July 22, 2014

New Era of rapid Brain Imaging allows brain imaging and understanding of interactions at the cellular level across the brain

Detailed high resolution brain imaging has been made one hundred times faster. Stanford University researchers who developed the new method CLARITY to see the brain in greater detail said that it could mark a new era of rapid brain imaging, allowing researchers to see in much greater detail not only how parts of the brain interact on a cellular level but also to better understand those interactions across the entire brain.

Cellular structure and neuron firing

It allows for three-dimensional visualization that is both granular and wide enough to encompass the entire brain. Said Sanchez, “Traditionally, with the optogenetic technique, you really don’t have the structure to go along with the activation. That’s why the Neuro-FAST program is so exciting.”

DARPA Neuro-FAST project builds off of the recently developed CLARITY process, as well as recent discoveries in genetics, optical recordings, and brain-computer interfaces. By combining all four areas, Neuro-FAST seeks to allow researchers to individually identify specific cell types, register the connections between organizations of neurons, and track their firing activity using optical methods in awake, behaving subjects. Neuro-FAST researchers must overcome the dual challenges of achieving single-neuron resolution while simultaneously being able to analyze activity from large numbers of neurons to acquire detailed modeling of the dynamic wiring of neural circuits that cause behavior. Such models would then be coupled with brain activity in real-time to better understand how brain processes work. Neuro-FAST envisions development of novel optical methods to enable the necessary recording.

The data generated by this process would be unlike any previously produced by the neuroscience community and would feed a growing body of knowledge about brain function and form. In addition to fundamental rodent research already underway, Neuro-FAST will expand the processes to non-human primate brains and whole-organ human tissue samples from existing repositories to create a deep understanding across higher-order mammals.

If successful, Neuro-FAST will support pioneering research into brain function over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales to better characterize and mitigate threats to the human brain and facilitate development of brain-in-the loop systems to accelerate and improve functional behaviors.

Nature Protocols - Advanced CLARITY for rapid and high-resolution imaging of intact tissues.

July 21, 2014

Neuroscience biofeedback improved novice sniper shooting by 100% by helping soldiers get into the right mental zone

A previous DARPA program yielded some remarkable insight into the potential for better soldier performance through focused brain states. Amy Kraus, a former DARPA program manager, on Monday told a group at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, the work that she presided over succeeded in finding the secret mental secret that preceded good marksmanship. “It turns out the expert marksman has a brain state,” she said, “a state that they enter before they take the perfect shot. Can I teach a novice to create this brain state? The answer was yes.”

She said that by recognizing that state, researchers were able to improve the ability of regular people to improve their marksmanship by 100 percent. “These are recordable, measurable, algortyhmical,” Kraus said.

Neuroscience-based assessments can be used to accelerate military skill acquisition and provide quantitative evidence of successful training by detecting, in real-time, cognitive and physiological states of the trainee under various conditions.

The research focuses on:
(a) integrating brain monitoring capabilities into rifle marksmanship training;
(b) identifying psychophysiological characteristics of expertise using expert marksman as a model population;
(c) developing a sensor-based feedback system—information that would not be available under current training conditions—to accelerate novices in the acquisition of marksmanship skills, and
(d) identifying neurocognitive factors that predict marksmanship skill acquisition.

Plastic to Pavement

India has 15000 tons of plastic waste every day. This amount should double in 5 years.

5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) of plastic roads have been laid in India in at least 11 states.

Solving India’s garbage problem requires more than a technological solution. In a country where throwing garbage onto the roads and littering in public areas are acceptable behaviors, it’s going to require a social transformation. “With respect to the technology it has been proven already,” Vasudevan says. “Culture is now the most important part.”

Gurusamy Bodhilakshmi, secretary of Naganakulam Panchayat-Level Federation of the SHGs (self-help groups), explains how the women buy plastic from a network of local businesses and homes and how they conduct awareness drives in schools and colleges. They are trying to build a local market around plastic, so it is treated as a commodity rather than as garbage. The group has had some success. It collects plastic from about 8,000 households. It buys plastic at 7 rupees a kilo (12¢ per 2.2 pounds) and sells about 1,000 kilos a month, at 30 rupees a kilo, to government agencies that use it for roads. Many of the group’s members make a modest living off the enterprise.

July 20, 2014

Jibo the first family robot could revolutionize personal robotics by solving ease of use robotics like iPads for tablets and iPhones for smartphones

JIBO, The World's First Family Robot, has raised $864,000 on Indiegogo and still has 26 days left to go on its crowdfunding campaign.

It is scheduled to be available by December 2015, Jibo will be capable of interacting with its owners; for now, it is just a prototype, but that could soon change.

