By Paul Vaska, as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 07.05.2011 at 1:59 pm 1 Comment
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.
Sure, the maze gets boring every so often. And yeah, there's not much variety in the food. But compared to the kill or be killed world of the wild, being a lab rat is a pretty good life. So good, in fact, that researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) believe many lab rats are so overfed they distort research results from experiments intended to help cure everything from cancer to Alzheimer's to, you guessed it, obesity.
Google's Android operating system for cell phones could allow soldiers to track fellow squad members and even unmanned drones in real time on a map -- as long as the humans and robots are on their buddy list.
In a development that gives Acme Labs and NIMH a run for their money, scientists in Georgia and China have collaborated to create the world's smartest rat. The genetically engineered rat, Hobbie-J, over-expresses a gene that regulates neuron communication, greatly enhancing the rat's ability to navigate mazes and remember toys.
Forget the Orkin Man; with pests like this, you might need to call Ripley. Scientists have recently discovered two new, giant versions of common pests.
In this corner, hailing from Papua New Guinea and weighing in at a hefty 3.3 pounds comes the the Bosavi woolly rat. And in the other corner, in the bright yellow outfit and representing Malaysia, please welcome Heteropoda davidbowie, "the Spider from Mars."