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Math

Scientists Overclock People's Brains 314

arshadk writes with this excerpt from the BBC about researchers at Oxford University who found that inducing a small current in a subject's parietal lobe boosted their capacity for numerical learning: "The current could not be felt, and had no measurable effect on other brain functions. As it was turned on, the volunteers tried to learn a puzzle which involved substituting numbers for symbols. Those given the current from right to left across the parietal lobe did significantly better when given, compared to those who were given no electrical stimulation. The direction of the current was important — those given stimulation running in the opposite direction, left to right, did markedly worse at these puzzles than those given no current, with their ability matching that of an average six-year-old. The effects were not short-lived, either. When the volunteers whose performance improved was re-tested six months later, the benefits appear to have persisted. There was no wider effect on general maths ability in either group, just on the ability to complete the puzzles learned as the current was applied."
The Military

US Army To Develop "Thought Helmets" 226

Hugh Pickens writes "Time Magazine reports on a $4 million US Army contract to begin developing 'thought helmets' to harness silent brain waves for secure communication among troops that the Army hopes will 'lead to direct mental control of military systems by thought alone.' The Army's initial goal is to capture brain waves with software that translates the waves into audible radio messages for other troops in the field. 'It'd be radio without a microphone,' says Dr. Elmar Schmeisser, the Army neuroscientist overseeing the program. 'Because soldiers are already trained to talk in clean, clear and formulaic ways, it would be a very small step to have them think that way.' The key challenge will be to develop software able to pinpoint speech-related brain waves and pick them up with a 128-sensor array that ultimately will be buried inside a helmet. Scientists deny charges that they're messing with soldiers' minds. 'A lot of people interpret wires coming out of the head as some sort of mind reading,' says Dr. Mike D'Zmura. 'But there's no way you can get there from here.' One potential civilian spin-off: a Bluetooth Helmet so people nearby can't hear you when you talk on your cell phone."
Medicine

Researchers Discover Gene That Blocks HIV 333

stemceller writes to tell us that a team of researchers at the University of Alberta claims to have discovered a gene capable of blocking HIV thereby preventing the onset of full blown AIDS. "Stephen Barr, a molecular virologist in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, says his team has identified a gene called TRIM22 that can block HIV infection in a cell culture by preventing the assembly of the virus. 'When we put this gene in cells, it prevents the assembly of the HIV virus," said Barr, a postdoctoral fellow. "This means the virus cannot get out of the cells to infect other cells, thereby blocking the spread of the virus.'"

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