Social robotics - that's the idea behind Jibo, and Cynthia Breazeal, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has worked in the field for years. Involved in MIT's Personal Robots Group, she has been focusing on developing the principles, techniques, and technologies for personal robots.

Breazeal and her team used simple approach towards designing Jibo. At first glance, the 11-inch tall robot -- with a six-inch base -- resembles more of a retro television than a 21st century robot. But rest assured, it will be loaded with all the amenities of current technology, such as Bluetooth and WiFi.

Come next December, Jibo is expected to be able to have the following capabilities that will allow him act as an assistant, reminding you of upcoming events; a storyteller, complete with sound effects, graphics and physical movements to boot; a photographer, noticing smiles to automatically take a photo; a messenger and telepresence avatar, allowing users to communicate; as well as act as an companion.

How JIBO Works

* Follow JIBO's instructions to connect him to your WiFi network
* Teach JIBO to recognize your face & voice
* Learn what you can ask JIBO to do
* Download the JIBO mobile app (Android & iOS) to connect JIBO to your mobile devices
* Connect to Devices

Your JIBO Network can include:

* Mobile devices
* Personal computers
* Other JIBOs

Targeted improvements in more efficient agriculture can improve world agriculture productivity by over 40%

Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth's strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge. But according to a new report by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops and actions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture's environmental footprint.

The report, published today in Science, focuses on 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world's crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale. It proposes a set of key actions in three broad areas that that have the greatest potential for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and boosting our ability meet global food needs. For each, it identifies specific "leverage points" where nongovernmental organizations, foundations, governments, businesses and citizens can target food-security efforts for the greatest impact. The biggest opportunities cluster in six countries — China, India, U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan — along with Europe.

"This paper represents an important next step beyond previous studies that have broadly outlined strategies for sustainably feeding people," said lead author Paul West, co-director of the Institute on the Environment's Global Landscapes Initiative. "By pointing out specifically what we can do and where, it gives funders and policy makers the information they need to target their activities for the greatest good."

Science - Leverage points for improving global food security and the environment

3D Pillared Boron Nitride could have applications in nanoelectronics, gas storage and composite materials

An unusual three-dimensional porous nanostructure called pillared boron nitride (PBN) could achieve a balance of strength, toughness, and ability to transfer heat that could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage, and composite materials that perform multiple functions, Rice University engineers have discovered.

The 3-D prototypes they made (using computer simulations) fuse one-dimensional boron nitride nanotubes and two-dimensional sheets of boron nitride. The extremely thin sheets of boron nitride are stacked in parallel layers, with tube-shaped pillars of boron nitride between each layer to keep the sheets separated.

Among 3-D boron nitride’s unusual properties:

* Can be stretched about 45 percent of its length without breaking in the direction of the columns.

* Carries heat relatively fast in all 3-D directions. “This feature is ideal for applications that require materials or coating with the capability of extremely fast thermal diffusion to the environments,” said Rouzbeh Shahsavari, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering. “Examples include car engines or computer CPUs where a fast heat transfer to the environments is critical in proper functioning.”

* Has a very porous and lightweight structure. Each gram of this Swiss cheese-like structure has a surface area equivalent to three tennis courts. Such a high surface area lends itself to customized applications, such as efficient gas storage and separation — in vehicles that run on hydrogen cells, for example.

* Is an electrically insulating material, so it could complement electrically conductive graphene-based nanoelectronics — for example, in the next generation of 3-D semiconductors and 3-D thermal transport devices, which could be used in nanoscale calorimeters, microelectronic processes, and macroscopic refrigerators.

The Journal of Physical Chemistry C - Synergistic Behavior of Tubes, Junctions and Sheets Imparts Mechano-Mutable Functionality in 3D Porous Boron Nitride Nanostructures

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics raised $182000 from the crowdfunding effort and another $135,000 from new investors

The crowdfunding campaign of LPPFusion, Inc. and the Focus Fusion Society was a great success, raising $182,000, or 91% of our original goal of $200,000. (This includes $2,000 in Bitcoins not counted in the number on the Indiegogo website.) We received contributions from 1,923 individuals, many of whom gave more than once.

The campaign greatly increased our visibility with coverage in Fortune, Extremetech, Gizmag, IEEE Spectrum, and Tageszeitung Kurier, a major Austrian newspaper. With over 70,000 users of the Indiegogo site we estimate that around a million people have now heard in some way about our Focus Fusion project. That publicity in turn led to $135,000 in new investments so far, with over 30 inquiries from potential investors.

Together these developments have put our Focus Fusion project on a much more solid financial basis. We will be continuing to crowdfund the remaining money for our goal on our LPPFusion website. And we will be reaching out to our new thousands of supporters to organize to get the word out more widely.