Brain

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Many people, particularly students, may benefit from improved techniques that help you learn notes or pieces of text off by heart. This enhances explicit memory, recognition memory or both, in terms of what you may be called on to repeat or identify later.

There are various techniques and pathways to forming these memories, which include repetition or silent reading. However, research on the efficacy of these methods yields mixed and even conflicting conclusions. In addition, some ‘memorising’ techniques may work better on some types of information compared to others.

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In 1960, scientists Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline described the idea of an enhanced human being that can survive in alternate or extraterrestrial environments as: “For the exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously, we propose the term ‘Cyborg’”. In layman terms, also called android, a cyborg or a cybernetic organism, would be referred to as, any entity with both artificial and biological parts and as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, a “man-machine”.

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Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that allow people with severe neuromotor or motor disorders to communicate are becoming more and more common. This is realised by scanning brainwaves using electroencephalography (EEG) and converting them accurately into words, letters or other objects that the user intends to replicate in their minds. BCIs are beneficial for those with extensive paralysis, ‘locked-in’ syndrome and other similar conditions.

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The fetal brain grows and develops all the way from the ninth week of pregnancy up until even after birth, and during this time undergoing incredible changes in morphology and function. But preterm infants, those born before the 37-week gestation, are at a risk of brain complications and damage, as found in previous studies.

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Sleep deprivation is regarded as a major public health issue, by those who study it and its effects at least. Research has shown that life-threatening mistakes for patients made by resident physicians can increase as much as seven times over in response to sleep-robbing schedules for these doctors. Sleep deprivation is linked to deficits in cognition, memory and vigilance, and is as a result discouraged in people who work in areas such as heavy industry and nuclear power.

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Millions of people in the United States suffer from ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), a chronic brain disorder that results in children or sometimes even adults having a limited attention span, being extremely hyperactive and taking rash decisions or showing impulsivity. This automatically reduces their ability to meet deadlines or perform daily duties, as per usual.

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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a form of dementia characterised by the loss of long-term memories, possible emotional disturbances and behavioural abnormalities. It is strongly associated with advanced age, although cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s have also been observed. AD has a specific pathophysiology, or biological mechanism of progression. This condition is thought to be related to accumulations of beta-amyloid protein in various parts of the brain, particularly those associated with long-term memory storage and with their recollection.

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Currently, clinicians tend to agree that patients who are in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) for over twelve months have sustained irreversible damage and may never regain any level of consciousness. A new study, released this week, throws a different light on this commonly accepted belief, and may well change the way that the treatment of these patients is managed in the future. 

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Toys are an inseparable part of our childhood years, no matter where on the Earth we live or how poor or rich we are. The difference comes in the materials used to make the toys, and whether they are especially designed to be used as a toy with an educational purpose, or an ordinary object turned into a toy through the imagination of a child. Many of us remember folding an ordinary piece of paper into an intricate airplane and watching with delight as it flies through the sky. The toy market however, has advanced apace, driven by the technological revolution in our everyday life.

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Social animals often establish “pecking orders” or social hierarchies. In crowded social situations one individual must wait patiently while another eats or occupies a choice perch. Rather than fight a bloody and dangerous battle every time access to a resource is being contested, they establish early on who will have priority in any pairing.

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Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a branch of neurological medicine in which small devices that can deliver electric impulses are placed into the brain, in areas that are damaged or affected by disease. The central idea behind DBS is that these devices, which are most often electrodes, are used to replace, augment or modulate abnormal activation (or ‘firing’) in the neural circuits found in these brain regions. This may in turn correct or alleviate their manifestations in the mind or body, which include uncontrollable movements in Parkinson’s disease (PD).

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Electroencephalograms (EEGs) are a relatively well-established way of analysing brain activity. They use non-invasive sensors that detect the electrical activity of this organ through the skull. They then represent this activity in graphical forms than can be recorded, stored and used by people such as medical professionals. EEGs have been observed to be reliably associated with the brain activity they are supposed to visualise. Many normal, healthy brain regions even produce reproducible EEG feedback patterns, or frequencies.

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Many wearable devices can now track your heart rate, steps, speed, balance, body temperature and sleep. Smart devices are definitely the future and will be used in people’s everyday lives. A new generation of brain-reading technology was created by the company NeuroSky, with the help of electroencephalography (EEG) biosensors.

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When we think of mind reading, we may imagine a process by which an entity, perhaps aided by super-advanced technology, ‘listens in’ on our thoughts to capture or record them. However, thoughts and how they manifest in the brain are much more complicated than simple voices in our heads. Currently, the best of our scientific tools that come close to representing how it works are non-invasive techniques that can produce accurate 2D, 3D or 4D (i.e. ‘real-time’) images of a person’s brain and which specific regions are involved in thought formation.

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The role of viral vectors as carriers, to effect and manipulate expression of certain genes, has done wonders in the realms of medicine and therapy. Experts are now considering the possibility of the very same virus vehicles to instead transport cargo to the neurons of the nervous system. This would help them to understand and treat neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases more effectively in the future.

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Cognitive Computing is a new and evolving research area, which broadly refers to both hardware and software technologies that attempt to mimic the capabilities and functioning of the human brain. While at its base is the major disciplines of Artificial Intelligence and Signal Processing, this new discipline exhibits certain features common to the human brain model:

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Researchers at the University “Carlos III” in Madrid have developed a virtual reality system for rehabilitation of the shoulder. It includes a built-in movement sensor and allows the patient to do controlled exercises as part of a football game.

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The positive identification of a person has been identified as a need of our growing society for centuries, together with crime and law enforcement. First there was facial recognition and detection of walking style. Now, with our ever-increasing human population the need for “more accurate” identification appeared, including fingerprints and handwriting analysis, either to identify or to authenticate (e.g. bank transactions) certain individuals.

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The brain is the most complex structure in our body. It has more than 200 billion neurons, which are all interconnected in specific orders. This creates synapses, which are the neurotransmitters. Between these synapses, signals are transferred and this in turn creates a circuit.

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How many times have you gone to karaoke or heard someone sing along with a song on the radio only to sing the wrong lyrics? Don’t be ashamed, it’s more common than you think. When I first heard Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, without knowing the song’s title, I wondered about the lyric ‘hold me closer, Tony Danza’. Danza is a famous Italian-American actor and former boxer, but I was confused why this song was about him.

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