2018 Nov 26 – Brain-computer interfaces decode and translate brain electrical activity into useful control signals for computing devices, aiming at providing assistance to people with severe motor disabilities. The latest publication from the clinical trial BrainGate2 illustrates one of the proceedings in the development of this technology: challenging but general control of a commercial tablet was achieved by three participants with tetraplegia (two of whom were diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and were dependent on ventilators, and a third with tetraplegia due to spinal cord injury) who had either one or two multielectrode arrays implanted in the motor cortex (4×4 mm, electrode length 1.0-1.5 mm). This invasive technique allows precise recordings from single neurons.
2018 Sep 7 – “On 4 September 2018, 11 national research funding organisation, with the support of the European Commission including the European Research Council (ERC), announced the launch of cOAlition S, an initiative to make full and immediate Open Access to research publications a reality. It is built around Plan S, which consists of one target and 10 principles“.
On the same line, the Swedish Government set the goal of immediate open access by 2026. Agreements with the scientific publisher Elesevier have not been renewed after 30th of June on behalf of Swedish universities, university colleges, governmental agencies and research institutes.
2018 Sep 6 – A novel preclinical study shows mild improvements in the locomotor function of mice with spinal cord lesions not greater than 75%, upon engraftment of human neuroepithelial stem cells dissected post-mortem from spinal cord primordia of embryos (post-conceptional week 5 to 8) and maintained in vitro in active proliferation state. Improvements 1) depend on the formation of a relay system reconnecting supraspinal axons with denervated target neurons below the injury level, 2) require anatomical matching of graft with recipient tissue and 3) are accompanied by efficient differentiation of engrafted cells toward both neuronal and glial fate. The viability of this approach was confirmed in Sprague Dawley rats with a contusion of thoracic spinal cord – a clinically relevant model because contusion is the most common cause of lesion – receiving homospecific neuroepithelial stem cells derived from the embryonic spinal cord primordia.
2018 May 30 – Even though familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) accounts for 5 to 10% of all cases, the identification of genes implicated in rare familial forms of the pathology has significant impact on the unraveling of the molecular mechanisms underlying sporadic ALS. Emerging findings indicate that ALS-causing mutations affect key regulators of RNA processing, and dysregulated RNA processing occurring during development could eventually contribute to the increased vulnerability of mature motor neurons that characterizes ALS progression.
Of note, intron retention (IR) is the predominant RNA splicing change during early motor neurogenesis. A novel study shows that IR in the Splicing Factor Proline and Glutamine rich (SFPQ) transcript and nuclear loss of the SFPQ protein are common molecular hallmarks across diverse genetic and sporadic forms of ALS. Preliminary evidences were collected from RNA sequencing reads of spinal motor neurons differentiating in vitro and carrying a rare ALS-causing mutation in the gene VCP. Results were subsequently confirmed and generalised in two mouse transgenic models of ALS (SOD1G93A and VCPA232E) and upon examination of spinal cord post-mortem tissue from sporadic human ALS cases.
Read more at reliawire.com
2018 May 17 – Birbaumer and colleagues published in 1999 a pivotal paper on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), showing subjects suffering from advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis use slow cortical potentials of the electroencephalogram to drive a cursor on a video screen, thus operating a spelling software. Over the years, BCI studies have largely ignored the contribution of user-training strategies, while focusing on machine learning. However, the prizewinning approach in the 2016 Cybathlon BCI race benefited from the refinement of a mutual, incremental interaction between user training and machine learning. From the users’ perspective, this co-adaptive system allowed typical motor outputs to occur, in that these became automatic with practice (i.e. based on implicit learning, not on explicit information such as motor imagery). The released case study analyzed the two participants involved in this specific experimental set-up, who were severely impaired by spinal cord lesions at level C5–C6. They were trained to control their avatar by modulating sensorimotor rhythms in the mu (8–12 Hz) and beta (18–30 Hz) ranges. Recordings where acquired by means of a 16 electrodes electroencephalographic cap targeting sensorimotor cortices.
2018 May 8 – Tactile sensory feedback and proprioception are essential for the manipulation and feeling of body ownership of robotic prosthesis. Biomedical engineers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, carried out psychophysical experiments to optimize phantom finger perceptions evoked in upper limb amputees by transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation delivered at the skin of the residual limb.
