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Neuroscience

The next generation of robotic pets may detect a person's emotions and respond accordingly...

Sony’s Aibo may be discontinued, but robotic pets of all shapes and sizes continue to stake a claim in the hearts of people around the world. Despite the apparent intelligence of some of these robot pets, their behavior and actions are usually nothing more than pre-programmed responses to stimuli – being patted in a particular location or responding to a voice command, for example. Real flesh and blood pets are much more complex in this regard, even discerning and responding to a person’s emotional state. Robotic pets could be headed in that direction, with researchers in Taiwan turning to neural networks to help them break the cycle of repetitive behavior in robot toys and endow them with almost emotional responses to interactions.  Read More

Deep dissection of brain-stem with the corticospinal tract visible in red

According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, about two percent of Americans – more than six million people – have some form of paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury, which is due primarily to the interruption of connections between the brain and spinal cord. Such paralysis and loss of function has long been considered untreatable, but a new approach has, for the first time, induced robust regeneration of nerve connections that control voluntary movement, showing the potential for new therapeutic approaches to paralysis and other motor function impairments and offering hope to sufferers.  Read More

First retina created from stem cells could help millions

In another world first in the fight against degenerative eye disorders, scientists from the Universtiy of California, Irvine, have created an eight-layer early-stage retina from human embryonic stem cells. Not only is this the world's first three-dimensional complex tissue structure to be made from stem cells, but it also marks the first step toward the development of transplant-ready retinas to treat eye disorders affecting millions.  Read More

China a rising star in regenerative medicine

Chinese researchers have become the world's fifth most prolific contributors to peer-reviewed scientific literature on clock-reversing regenerative medicine even as a skeptical international research community condemns the practice of Chinese clinics administering unproven stem cell therapies to domestic and foreign patients. According to a study by the Canadian-based McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health (MRC), published this week by the UK journal Regenerative Medicine, China's government is pouring dollars generously into regenerative medicine (RM) research and aggressively recruiting high-caliber scientists trained abroad in pursuit of its ambition to become a world leader in the field.  Read More

It doesn't seem to matter how the diet is restricted - whether fats, proteins or carbohydr...

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have unraveled a molecular puzzle to reveal why a lower-calorie diet slows the development of some age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the aging process itself. In their search for an answer they discovered that it doesn’t seem to matter how the diet is restricted – whether fats, proteins or carbohydrates are cut – to produce protective effects against aging and disease.  Read More

The SmartHand and its first human subject, Robin af Ekenstam

Scientists have successfully wired a state-of-the-art artificial hand to existing nerve endings in the stump of a severed arm. Its creators say the device, called “SmartHand,” resembles a real hand in function, sensitivity and appearance. In order to develop such an intelligent artificial prosthetic hand with all the basic features displayed by a real one, the SmartHand team integrated recent advances in nanobioscience, cognitive neuroscience and information technologies.  Read More

fMRI brain scans from UBC Mind Wandering Study
 (Image: Courtesy of Kalina Christoff)

If you think letting your mind wander is unproductive then you may be in for a big surprise. A recent study at the University of British Columbia found that our brains are much more active when we daydream than previously thought. What is surprising is that the study also found that brain areas associated with complex problem-solving – previously thought to go dormant when we daydream – are actually more active than when we focus on routine tasks.  Read More

Looks like Yorick’s 'Lab on a Tube' readings are likely to send up a few red flags

A multi-purpose “lab on a tube” developed by Engineers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) could provide significant advance in the treatment of traumatic brain injury. A serious knock on the head results in not only the initial damage, but a second wave of injury caused by swelling and lack of oxygen among other factors. Currently, the status of these injuries can only be intermittently examined, but the “lab on a tube” gives medicos the capability to continuously monitor crucial physiological characteristics.  Read More

Neuroscientists identify the neural circuitry of first impressions

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and it had better be a good one. When encountering someone for the first time, we are often quick to judge whether we like that person, and research shows that people make relatively accurate and persistent evaluations based on rapid observations of even less than half a minute. Now neuroscientists at New York University and Harvard Universityhave identified the neural systems involved in forming first impressions of others.  Read More


 Image courtesy of Family and Children's Trust Fund of Virginia

McGill University and Douglas Institute scientists have discovered that childhood trauma can actually alter your DNA and shape the way your genes work. This confirms in humans earlier findings in rats, that maternal care plays a significant role in influencing the genes that control our stress response. Using a sample of 36 brains; 12 suicide victims who were abused; 12 suicide victims who were not abused and 12 controls, the researchers discovered different epigenetic markings in the brains of the abused group. These markings influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function, a stress-response which increases the risk of suicide.  Read More

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