Sunday, December 1, 2013

Memories stored in DNA?

image Emory University Homepage

James Gallagher, Health and science reporter, BBC News 1. 12. 2013 writes about exceptionally interesting research in Emory University on the realm of Mind and Body .
Behaviour can be affected by events in previous generations which have been passed on through a form of genetic memory, animal studies suggest.

Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behaviour of subsequent generations.

A Nature Neuroscience study shows mice trained to avoid a smell passed their aversion on to their "grandchildren".

Experts said the results were important for phobia and anxiety research.

The animals were trained to fear a smell similar to cherry blossom.

The team at the Emory University School of Medicine, in the US, then looked at what was happening inside the sperm.

They showed a section of DNA responsible for sensitivity to the cherry blossom scent was made more active in the mice's sperm.

Both the mice's offspring, and their offspring, were "extremely sensitive" to cherry blossom and would avoid the scent, despite never having experiencing it in their lives.

Changes in brain structure were also found.

Read the entire article in BBC News Health

In my classification this information belongs to the category Wow!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Professor Giulio Tononi

Prof. Giulio Tononi
image wikimedia
English wikipedia tells:
"Giulio Tononi is a neuroscientist and psychiatrist who holds the David P. White Chair in Sleep Medicine, as well as a Distinguished Chair in Consciousness Science, at the University of Wisconsin.

Tononi was born in Trento, Italy, and obtained an M.D. and a Ph.D. in neurobiology at the Sant' Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. He is an authority on sleep, and in particular the genetics and etiology of sleep.

Tononi and collaborators have pioneered several complementary approaches to study sleep. These include
  • genomics 
  • proteomics 
  • fruit fly models 
  • rodent models employing 
    • multiunit / local field potential recordings in behaving animals 
    • in vivo voltammetry
    • microscopy 
  • high-density EEG recordings and 
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in humans, 
  • large-scale computer models of sleep and wakefulness. 

This research has led to a comprehensive hypothesis on the function of sleep (proposed with sleep researcher Chiara Cirelli), the Synaptic Homeostasis Hypothesis. According to the hypothesis, wakefulness leads to a net increase in synaptic strength, and sleep is necessary to reestablish synaptic homeostasis.

The hypothesis has implications for understanding the effects of sleep deprivation and for developing novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to sleep disorders and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Tononi is a leader in the field of consciousness studies, and has co-authored a book on the subject with Gerald Edelman. He developed the Integrated Information Theory (IIT): a scientific theory of what consciousness is, how it can be measured, how it is realized in the brain and, why it fades when we fall into dreamless sleep and returns when we dream. The theory is being tested with neuroimaging, TMS, and computer models.

His work has been described as "the only really promising fundamental theory of consciousness" by Christof Koch."
Read the entire article from wikipedia

Thursday, June 20, 2013

First 3D Digital Brain

Great brain machine!
Image GrabCAD Sudhir Gill
In all, 80 billion neurons have been captured in this painstaking process which took 10 years to complete.

The result is a 3D high definition digital brain into which researchers can zoom to study areas of interest in microscopic detail.

One of the researchers involved, Prof Katrin Amunts from the Julich Research Centre in Germany, said that it was "like using Google Earth. You can see details that are not visible before we had this 3D reconstruction".
Pallab Gosh
BBC Science reporter

See also the article in Science BigBrain project

Thursday, May 16, 2013

D-Wave Quantum Computer 2013

Geordie Rose and D-Wave computer
Image copyright BBC News

A $15m computer that uses "quantum physics" effects to boost its speed is to be installed at a Nasa facility.

It will be shared by Google, Nasa, and other scientists, providing access to a machine said to be up to 3,600 times faster than conventional computers.

Reportedly costing up to $15m, housed in a garden shed-sized box that cools the chip to near absolute zero, it should be installed at Nasa and available for research by autumn 2013.

US giant Lockheed Martin earlier this year upgraded its own D-Wave machine to the 512 qubit D-Wave Two.

Unlike standard machines, the D-Wave Two processor appears to make use of an effect called quantum tunnelling.

This allows it to reach solutions to certain types of mathematical problems in fractions of a second.

Effectively, it can try all possible solutions at the same time and then select the best.

D-Wave Systems has been focused on building machines that exploit a technique called quantum annealing - a way of distilling the optimal mathematical solutions from all the possibilities.

