Fear can be erased from the brain
Newly formed emotional memories can be erased from the human brain. This is shown by researchers from Uppsala University in a new study now being published by the academic journal Science. The findings may represent a breakthrough in research on memory and fear.
Thomas Ågren, a doctoral candidate at the Department of Psychology under the supervision of Professors Mats Fredrikson and Tomas Furmark, has shown, that it is possible to erase newly formed emotional memories from the human brain.
When a person learns something, a lasting long-term memory is created with the aid of a process of consolidation, which is based on the formation of proteins. When we remember something, the memory becomes unstable for a while and is then restabilized by another consolidation process. In other words, it can be said that we are not remembering what originally happened, but rather what we remembered the last time we thought about what happened. By disrupting the reconsolidation process that follows upon remembering, we can affect the content of memory.
In the study the researchers showed subjects a neutral picture and simultaneously administered an electric shock. In this way the picture came to elicit fear in the subjects which meant a fear memory had been formed. In order to activate this fear memory, the picture was then shown without any accompanying shock. For one experimental group the reconsolidation process was disrupted with the aid of repeated presentations of the picture. For a control group, the reconsolidation process was allowed to complete before the subjects were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.
In that the experimental group was not allowed to reconsolidate the fear memory, the fear they previously associated with the picture dissipated. In other words, by disrupting the reconsolidation process, the memory was rendered neutral and no longer incited fear. At the same time, using a MR-scanner, the researchers were able to show that the traces of that memory also disappeared from the part of the brain that normally stores fearful memories, the nuclear group of amygdala in the temporal lobe.
‘These findings may be a breakthrough in research on memory and fear. Ultimately the new findings may lead to improved treatment methods for the millions of people in the world who suffer from anxiety issues like phobias, post-traumatic stress, and panic attacks,’ says Thomas Ågren.
For more information please contact Thomas Ågren, tel: +46 (0)18- 471 21 24; mobile: +46 (0)735-260 602, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas Ågren et al. (2012) Disruption of reconsolidation erases a fear memory trace in the human amygdala, Science, Sept 21
Virtual Reality Simulator Helps Teach Surgery for Brain Cancer, Reports Neurosurgery
‘NeuroTouch’ System Provides 3-D Graphics and Tactile Feedback During Simulated Brain Surgery.
Philadelphia, PA (September 20, 2012) —
A new virtual reality simulator—including sophisticated 3-D graphics and tactile feedback—provides neurosurgery trainees with valuable opportunities to practice essential skills and techniques for brain cancer surgery, according to a paper in the September issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.
The prototype system, called “NeuroTouch,” uses 3-D graphics and haptic (sense of touch) technology to provide a realistic look and feel for practice in performing common tasks in brain cancer surgery. Lead author Sébastien Delorme, PhD, of the National Research Council Canada and colleagues believe the NeuroTouch system could enhance “acquisition and assessment of technical skills” for neurosurgeons in training.
System Simulates Common Neurosurgery Tasks and Tools
The NeuroTouch system was developed by a team of more than 50 experts from the National Research Council Canada, with input from surgeons at more than 20 Canadian teaching hospitals. The goal was to design a simulation system to provide neurosurgical trainees with opportunities to practice basic surgical skills.
The NeuroTouch software produces 3-D graphics, simulating what the neurosurgeon sees through the operating microscope during surgery—including detailed, lifelike renderings of brain tissue, blood vessels, and tumors. The system also includes haptic tool manipulators, providing tactile feedback similar to what the surgeon would feel during surgery. The simulator runs on computers that, while powerful, are similar to those used to run popular games.
September 18, 2012
New tool gives structural strength to 3-D printed works
Bedrich Benes, an associate professor of computer graphics at Purdue University, is working with Advanced Technology Labs of Adobe Inc. to develop a computer program that automatically strengthens objects created using 3-D printing. The innovation is needed because the printed fabrications are often fragile and fall apart or lose their shape, as evidenced by some of the failed or misshapen objects on display here. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Objects created using 3-D printing have a common flaw: They are fragile and often fall apart or lose their shape.
“I have an entire zoo of broken 3-D printed objects in my office,” said Bedrich Benes, an associate professor of computer graphics at Purdue University.
The printed fabrications often fail at points of high stress.
“You can go online, create something using a 3-D printer and pay $300, only to find that it isn’t strong enough to survive shipping and arrives in more than one piece,” said Radomir Mech, senior research manager from Adobe’s Advanced Technology Labs.
