function, a range of high-level cognitive tasks such as reasoning, short-term memory, and problem-solving, neurons had 30% to 40% fewer branches, called dendrites, which receive electrical input from other cells.
Patents

Patent Issued Covering Phone Notifications of Delivery Time and Invoice Quantity 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-should-patent-the-rubber-stamp dept.
eldavojohn writes: The staggering ingenuity of the U.S. Patent system has again been showcased by the EFF's analysis of recent patents. This week's patent and follow-up patent cover the futuristic innovative idea that when you order something, you can update your order and add additional amounts to your order while it's being processed. But wait, it gets even more innovative! You may one day be able to even to notify when you would like it delivered — on your phone! I know, you're busy wiping all that brain matter off your screen as your head seems to have exploded. Well, it turns out that inventor and patent holder Scott Horstemeyer (aka Eclipse IP, LLC of Delray Beach, FL) found no shortage of targets to go after with his new patents. It appears Tiger Fitness (and every other online retailer) was sending notices to customers about shipments. Did I mention Horstemeyer is a lawyer too? But not just a regular lawyer, a "SUPER lawyer" from the same firm that patented social networking in 2007, sued Uber for using location finding technologies in 2013 and sued Overstock.com as well as a small time shoe seller for using shipping notifications in 2014. A related article at Vox makes this case: "The primary problem with the patent system is, well, the patent system. The system makes it too easy to get broad, vague patents, and the litigation process is tilted too far toward plaintiffs. But because so many big companies make so much money off of this system, few in Congress are willing to consider broader reforms."
Government

American Psychological Association Hit With New Torture Allegations 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the protip-don't-torture-people dept.
sciencehabit writes: Did the American Psychological Association (APA) collude with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to enable the torture of detainees in the War on Terror? The answer won't be known until June, when an independent investigation is due to conclude. But at least one thing was made clear in a report from an independent group of psychologists based on e-mail exchanges between APA and CIA officials from 2003 to 2006: The world's largest professional organization for psychologists has maintained a surprisingly cozy relationship with the defense and intelligence community.
Medicine

A Light-Powered Retina Implant For the Blind 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the resistance-is-futile dept.
the_newsbeagle writes: In certain diseases of the retina, people lose function in the photoreceptor cells that respond to light and trigger a message to the brain. So engineers have designed various retina implants that do the job instead, including the Argus II system, which received the first FDA approval for an implanted visual prosthetic in 2013. But the Argus II only produces vision of about 20/1200. A new implant in the pipeline from Stanford University has already achieved 20/250 vision in rats, and is aiming at 20/120, which would be below the legal threshold for blindness. This implant is photovoltaic, so the same infrared light that beams an image of the world into the implanted chip also powers its electronics.
Australia

Wellness App Author Lied About Cancer Diagnosis 256

Posted by timothy
from the but-this-was-my-whole-health-plan dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes: Wellness advocate Belle Gibson, who translated her high profile as a cancer survivor into publishing success, has admitted her cancer diagnosis was not real. Ms Gibson, 23, who claimed to have healed terminal brain cancer by eating wholefoods, made the admission in an interview with the Australian Women's Weekly. The success of Gibson's book, The Whole Pantry, and her smartphone application, which advocates natural therapies, has been largely dependent on her high-profile as a cancer survivor. Sadly, we've seen this sort of behaviour before. It would seem that Belle Gibson has emulated Dr. Andrew Wakefield in knowingly decieving the public in ways that could possibly be dangerous to the health of believers.
Medicine

Using Adderall In the Office To Get Ahead 407

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-TPS-reports-will-get-an-asterisk dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports on the changing usage of psychostimulants like Adderall. They were once only prescribed to help children with attention deficit disorders focus on their school work, but then college students found those drugs could increase their ability to study. Now a growing number of workers use them to help compete. What will happen as these drugs are more widely used in the workplace? According to Anjan Chatterjee, the use of neurotechnologies to enhance healthy people's brain function could easily become widespread. "If anything, we worship workplace productivity by any means. Americans work longer hours and take fewer vacations than most others in the developed world. Why not add drugs to energize, focus and limit that annoying waste of time — sleep?" Julian Savulescu says that what defines human beings is their extraordinary cognitive power and their ability to enhance that power through reading, writing, computing and now smart drugs. "Eighty-five percent of Americans use caffeine. Nicotine and sugar are also cognitive enhancers," says Savulescu.

But cognitive neurologist Martha Farah says regular use on the job is an invitation to dependence. "I also worry about the effect of drug-fueled productivity on people other than the users," says Farah. "It is not hard to imagine a supervisor telling employees that this is the standard they should aspire to in their work, however they manage to do it (hint, hint). The eventual result will be a ratcheting up of "normal" productivity, where everyone uses (and the early adopters' advantage is only fleeting)."
Science

Colors Help Set Body's Internal Clock 52

Posted by samzenpus
from the sleepy-blue dept.
First time accepted submitter MakeItGlow writes A new study by researchers from the University of Manchester found that mice use the color of light to set their body clock. The researchers investigated whether color signals from the eyes wound up in the suprachiasmatic nucleus—the part of the brain in vertebrates that keeps time using electrical and chemical signals. From the article: "Scientists have long known about the role light plays in governing circadian rhythms, which synchronize life’s ebb and flow with the 24-hour day. But they weren’t sure how different properties of light, such as color and brightness, contributed to winding up that clock. 'As a sort of common sense notion people have assumed that the clock somehow measures the amount of light in the outside world,' says Tim Brown, a neuroscientist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and an author of the new study. 'Our idea was that it might be doing something more sophisticated than that.'”
Technology