Geordie Rose believes others have taken the wrong approach to quantum computing
Annealing is made possible by physics effect known as quantum tunnelling, which can endow each qubit with an awareness of every other one.

Read the entire news article introducing a BBC 4 radio program from here

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Intelligent communication between plants through fungus network

Image BBC Science and Environment
Clever laboratory experiment in the University of Aberdeen has demonstrated the role of fungi in a sophisticated plant alarm system.

"The team concerned themselves with aphids, tiny insects that feed on and damage plants. Many plants have a chemical armoury that they deploy when aphids attack, with chemicals that both repel the aphids and attract parasitic wasps that are aphids' natural predators."
Read the entire article in BBC May 13 2013 

Highly intelligent plants and fungus cooperation and communication!

Wonders of creation that make us respect even more the living world of plants: where's the Brain?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Insect eyes

BBC reports May 2, 2013
A digital camera that functions like an insect's compound eye is reported in the journal Nature this week.

It comprises an array of 180 small lenses, which, along with their associated electronics, are stretched across a curved mounting.

The prototype currently has few pixels, so its images are low-resolution.

But the device displays an immense depth of field, and a very wide-angle view that avoids the distortion seen in standard camera lenses.

The development team, led from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US, believes its new imaging system could eventually find uses in surveillance and for endoscopic investigations of the human body.

The researchers also suggest such cameras could be fitted to tiny aerial vehicles one day that behaved like robotic insects.

At the moment, the "bug-eye" system's vision is comparable to that enjoyed by some ants and beetles.
Read the entire article from BBC Science and Environment News

The on-line article in Nature

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Brain wiring revealed by high-power scanner

Axial41 top
Brain wiring
Image BBC 
BBC Science writer Pallab Ghosh reports February 17, 2013 about a special treat he received!

Scientists are set to release the first batch of data from a project designed to create the first map of the human brain.

The project could help shed light on why some people are naturally scientific, musical or artistic.

Some of the first images were shown at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston.

I found out how researchers are developing new brain imaging techniques for the project by having my own brain scanned.

Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital are pushing brain imaging to its limit using a purpose built scanner. It is one of the most powerful scanners in the world.

The scanner's magnets need 22MW of electricity - enough to power a nuclear submarine.

The researchers invited me to have my brain scanned. I was asked if I wanted "the 10-minute job or the 45-minute 'full monty'" which would give one of the most detailed scans of the brain ever carried out. Only 50 such scans have ever been done.

I went for the full monty.
Pallab Ghosh
Read the entire BBC Science article and see the images and video in this link 

Follow up story by P. Ghosh in BBC March 6, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Henry Markram gets 1 billion to build a brain simulator

Henry Markram explaining neocortical neurons
Image wikimedia
Israeli scientist Henry Markram (b. 1962) has had enough brain power to win over a cosmic European Union one billion euro grant for his research. He is currently the director of both the Blue Brain and the Human Brain Project at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

The enormous grant awarded to Markram is an obvious fact about the convincing power of human mind over other human minds in fierce competition for funding. (The other project that also got the caveted billion euro grant works on graphene.)

The question now is can Markram deliver a working computerized model of brain within the promised time scale so that in 2023 the world will have the Deep Thinker called Blue Brain. It should be simulating the actions of the 86 billion neurons that we seem to control with such ease in our modest 1.4 cubic litre heads?

BBC correspondent Ed Young writes
The very idea has many neuroscientists in an uproar, and the HBP’s substantial budget, awarded at a tumultuous time for research funding, is not helping. The common refrain is that the brain is just too complicated to simulate, and our understanding of it is at too primordial a stage.

Then, there’s Markram’s strategy. Neuroscientists have built computer simulations of neurons since the 1950s, but the vast majority treat these cells as single abstract points. Markram says he wants to build the cells as they are – gloriously detailed branching networks, full of active genes and electrical activity. He wants to simulate them down to their ion channels – the molecular gates that allow neurons to build up a voltage by shuttling charged particles in and out of their membrane borders. He wants to represent the genes that switch on and off inside them. He wants to simulate the 3,000 or so synapses that allow neurons to communicate with their neighbours.
Ed Young
Read the entire article in BBC Future - Science and Environment February 8, 2013