The 3-D printers create shapes layer-by-layer out of various materials, including metals and plastic polymers. Whereas industry has used 3-D printing in rapid prototyping for about 15 years, recent innovations have made the technology practical for broader applications, he said.
“Now 3-D printing is everywhere,” Benes said. “Imagine you are a hobbyist and you have a vintage train model. Parts are no longer being manufactured, but their specifications can be downloaded from the Internet and you can generate them using a 3-D printer.”
The recent rise in 3-D printing popularity has been fueled by a boom in computer graphics and a dramatic reduction of the cost of 3-D printers, Benes said.
Researchers at Purdue and Adobe’s Advanced Technology Labs have jointly developed a program that automatically imparts strength to objects before they are printed.
“It runs a structural analysis, finds the problematic part and then automatically picks one of the three possible solutions,” Benes said.
Findings were detailed in a paper presented during the SIGGRAPH 2012 conference in August. Former Purdue doctoral student Ondrej Stava created the software application, which automatically strengthens objects either by increasing the thickness of key structural elements or by adding struts. The tool also uses a third option, reducing the stress on structural elements by hollowing out overweight elements.
“We not only make the objects structurally better, but we also make them much more inexpensive,” Mech said. “We have demonstrated a weight and cost savings of 80 percent.”
The new tool automatically identifies “grip positions” where a person is likely to grasp the object. A “lightweight structural analysis solver” analyzes the object using a mesh-based simulation. It requires less computing power than traditional finite-element modeling tools, which are used in high-precision work such as designing jet engine turbine blades.
“The 3-D printing doesn’t have to be so precise, so we developed our own structural analysis program that doesn’t pay significant attention to really high precision,” Benes said.
The paper was authored by Stava, now a computer scientist at Adobe, doctoral student Juraj Vanek; Benes; Mech; and Nathan Carr, a principal scientist at Adobe’s Advanced Technology Labs.
Future research may focus on better understanding how structural strength is influenced by the layered nature of 3-D-printed objects. The researchers may also expand their algorithms to include printed models that have moving parts.
A video demonstrating the new program is available at
Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, email@example.com
Source: Bedrich Benes, 765-496-2954, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to Journalists: The research paper is available from Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, email@example.com
Stress Relief: Improving Structural Strength of 3-D Printable Objects
Ondrej Stava1 Juraj Vanek1 Bedrich Benes1 Nathan Carr2 Radomır Mech2
1 Purdue University 2 Adobe Systems Incorporated
The use of 3-D printing has rapidly expanded in the past couple of years. It is now possible to produce 3-D-printed objects with exceptionally high fidelity and precision. However, although the quality of 3-D printing has improved, both the time to print and the material costs have remained high. Moreover, there is no guarantee that a printed model is structurally sound. The printed product often does not survive cleaning, transportation, or handling, or it may even collapse under its own weight. We present a system that addresses this issue by providing automatic detection and correction of the problematic cases. The structural problems are detected by combining a lightweight structural analysis solver with 3-D medial axis approximations. After areas with high structural stress are found, the model is corrected by combining three approaches: hollowing, thickening, and strut insertion. Both detection and correction steps are repeated until the problems have been eliminated. Our process is designed to create a model that is visually similar to the original model but possessing greater structural integrity.
Date: September 13, 2012
Neural Stem Cells Regenerate Axons in Severe Spinal Cord Injury
New relay circuits, formed across sites of complete spinal transaction, result in functional recovery in rats
In a study at the University of California, San Diego and VA San Diego Healthcare, researchers were able to regenerate “an astonishing degree” of axonal growth at the site of severe spinal cord injury in rats. Their research revealed that early stage neurons have the ability to survive and extend axons to form new, functional neuronal relays across an injury site in the adult central nervous system (CNS).
The study also proved that at least some types of adult CNS axons can overcome a normally inhibitory growth environment to grow over long distances. Importantly, stem cells across species exhibit these properties. The work will be published in the journal Cell on September 14.
The scientists embedded neural stem cells in a matrix of fibrin (a protein key to blood clotting that is already used in human neuron procedures), mixed with growth factors to form a gel. The gel was then applied to the injury site in rats with completely severed spinal cords.
“Using this method, after six weeks, the number of axons emerging from the injury site exceeded by 200-fold what had ever been seen before,” said Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, professor in the UC San Diego Department of Neurosciences and director of the UCSD Center for Neural Repair, who headed the study. “The axons also grew 10 times the length of axons in any previous study and, importantly, the regeneration of these axons resulted in significant functional improvement.”