2018 Mar 22 – Following their initial formation upon activation of discrete ensembles of hippocampal neurons, memories are unstable and subjected to further processing. In principle, the comparison of newly forming memories with stored ones during periods of memory instability would allow common features to be extracted; instability may thus provide one gateway to create/modulate generalized knowledge, consistent with the significant interplay observed between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus at this stage. In a short essay published in Plos Biology, Edwin Robertson from the University of Glasgow considers this hipothesis.
2018 Mar 6 – “There is clearly a growing excitement around treating neurological diseases using neuromodulation, rather than pharmaceuticals”. We report the full commentary recently published by Helen Thomson’s in Nature, introducing relevant questions on the subject.
2018 Feb 19 – Bayes’ law might fit the capacity of brain circuits to encode certain prior distributions of events and use them to derive posterior probabilities. In a work published in Nature Communications, authors hypothesized that the cerebellum would be best suited to learn sub-second to second prior temporal distributions of time intervals and support Bayesian estimates. To validate their hypothesis, they elaborated and tested a mathematical model called TRACE (Temporally Reinforced Acquisition of Cerebellar Engram) that synthesizes known anatomical and physiological mechanisms of the cerebellum. TRACE performed in a manner highly consistent with Bayesian estimation theory. When human subjects were tested in two established cerebellar timing tasks, the results were consistent with the predictions of the model. This work poses the prospect of a new implication for the cerebellum.
2018 Feb 7 – Among their heterogeneous and coordinating functions, astrocytes are implicated in the modulation of neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission. In particular, it has been suggested that astrocytes may influence the activity of local neural circuits controlling sleep, breathing and feeding via the vesicular release of signaling molecules named gliotransmitters. In a novel study, researchers collaborating across UK, US and the Russian Federation employed molecular approaches aimed at blocking or stimulating such release in the preBötzinger complex of adult conscious rats, where essential respiratory rhythm-generating circuits are located. The results show that astrocytes in the preBötzinger complex 1) modulate the respiratory rhythm-generating circuits, 2) critically mediate respiratory adaptive responses in conditions of increased metabolic demand and 3) contribute to determine the the maximal oxygen uptake during exercise (i.e. the exercise capacity).
2017 Sep 19 – Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) is rising in response to the increasing focus on renewable energy. BIPV modules are integrated into the building envelope to produce electricity on site, directly from the sun: semi-transparent solar cells, for example, can be applied to photovoltaic windows. Researchers from the University of Tokyo, Institute of Industrial Science, recently showed the development of plasmonic semi-transparent perovskite solar cells that harvest photons in the deep blue and deep red wavelength ranges – where human visual sensitivity to light is less sensitive – thus keeping visual transparency higher.
Read more at phys.org
2017 June 29 – There is rising interest in the neurobiology of forgetting (transience). Richards and Frankland from Toronto, Canada, make an original contribution by outlining parallels between the related mechanisms at synapses and principles from machine learning and computational neuroscience. In this light, they review the literature on the role of transience in 1) “enhancing behavioral flexibility by eliminating outdated information” and 2) “promoting generalization by preventing overfitting memories to specific instances from the past that may not accurately predict the future”.
2016 Apr 19 – “For two decades now, the UNESCO Science Report series has been mapping science, technology and innovation (STI) governance around the world on a regular basis. Since STI do not evolve in a vacuum, this latest edition summarizes the evolution since 2010 against the backdrop of socio-economic, geopolitical and environmental trends that have helped to shape contemporary STI policy and governance”.
Read more at unesco.org
2014 Dec 16 – Conversion of nonneuronal cells into induced neurons has been proposed as an innovative strategy towards neural repair in the cerebral cortex. Retroviral expression of the transcription factor Sox2 – alone or in combination with Ascl1 – can induce the conversion of reactive NG2 glia into doublecortin (DCX)+ neurons in vivo, as shown in a mouse model of traumatic cerebral cortex injury. NG2 glia were readily targeted by retroviruses at the injury site. However, only a small fraction of induced DCX+ neurons appeared to develop into more mature state.
Read more at sciencedaily.com