New Nudge Technology Prods You To Take Action 61

Posted by timothy
from the remind-me-to-poke-you dept.
HughPickens.com writes Natasha Singer reports at the NYT on a new generation of devices whose primary function is to prod people to change. This new category of nudging technology includes "hydration reminder" apps like Waterlogged that exhort people to increase their water consumption; the HAPIfork, a utensil that vibrates and turns on a light indicator when people eat too quickly; and Thync, "neurosignaling" headgear that delivers electrical pulses intended to energize or relax people. "There is this dumbing-down, which assumes people do not want the data, they just want the devices to help them," says Natasha Dow Schüll. "It is not really about self-knowledge anymore. It's the nurselike application of technology." While some self-zapping gizmos may resemble human cattle prods, other devices use more complex cues to encourage people to adopt new behavior. For example, the Muse, a brain-wave monitoring headband, is intended to help people understand their state of mind by playing different sounds depending on whether they are distracted or calm. "Based on what it registers, it plays loud, disruptive wind or waves lapping or, if you are supercalm and you maintain it for a while, you get calm, lovely noises of birds tweeting," says Schüll. "You do learn to calm your mind.

But do the new self-tracking and self-improvement technologies benefit people or just create more anxiety? An article published in The BMJ, a British medical journal, describes healthy people who use self-tracking apps as "young, asymptomatic, middle-class neurotics continuously monitoring their vital signs while they sleep." Dr. Des Spence argues that many health tracking apps encouraged healthy people to unnecessarily record their normal activities and vital signs — turning users into continuously self-monitoring "neurotics." Spence recommends people view these new technologies with skepticism. "The truth is that these apps and devices are untested and unscientific, and they will open the door of uncertainty," says Spence. "Make no mistake: Diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people."
Math

Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon? 385

Posted by timothy
from the how-can-I-still-go-on? dept.
HughPickens.com writes David Robson has an interesting article at BBC on the relationship between high intelligence and happiness. "We tend to think of geniuses as being plagued by existential angst, frustration, and loneliness," writes Robson. Think of Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing, or Lisa Simpson – lone stars, isolated even as they burn their brightest." As Ernest Hemingway wrote: "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." The first steps to studying the question were taken in 1926 when psychologist Lewis Terman decided to identify and study a group of gifted children. Terman selected 1,500 pupils with an IQ of 140 or more – 80 of whom had IQs above 170. Together, they became known as the "Termites", and the highs and lows of their lives are still being studied to this day. "As you might expect, many of the Termites did achieve wealth and fame – most notably Jess Oppenheimer, the writer of the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Indeed, by the time his series aired on CBS, the Termites' average salary was twice that of the average white-collar job. But not all the group met Terman's expectations – there were many who pursued more "humble" professions such as police officers, seafarers, and typists. For this reason, Terman concluded that "intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated". Nor did their smarts endow personal happiness. Over the course of their lives, levels of divorce, alcoholism and suicide were about the same as the national average." According to Robson, one possibility is that knowledge of your talents becomes something of a ball and chain. During the 1990s, the surviving Termites were asked to look back at the events in their 80-year lifespan. Rather than basking in their successes, many reported that they had been plagued by the sense that they had somehow failed to live up to their youthful expectations (PDF).
Biotech

A 2-Year-Old Has Become the Youngest Person Ever To Be Cryonically Frozen 313

Posted by Soulskill
from the rest-in-peace dept.
merbs writes: After losing a long battle with brain cancer, 2-year-old Matheryn Naovaratpong became the first minor ever to be cryogenically frozen. This article is the story of how a Thai girl was frozen in Bangkok and shipped to Arizona to have her brain preserved in liquid nitrogen, while medical science works on a cure. "Typically we’d move the head from the trunk of the body. We didn't know what their reaction would be from the family, the mortuary, from border officials; this has to go through a number of shipping venues, customs, the TSA and so on. To see a frozen head in a box might have raised a number of red flags. In the U.S. that’s not a big deal, but there, they may not be accustomed."
Medicine

How Brain Pacemakers Treat Parkinson's Disease 23

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-under-control dept.
the_newsbeagle writes Pharmaceutical research for neuropsychiatric disorders hasn't produced many breakthroughs lately, which may explain why there's so much excitement around "electroceutical" research. That buzzy new field encompasses deep brain stimulation (DBS), in which an implanted stimulator sends little jolts through the neural tissue. DBS has become an accepted therapy for Parkinson's and other motor disorders, even though researchers haven't really understood how it works. Now, new research may have found the mechanism of action in Parkinson's patients: The stimulation reduces an exaggerated synchronization of neuron activity in the motor cortex.
Medicine

Acetaminophen Reduces Both Pain and Pleasure, Study Finds 187

Posted by Soulskill
from the pills-that-turn-you-into-a-robot dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers studying the commonly used pain reliever acetaminophen found it has a previously unknown side effect: It blunts positive emotions (abstract). Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in the over-the-counter pain reliever Tylenol, has been in use for more than 70 years in the United States, but this is the first time that this side effect has been documented.