In addition, adult cells above the injury site regenerated into the neural stem cells, establishing a new relay circuit that could be measured electrically. “By stimulating the spinal cord four segments above the injury and recording this electrical stimulation three segments below, we detected new relays across the transaction site,” said Tuszynski.
To confirm that the mechanism underlying recovery was due to formation of new relays, when rats recovered, their spinal cords were re-transected above the implant. The rats lost motor function – confirming formation of new relays across the injury.
The grafting procedure resulted in significant functional improvement: On a 21-point walking scale, without treatment, the rats score was only 1.5; following the stem cell therapy, it rose to 7 – a score reflecting the animals’ ability to move all joints of affected legs.
Results were then replicated using two human stem cell lines, one already in human trials for ALS. “We obtained the exact results using human cells as we had in the rat cells,” said Tuszynski.
The study made use of green fluorescent proteins (GFP), a technique that had never before been used to track neural stem cell growth. “By tagging the cells with GFP, we were able to observe the stem cells grow, become neurons and grow axons, showing us the full ability of these cells to grow and make connections with the host neurons,” said first author Paul Lu, PhD, assistant research scientist at UCSD’s Center for Neural Repair. “This is very exciting, because the technology didn’t exist before.”
According to the researchers, the study makes clear that early-stage neurons can overcome inhibitors present in the adult nervous system that normally work to maintain the elaborate central nervous system and to keep cells in the adult CNS from growing aberrantly.
In the world of Facebook, users are either kings or lemmings. That’s the conclusion of a new study, the largest to analyze how information spreads across social networks—and who does the spreading.
The debate about how ideas, opinions, and behaviors radiate within groups of people goes back decades. According to the so-called influentials hypothesis, made popular by books such as The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, a small number of highly influential people drive most of the spread. For example, if the popular kids in a high school get iPhones and all the other kids soon follow, the hypothesis says that it was because of the sway of the cool kids. But critics counter that influential individuals play only a minor role, and what matters is whether people are susceptible to the new idea.
The debate has remained unsettled because studying peer influence is notoriously difficult. Studies of the real world are messy and rarely allow for controlled experiments, whereas social experiments in laboratories are expensive and involve contrived situations. So, researchers are turning to online social networks such as Facebook. Such approaches make it easy to track the behavior of huge numbers of people, while third-party software applications, or apps, allow researchers to run virtual experiments on Facebook users, often for free.A Weekly Chat on the Hottest Topics in Science Thursdays 3 p.m. EDT
To test peer influence, Sinan Aral and Dylan Walker, economists at New York University’s Stern School of Business in New York City, used a Facebook app that allows users to rate and recommend movies. (Aral and Walker are keeping the identity of the app confidential at the request of the company, but they say that it is similar to Flixster.) As users interact with the app—for example, you give the 2011 movie The Tree of Life four out of five stars—it sends messages to a random selection of your Facebook friends notifying them of the rating and providing a link to the app. The more friends that adopt the app after receiving a notification from you, the greater your influence. The shorter the time period between receiving a notification and adopting the app yourself, the higher your susceptibility.
Over 44 days, the apps of nearly 8000 users sent over 40,000 notifications to 1.3 million friends, and about 1000 of those friends adopted the app. Aral and Walker then built a model of the app’s “contagion” through this massive social network. If the influentials hypothesis is true, most of the spread should be catalyzed by a small number of key people.
Reality seems to fall somewhere between influence and susceptibility. Both are important, but contagion depended on the personal traits of the people, the team reports online today in Science. For example, people older than 30 were more influential than those who are younger than 30, and people of the same age had the most influence on each other. Women tended to influence men more than they influenced each other. But most surprisingly, influence and susceptibility almost never occurred in the same person. At least in the Facebook network, there are only trendsetters and followers.
The study is on “a phenomenally large scale,” says Brian Uzzi, a social scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The division between influence and susceptibility could have a large influence on online marketing, he says, allowing companies to predict not only whether you will be interested in a particular product, but also whether you’re the kind of person who can help it go viral. However, says Uzzi, “to know if virtual world social influence substitutes, complements, or is independent of the real world, we need another experiment that looks at the diffusion of the same product on Facebook and [in] the real world.”
August 20, 2012 – Honda is to enter the fast-growing European robotic lawn mower market with the introduction of Honda Miimo, its first commercial robotic product for domestic use.
