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Ward Plunet
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59,539 followers
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Your brain is like 100 billion mini-computers all working together

Each of our brain cells could work like a mini-computer, according to the first recording of electrical activity in human cells at a super-fine level of detail. The study has revealed a key structural difference between human and mouse neurons that could help explain our superior powers of intelligence.
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Endurance exercise training has beneficial effects on gut microbiota composition

According to recent research, endurance exercise training beneficially modifies gut microbiota composition. After six weeks of training, potentially inflammation causing microbes (Proteobacteria) decreased and microbes that are linked to enhanced metabolism (Akkermansia) increased. Even though there was no significant drop in the weight of the subjects, exercise had other beneficial health effects, says Academy of Finland research fellow Satu Pekkala from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences of the University of Jyväskylä. "We found that phospholipids and cholesterol in VLDL particles decreased in response to exercise. These changes are beneficial for cardiometabolic health because VLDL transports lipids from the liver to peripheral tissues, converts into 'bad' LDL cholesterol in the circulation, and thus has detrimental cardiovascular effects." Exercise training also decreased Vascular adhesion protein-1 activity, which can have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects especially on vasculature, though the underlying mechanisms could not be determined in this study.
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Google’s AI-powered Piano Genie lets anyone improvise perfectly by bashing buttons

Machine learning is enabling some brilliant things in art and music. The latest example, from Google’s creative research team Magenta, is the Piano Genie — an AI program that lets you improvise fluently on the piano by simply bashing away at eight buttons. The team behind Piano Genie was inspired by Guitar Hero, a game that also simplifies how to play an instrument. They didn’t want users to just tap along to prewritten songs, but to make up pieces of melody on the fly instead. To enable this, they trained an AI program on a huge dataset of classical piano music, teaching it to predict what notes follow each other the same way your phone’s predictive text function guesses what you’ll write next. (You can also try out a web version for yourself here.)
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Antilock brake system in arteries protects against heart attack

Tübingen biochemists have discovered a natural mechanism of the body that can reduce the formation of dangerous blood clots, also known as thrombosis. So far, this antiblocking system has mainly been studied in mouse arteries. Initial studies with human cells have confirmed the results suggesting that this protective mechanism is highly likely to exist in humans as well. Thrombosis is a leading cause of death worldwide because it can block blood vessels causing heart attack or stroke. The newly discovered mechanism could help to improve therapeutic treatments. The study was conducted by a team of researchers including Dr. Lai Wen and Professor Robert Feil from the Interfaculty Institute of Biochemistry of the University of Tübingen in collaboration with the University Hospital Tübingen and the Universities of Lübeck and Würzburg.
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Jeff Hawkins Is Finally Ready to Explain His Brain Research

Mr. Hawkins says that before the world can build artificial intelligence, it must explain human intelligence so it can create machines that genuinely work like the brain. “You do not have to emulate the entire brain,” he said. “But you do have to understand how the brain works and emulate the important parts.”
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Scientists chase mystery of how dogs process words

When some dogs hear their owners say "squirrel," they perk up, become agitated. They may even run to a window and look out of it. But what does the word mean to the dog? Does it mean, "Pay attention, something is happening?" Or does the dog actually picture a small, bushy-tailed rodent in its mind. Frontiers in Neuroscience published one of the first studies using brain imaging to probe how our canine companions process words they have been taught to associate with objects, conducted by scientists at Emory University. The results suggest that dogs have at least a rudimentary neural representation of meaning for words they have been taught, differentiating words they have heard before from those they have not. "Many dog owners think that their dogs know what some words mean, but there really isn't much scientific evidence to support that," says Ashley Prichard, a Ph.D. candidate in Emory's Department of Psychology and first author of the study. "We wanted to get data from the dogs themselves—not just owner reports."
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Two seemingly opposing forces in the brain actually cooperate to enhance memory formation

The brain allows organisms to learn and adapt to their surroundings. It does this by literally changing the connections, or synapses, between neurons, strengthening meaningful patterns of neural activity in order to store information. The existence of this process—brain plasticity—has been known for some time. But actually, there are two different types of brain plasticity at work on synapses. One is "Hebbian plasticity"; named after pioneering neuroscientist Donald Hebb it effectively allows for the recording of information in the synapses. The other, more recently discovered, is homeostatic synaptic plasticity (HSP), and like other homeostatic processes, such as maintaining a constant body temperature, its purpose is to keep things stable. In this case, HSP ensures that the brain doesn't build up too much activity (as is the case in epilepsy) or become too quiet (as accompanies the loss of synapses in Alzheimer's disease). However, little is known about how these two types of plasticity actually interact in the brain. Now, a team of neuroscientists at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, in Lisbon, Portugal, has begun to unravel the fundamental processes that happen in the synapse when the two mechanisms overlap.
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The Pentagon’s Push to Program Soldiers’ Brains

The military wants future super-soldiers to control robots with their thoughts....The internal workings of darpa are complicated. The goals and values of its research shift and evolve in the manner of a strange, half-conscious shell game. The line between healing and enhancement blurs. And no one should lose sight of the fact that D is the first letter in darpa’s name. A year and a half after the video of Jan Scheuermann feeding herself chocolate was shown on television, darpa made another video of her, in which her brain-computer interface was connected to an F-35 flight simulator, and she was flying the airplane. darpa later disclosed this at a conference called Future of War.
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The long-term effects of maternal high-fat diets

If a mother eats a high-fat diet, this can have a negative effect on the health of her offspring—right down to her great-grandchildren. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers at ETH Zurich from a study with mice. Mothers' eating habits not only affect their children and grandchildren, but also their great-grandchildren. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers from the Laboratory for Translational Nutrition Biology at ETH Zurich. In a study published this week in the Open Access journal Translational Psychiatry together with colleagues from Cambridge and Basel, they describe how high-fat diets have an adverse effect on the offspring. Obesity and addictive behaviour: The researchers fed female mice high-fat food for nine weeks—before mating, during pregnancy and during lactation. Their male offspring were then paired with females who had received standard laboratory food. The male offspring of these mice were in turn paired with females who had received standard laboratory food. The grandchildren of the mice who had eaten a high-fat diet showed addictive-like behaviours and obesity characteristics. Changes in the metabolism were also observed. In offspring of the third generation, the great-grandchildren, the researchers observed differences between males and females: While the females showed addictive-like behaviours, the males showed characteristics of obesity.
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The metabolome: A way to measure obesity and health beyond BMI

The link between obesity and health problems may seem apparent. People who are obese are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disease, cancer, and heart disease. But increasingly, researchers are learning that the connection is not always clear-cut. For this reason, they've sought to develop better ways to determine who is at an elevated risk of developing these complications. The current standard for determining obesity is body mass index (BMI), a simple mathematical formula that uses weight and height. Now a paper appearing October 11 in the journal Cell Metabolism is reporting a large study of new ways to measure obesity. The study looked at both the metabolome and the genome, and their relationship to BMI. "We are attempting to identify the heterogeneity in what we currently call obesity. There's a need for more precise ways of measuring," says senior author Amalio Telenti (@atelentia), a genomics professor at Scripps Research. "Although it's clear that obesity is linked to certain diseases, not everybody who is obese will have these consequences. Also surprising, you may not look obese but still have the problems of someone who is."
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