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Sep 20, 2023

Researchers make sand that flows uphill

Posted by in categories: chemistry, engineering, information science, particle physics

Engineering researchers at Lehigh University have discovered that sand can actually flow uphill.

The team’s findings were published today in the journal Nature Communications. A corresponding video shows what happens when torque and an is applied to each grain—the grains flow uphill, up walls, and up and down stairs.

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Sep 20, 2023

NASA spacecraft delivering biggest sample yet from an asteroid

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

Planet Earth is about to receive a special delivery—the biggest sample yet from an asteroid.

A NASA spacecraft will fly by Earth on Sunday and drop off what is expected to be at least a cupful of rubble it grabbed from the asteroid Bennu, closing out a seven-year quest.

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Sep 20, 2023

Traumatic brain injury under-recognized as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, says new study

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, military, neuroscience

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of long-term disability and premature death, especially among military personnel and those playing contact sports. Substantial research has examined acute and chronic neurological consequences of TBI; however, non-neurological conditions associated with TBI are understudied.

A new review paper by investigators from Mass General Brigham presents key findings on long-term associations between TBI and cardiovascular disease, highlighting that nervous system dysfunction, neuroinflammation, changes in the brain-gut connection, and post-injury comorbidities may elevate risk of both cardiovascular and cognitive dysfunction in TBI survivors compared to the .

The review, published in The Lancet Neurology, emphasizes the need for future cardiovascular research, surveillance and intervention in TBI survivors.

Sep 20, 2023

Scientists reveal how the effects of psychosis spread throughout the brain

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

Psychoses like schizophrenia cost billions of dollars annually and derail the lives of people struggling with the disease. Now Monash University researchers have modeled how the effects of psychosis spread through the brain, allowing them to isolate areas where these changes may originate from and which could be targeted by therapies designed to reduce the disease’s progression.

Sep 20, 2023

Study reveals structure of crucial receptor in brain development and its function

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

Scientists have revealed the molecular structure of a type of receptor that’s crucial to brain development and function.

Known as Type A GABA receptors, these receptors are already targeted by pharmaceutical anesthetics, sedatives and antidepressants because of their important role in . The discovery, published today in the journal Nature, reveals the dominant assemblies and states of the GABA receptor, a finding that could enable the development of new compounds that more specifically target a range of medical disorders.

“It is the main player that balances excitation and inhibition in the brain,” said lead author Chang Sun, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. “It affects all aspects of brain function, from motor function, to memory and learning, and also emotion and anxiety.”

Sep 20, 2023

Researchers discover potential treatment for nicotine dependence

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

New research from the University of Missouri School of Medicine suggests there may be another way to treat cigarette cravings. Researchers found that theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation (TBS)—strong, rapidly fluctuating magnetic field pulses that can affect brain activity—can lead to improved self-control, reduced cravings and as a result, less smoking.

People with tend to have significant structural and functional differences in the brain, compared to healthy non-smokers. Smoking cigarettes has been shown to be associated with less gray matter, which means they have less neurons and other cells in the brain.

Research suggests these differences may affect (IC), which is our control over automatic urges and response to stimuli—what enables humans to stop an impulsive reaction to something.

Sep 20, 2023

Alternative pain control circuits in the brain found to produce relief similar to opioids without the downsides

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

The opioid epidemic in the United States has exacted an incalculable toll on individuals and communities, creating an urgent need for alternative painkillers. The search for non-opioid treatments is crucial, not only to mitigate the risks of addiction and overdose, but also to develop pain management tools that remain effective without inducing tolerance and other challenging side effects in patients.

New research from the University of Chicago identified an alternative signaling pathway in the brain of mice that relieves , even in animals that have developed tolerance to opioids.

The study, titled “A Cholinergic Circuit That Relieves Pain, Despite Opioid Tolerance” and published in Neuron, also showed that through this route did not induce tolerance, did not create withdrawals symptoms after treatment was stopped, and did not activate reward systems, limiting risk for addiction and making it a viable path to developing effective, non-opioid pain relief.

Sep 20, 2023

Language acquisition may work differently in people with autism

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

You’re looking at a truck. You’re with a young child and he follows your gaze. He’s interested in the object you’re looking at without you pointing at it. This is called joint attention and it is one of the primary ways children learn to connect words with objects and acquire language.

Lack of joint attention is a core feature of autism. Until now, it was thought that stimulating joint attention in people with autism would help them express themselves verbally. But a of 71 studies on autism challenges this assumption and suggests that people with may acquire language differently.

The study—by Laurent Mottron, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Addiction at Université de Montréal and a psychiatrist at the Hôpital en santé mentale Rivière-des-Prairies of the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal; Mikhail Kissine, a professor of linguistics at Université Libre de Bruxelles; and Ariane St-Denis, a at McGill University—is published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Sep 20, 2023

DeepMind is using AI to pinpoint the causes of genetic disease

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, robotics/AI

Fresh from solving the protein structure challenge, Google’s deep-learning outfit is moving on to the human genome.

Sep 20, 2023

Telling AI model to “take a deep breath” causes math scores to soar in study

Posted by in categories: mathematics, robotics/AI

Google DeepMind researchers recently developed a technique to improve math ability in AI language models like ChatGPT by using other AI models to improve prompting—the written instructions that tell the AI model what to do. It found that using human-style encouragement improved math skills dramatically, in line with earlier results.

In a paper called “Large Language Models as Optimizers” listed this month on arXiv, DeepMind scientists introduced Optimization by PROmpting (OPRO), a method to improve the performance of large language models (LLMs) such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s PaLM 2. This new approach sidesteps the limitations of traditional math-based optimizers by using natural language to guide LLMs in problem-solving. “Natural language” is a fancy way of saying everyday human speech.

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