About a month ago, my apartment had some unwelcome visitors in the form of cream-colored little worms writhing about on my kitchen and bathroom floor. Maggots. It was deeply unsettling, but, as always, science was on my side, with its pressurized cans of grocery store poison, specifically calibrated for my particular pest problem. Sure, we were sweeping up scores of dead fly bodies for weeks, but at least they were dead.
With careful training using a robotic harness, and a special chemical cocktail designed to stimulate brain cells, rats with spinal cord injuries were able to re-learn how to walk. Scientists in Switzerland say the tests suggest humans with paralysis due to spinal cord injuries may regain some nerve activity.
With their strange 60-atom structures, buckyballs could have potential as drug carriers, medical tracers, cancer fighters and other interesting applications in the human body, but studies examining their impact on the body have had mixed results. A group of French researchers set out to study its toxicity and other effects, and came up with a surprising find — not only are buckyballs safe, a buckyball diet doubled the lifespan of lab rats.
Given a choice between eating chocolate alone and rescuing their pals, rats will apparently save their pals and then share the chocolate with them. Trapping a rat in a cage sparks its cagemate into action, as it figures out how to open the cage and liberate its jailed friend. This is an unusual example of rats expressing empathy, a trait thought to be reserved to us higher mammals, the primates.
Whether we’re engrossed in an activity or the alarm clock simply fails to chime, we’ve all been in situations when we say we’ve lost track of time. But our brains have not really lost track at all. A specific group of cells in the brain’s memory center is encoding for the passage of time, researchers report. These “time cells” are key to our perception of sequences of events.
By Paul Vaska, as told to Flora Lichtman
Posted 07.05.2011 at 1:59 pm 2 Comments
I’m an instrument builder, mostly, and I work on positron-emission-tomography devices: PET. Doctors use them to look for cancer, but neuroscientists use them too. In studies with lab rats, they inject a mildly radioactive substance into the rat, and the PET scan measures the gamma rays the substance gives off. This tells researchers what part of the brain the substance is in and what parts are active.
A new brain implant tested on rats restored lost memories at the flick of a switch, heralding a possible treatment method for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or amnesia. Such a “neural prosthesis” could someday be used to facilitate the memory-forming process and help patients remember.
A 10-pound rat wouldn’t normally evoke feelings of appreciation, but perhaps it should — apparently it can save lives by sniffing out tuberculosis. Rat disease recognition is much more accurate than microscopes, researchers say.
Robots are a major part of the cultural fabric of Japan; they’re performing weddings, buying groceries and keeping people company. A team of researchers at the University of Tokyo is taking this robotic cultural immersion a step further — they’re making animal-robot hybrids. Sort of.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.