Multitasking neurons enhance brain’s computational power

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/complex-brain-function-depends-on-flexibility-0519.html

Many neurons, especially in brain regions that perform sophisticated functions such as thinking and planning, react differently to a wide variety of stimulation.

“We started noticing early on that there are a whole bunch of neurons in the prefrontal cortex that can’t be classified in the traditional way of one message per neuron,” said Professor Earl Miller of MIT’s Picower Institute.

Miller and colleagues report that these neurons are essential for complex cognitive tasks, such as learning new behavior.  Professor Stefano Fusi at Columbia University developed a computer model showing that without these neurons, the brain can learn only a handful of behavioral tasks.

Another crowdfunded vital sign monitor

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/scanadu-scout-the-first-medical-tricorder

As the crowdfunding of remote health devices increases, another vital sign monitor has launched on Indiegogo.

Scanadu Scout analyzes and tracks temperature, respiratory rate, blood oxygen, heart rate, blood pressure and stress trends.  The company states that it accomplishes this in 10 seconds.

The device is still pre-FDA approval but quite promising. They claim that they can read systolic and diastolic blood pressure at 95% accuracy.  It looks like they are not reading oxygen saturation level.  We hope they’ll add it in the next version.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment for brain injuries

http://www.assafh.org/sites/en/Pages/brain-injuries.aspx

Tel Aviv University and Assaf Harofeh Medical Center researchers are treating stroke patients with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), high-pressure chambers where oxygen-rich air increases oxygen levels in the body by a factor of ten.  Their goal is to reinvigorate dormant neurons and improve patients’ motor function, memory and other abilities that current therapies do not address.

The researchers are studying the potential benefits of HBOT for traumatic brain injury, and as an anti-aging therapy, applicable to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia patients.

Eldercare robots perform essential tasks

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/disruptions-helper-robots-are-steered-tentatively-to-elder-care/

Already popular in Japan, today’s New York Times reports on the developing trend of robotic companions for the elderly.

A typical Japanese example is the Tsukuba University created Hybrid Assistive Limb. The battery-powered suit senses and amplifies the wearer’s muscle action when carrying or lifting heavy objects.  Caregivers can also use the suit to aid them while lifting patients from a bed, and patients can wear it to support their movements.  Other Japanese devices include a small, battery-powered trolley to aid independent walking; a portable, self-cleaning bedside toilet; and a monitoring robot which tracks and reports the location of dementia patients.

The Times describes several interesting US developed robots:   Cody, a Georgia Tech created robotic nurse cable of bathing patients;  HERB, a Carnegie Mellon developed butler which retrieves objects and cleans; Hector, a University of Reading robot which provides medication reminders, locates lost objects, and can assist in a fall; and Paro, a baby seal looking robot which calms dementia patients.

Watson’s health care capabilities described to lawmakers

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2013/05/17/watson-goes-to-washington-ibm-shows-off-latest-health-care-work-to-lawmakers/

On Capitol Hill, IBM representatives described the supercomputer’s new health-care related features, including the ability to ingest patients’ medical information and synthesize thousands of medical journals and other reference materials along with patient preferences to suggest treatment options.

The Watson team has collaborated with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and insurer Well Point to teach the computer about the medical world.

Quantum computing AI lab from Google, NASA and USRA

http://googleresearch.blogspot.ca/2013/05/launching-quantum-artificial.html

Google, NASA and the Universities Space Research Association will put a 512 qubit machine from D-Wave at the disposal of researchers around the globe.  The USRA will invite teams of scientists and engineers to share time on the unique supercomputer. The goal is to study how quantum computing might be leveraged to advance machine learning.

Wireless detection of brain trauma

http://health.universityofcalifornia.edu/2013/05/14/wireless-signals-could-transform-brain-trauma-diagnostics/

New technology developed at UC Berkeley uses wireless signals to provide real-time, noninvasive diagnoses of brain swelling or bleeding. The device analyzes data from low-energy electromagnetic waves, similar to the kind used to transmit radio and mobile signals.  It is sensitive enough to distinguish between a normal brain and a diseased brain with one single noncontact set of measurements.