Honda Miimo is the perfect solution for those wanting a beautiful lawn but would rather not or can’t mow it themselves. The ultimate time and labor saving device, once installed it needs minimal human interaction when working to ensure a beautifully cut lawn, every day, for the length of the mowing season.
Honda Miimo operates a ‘continuous cutting’ system, typically mowing just 2-3mm of grass at a time, several times each week. It cuts in a random pattern, meaning less stress on the grass, more healthy growth and reduced moss and weeds. Unlike a traditional lawn mower it doesn’t need to collect cuttings, as the clippings it creates are so small that they are dispersed into the lawn root system, breaking down quickly to act as a natural fertiliser which improves the health and quality of the grass.
Honda Miimo navigates the garden through an intelligent combination of controls, timers and real-time sensory feedback. It works within a boundary wire, installed under the ground or in the grass around the perimeter of the garden. Honda Miimo detects the electronic signal in the wire and stays within it, ensuring high levels of safety and accuracy. Powered by a high performance lithium-ion battery, it is self-charging, constantly monitoring its battery level and returning to its docking station when it needs to recharge.
Uniquely, Honda Miimo features a fan, built-in to its blade holder, which creates airflow to effectively ‘suck’ the grass towards the blades. This ensures a superior finish and a more consistent distribution of clippings back into the root system. Additionally, in a first in the market, it uses three highly durable blades, which bend rather than shatter on impact with hard objects, eliminating the danger of pieces of broken blade being left on the lawn. Cutting height is adjustable between 20mm and 60mm, to suit the conditions and time of year.
European sales of robotic mowers are growing rapidly. With the garden increasingly used as an ‘outdoor living room’, people living busy lives and not wanting the work of maintaining a lawn; and an ageing population perhaps not able to do so, robotic mowers are a perfect solution. They also deliver excellent environmental benefits; not producing CO2, quieter than petrol models, and with no cuttings to dispose of.
Honda Miimo operates using one of three modes – ‘random’, ‘directional’ or ‘mixed’, to suit the size and type of garden. Random mode sees it navigate the lawn without a fixed pattern; whilst in directional mode it moves back and forth in a more uniform fashion to ensure a faster cut. Mixed mode allows intervals of random and directional cutting.
Honda Miimo features three independent 360 degree ‘bump’ sensors, which detect a solid contact between it and any obstacle. If a bump sensor is activated, it will stop, turn and move away from the point of contact in a different direction.
Honda Miimo can ascend slopes and when it encounters patches of thick or long grass it will automatically reduce wheel speed but maintain blade speed in order to deal with tough areas effectively.
Both safety and security are assured by two ‘lift’ sensors which are triggered if Honda Miimo leaves the ground. On activation it shuts down completely, an alarm sounds, and it cannot be used until the owner inputs a unique PIN. In line with new regulations this means that it cannot be picked up whilst the blades are turning, and it is rendered useless in the event of theft.
At launch, Honda Miimo will be available in two models, 300 and 500, offering a maximum perimeter cut of 300m and 500m respectively. Honda Miimo 500 will mow up to a total lawn size of 3,000 square metres, around half the size of a typical football pitch, making it suitable for a wide variety of gardens.
The introduction of Honda Miimo heralds a whole new model for Honda Lawn & Garden Authorized Dealers. Uniquely in the market, it will be sold as a full service package. Upon purchase, the dealer installs the docking station, which acts as both the charging point and signal generator. A boundary wire is connected to the docking station, then routed around the perimeter of the garden to define the mowing area. Honda Miimo is then programmed to cut to a schedule convenient to the customer, via its inbuilt timer and calendar. Then, at the end of the season the Honda Authorized Dealer collects it for winter maintenance, and, in some countries, winter storage.
Honda has been working in the development of robotics since 1986, with the predecessors of ASIMO, the world’s most advanced humanoid robot. Honda Miimo is the first commercial robotic product manufactured by the company for public use – representing its first step towards providing customers with robotic solutions to improve quality of life at home.
Honda Miimo will be manufactured by Honda France Manufacturing in Orlean. It will be available from Honda Authorized Dealers across Europe in early 2013.
The recent influx of both high- and low-end EVs and electric motorcycles have shown promise, but current battery technology is still limiting, and the cost of entry is far too high with the benefits of switching from petrol-powered vehicles not being quite as obvious or apparent in the near term.
