Prof. Prawer has a worldwide reputation in advanced diamond science and technology, with a particular focus on merging of the areas of nanoscience and neuroscience to push the boundaries of bionic devices.
A new study shows that children who experience more screen time have lower structural integrity of white matter tracts in parts of the brain that support language and other emergent literacy skills. These skills include imagery and executive function—the process involving mental control and self-regulation. These children also have lower scores on language and literacy measures. While the study does not determine whether screen time causes these structural changes or implies long-term neuro-developmental risks, its findings warrant further study to understand how to set appropriate limits on technology use.
Brain tumors reduce life expectancy by an average of 20 years—the highest of any cancer. Compounding this fact is the difficulty that brain tumors tend to have ambiguous symptoms, such as headache or memory problems, and a brain scan is currently the only reliable way to diagnose them. Now researchers say that their test, which works by detecting chemical clues shed by brain tumors into the blood and processing this information with an artificial intelligence program, could help improve brain tumor survival by making diagnosis quicker and more efficient.
Studies in healthy human volunteers have shown how a sleepless night can increase anxiety levels by 30%. In some participants, just one night of disturbed sleep resulted in levels of anxiety the next day that were above the threshold for common anxiety disorders. The research found links between sleep loss-related anxiety and impaired activity in specific areas of the brain, and also indicated that slow-wave, non-rapid eye movement sleep has an anxiolytic effect on brain networks. On a societal level, the findings suggest that the decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations and the escalation in anxiety disorders is perhaps causally related.
In 2016, a 73-year-old woman from Medellín, Colombia, flew to Boston so researchers could scan her brain, analyze her blood, and pore over her genome. She carried a genetic mutation that had caused many in her family to develop dementia in middle age, but she had avoided the disease for decades. Now the researchers report that another rare mutation—this one in the well-known Alzheimer’s disease risk gene APOE—may have protected her. While it does not prove this mutation alone staved off disease, the study draws new attention to the possibility of preventing or treating Alzheimer’s by targeting APOE.
You’re feeling depressed. What have you been eating? While psychiatrists and therapists don’t often ask this question, a growing body of research over the past decade shows that a healthy diet—high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and unprocessed lean red meat—can prevent depression. And an unhealthy diet—high in processed and refined foods—increases the risk for the disease in everyone, including children and teens. Now recent studies show that a healthy diet may not only prevent depression, but could effectively treat it once it’s started.
Until now, multilevel societies have only been known to exist among large-brained mammals including humans, other primates, elephants, giraffes, and dolphins. But scientists recently report the existence of a multilevel society in a small-brained bird, the vulturine guineafowl. The study, published in the current issue of Current Biology, suggests that the birds can keep track of social associations with hundreds of other individuals—challenging the notion that large brains are a requirement for complex societies and providing a clue as to how these societies evolved.
Previous studies have suggested that although both reward-based and punishment-based training methods are effective, punishment-based training can have negative long-term effects. Previous studies have tended to focus on police and laboratory dogs instead of family pets, and most used shock collars as punishment. Now, a novel study suggests programs that use even relatively mild punishments, such as the yelling and leash-jerking that a family pet might experience, can also stress dogs out, making them more “pessimistic” than dogs who experience reward-based training.
Researchers have developed a novel computational approach to predicting the neural responses to arbitrary visual stimuli produced by a biological brain. They built deep artificial neural networks—a "virtual avatar" of a population of biological neurons—that can be used to dissect the neural mechanisms of sensation. Experimenting with these networks has revealed some unexpected aspects of vision. For example, the optimal stimulus for some neurons in the early stages of processing in the neocortex were checkerboards or sharp corners as opposed to the expected simple edges.
In San Francisco, everything was going well for the three founders of a sleep analysis start-up. Women wanted to talk to them, investors wanted to invest, their new site got traffic, their phones were buzzing. But all this stimulation was exactly the problem. In order to tamp it down, they would try not eating for days ("intermittent fasting") and eschewing screens ("digital detox"). Still, it was not enough; life was so good and pleasurable. And so these men decided to join the growing community of those who "fast" from dopamine—a group that has quickly captivated the media.
Title: "Global Health Disparities and Their Impact on Future Generations" Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2019 Time: 12 noon Location: NIH Main Campus, Building 45 (Natcher) More info
Special BBI Seminar
Speaker: Steven Prawer (University of Melbourne) Title: "The Diamond Eye: Architecture and Reduction to Practice" Date: Thursday, November 14, 2019 Time: 10:00 a.m. Location: 1107 Kim Engineering Building
Speaker: Justin Wood (Indiana University) Title: "Reverse Engineering the Origins of Intelligence" Date: Thursday, November 14, 2019 Time: 3:30 p.m. Location: 1103 Bioscience Research Building More info
Speaker: Michael Long (New York University) Title: "Comparative neurobiology of vocal communication" Date: Friday, November 15, 2019 Time: 10:15 a.m. Location: 1103 Bioscience Research Building More info
Brainhack DC 2019
Date: Saturday, November 16 – Sunday, November 17, 2019
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Location: White-Gravenor Hall, Georgetown University
*New!*QSR-IIQM Research Grant for Early Career Researchers will allow for $25,000 in funding over two years to an Early Career Researcher with a project that shows promise and contribution to knowledge for the next generation of qualitative research innovation.