Now imagine a vehicle that’s smaller than a Smart Car, nearly a third of the price of a Nissan Leaf ($32,500), safer than a motorcycle with a range capacity that just lets you drive and won’t ever tip over? What you get is Lit Motors‘ C-1, the world’s first gyroscopically stabilized, two-wheeled all-electric vehicle, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco today. Oh, and it will talk to your smartphone and the cloud. Did I mention that you can’t tip this thing over? (I’ve tried.)
Founder, President, and CTO Danny Kim and his team at Lit Motors have built and approached the C-1 much differently than others have with their respective EVs. Instead of Frankensteining existing technologies, the C-1 has been designed, machined, and built by hand from the ground up in San Francisco. They’ve not only created something unique based on proprietary technology, but have also put together a package that appeals to the “cool kids” and the price-conscious in both America and abroad.
“We aim to be the future of personal transportation,” Kim told me. “By taking our vehicles to the mass market quickly and internationally, we will ease traffic congestion, decrease fuel use, reduce CO2 emissions, create 2,000 to 10,000 green jobs, and allow people to get around quickly and efficiently.”
While several electric auto and moto companies have emerged over the last five to 10 years, the fundamental issues of range and price loom large. The initial price will be $24,000 when the C-1 is expected to launch in 2014 and will take a year or two to drop down to $16,000. As it scales to being mass market (~100,000) around 2018, the price of the C-1 will drop down to $12,500. It is not only expected to top out at over 100 MPH but has an estimated range of up to 200 miles per charge and will go from 0-60 in roughly six seconds.
Commutes can be reduced by up to 50 percent, and thanks to its two wheels, the C-1 can lane split where legal. Without the cost of gas, it could cost you less than $1 to go upwards of 200 miles.
More importantly, the gyroscopic technology at its core can be used elsewhere to keep things level, such as airplanes or boats or even on top of buildings in high wind areas.
“Leveling suspension in sports cars could be the second largest application,” says Kim.
The extended range of the C-1 is also assisted by a KERS regenerative braking system, which uses flywheels to store energy kinetically. These flywheels are also part of the gyroscopic stabilization system keeping the vehicle upright in all situations – even a collision – while allowing the control system to dictate the tilt and lean of the vehicle at all times. In other words, as the gyros spin, downforce is created to keep the vehicle stable and level. It’s a bit peculiar to see a two-wheeler not topple over without the assistance of a kickstand or human power.
What’s most surprising, though, is that every bit of the two engineering and two full-scale prototypes were built by hand in SoMa for less than $750,000.
“As any cartoon villain will tell you, the only way to get something done right is to do it yourself,” Kim told me. “By controlling every aspect of the R&D process, we’re able to avoid the added headaches, mistakes, and cost of outsourcing. The knowledge we gain in the process of physically making everything is invaluable and informs our manufacturing designs considerably.”
Not only will the C-1 and future versions never tip over, but they’ll also be packed with every amenity you can find in other vehicles today, like AC, power windows, airbags, etc. What’s even cooler is that you can program certain maneuvers or start the vehicle from your smartphone and then initiate said maneuver (like a u-turn) by tapping on the steering wheel. You can even suggest things to the vehicle like “It’s kinda cold in here,” and the C-1 will increase the heat, says Kim. Your music (think Spotify or Rdio) and social networks (Yelp, Foursquare) can also be integrated in case you’re asking the C-1 to play some music or find a restaurant.
Kim added: “Distracted driving is a growing problem, so this is all experienced through a minimal digital HUD to convey the right amount of data with the minimal amount of distraction; basically Google Glasses for your windshield. The UX bar has been raised quite a bit over the past decade, and we aim to leap over it.”
Like most of you, I asked myself who the hell this guy was. Kim’s story is an interesting one. He’s a Reed College dropout, certified ASE Automatic Transmission mechanic, world traveler, studied architecture at Berkeley, spent some time at the Rhode Island School of Design, and nearly died rebuilding two Land Rovers in his quest to make “the perfect SUV.” It sounds about as crazy as it can get, but maybe that’s what we need more of in this world. Kim also machined his own spectacle frames from titanium. What can’t this guy do?
Lit Motors designs and develops sustainable personal transportation solutions. The company is currently focused on a vehicle code-named “C-1”. This fully-electric, two-wheeled vehicle is self-balancing, using a pair of flywheels to maintain stability in all conditions. The flywheels are also used as part of a KERS regenerative braking system, contributing to an overall efficient, human-centered design.
End of panel-container –>