Sunday, June 29, 2008

Science Sunday: Wrap-up of recent advancements in science from EurekAlert!

Portable device effective in zapping away migraine pain
A novel electronic device designed to "zap" away migraine pain before it starts has proven to be the next form of relief for those suffering from the debilitating disease, according to a study conducted at the Ohio State University Medical Center.

Scientists find how neural activity spurs blood flow in the brain
New research from Harvard University neuroscientists has pinpointed exactly how neural activity boosts blood flow to the brain. The finding has important implications for our understanding of common brain imaging techniques such as fMRI, which uses blood flow in the brain as a proxy for neural activity.

Neuroscientists discover a sense of adventure
Wellcome Trust scientists have identified a key region of the brain which encourages us to be adventurous. The region, located in a primitive area of the brain, is activated when we choose unfamiliar options, suggesting an evolutionary advantage for sampling the unknown. It may also explain why rebranding of familiar products encourages to pick them off the supermarket shelves.

Nanotubes could help study retrovirus transmission between human cells
Naturally occurring nanotubes may serve as tunnels that protect retroviruses and bacteria as they infect healthy cells. The unexpected shielding may explain why vaccines fare poorly against some invaders. Sandia researchers now have formed similar nanotubes that could be used to duplicate the phenomenon.

Blue light used to harden tooth fillings stunts tumor growth
A blue curing light used to harden dental fillings also may stunt tumor growth, Medical College of Georgia researchers say.

Cooperative system could wipe out car alarm noise
The persistent, annoying blare of an ignored car alarm may become a sound of the past if a cooperative, mutable and silent network of monitors proposed by Penn State researchers is deployed in automobiles and parking lots.

Researchers develop neural implant that learns with the brain
Devices known as brain-machine interfaces could someday be used routinely to help paralyzed patients and amputees control prosthetic limbs with just their thoughts. Now, University of Florida researchers have taken the concept a step further, devising a way for computerized devices not only to translate brain signals into movement but also to evolve with the brain as it learns.

Nerve cells derived from stem cells and transplanted into mice may lead to improved brain treatments
Burnham scientists have genetically programmed embryonic stem cells to become nerve cells when transplanted into the brain, according to a study published today in the Journal of Neuroscience. The research, an important step toward developing new treatments for stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurological conditions showed that mice afflicted by stroke showed therapeutic improvement following transplantation of these cells. None of the mice formed tumors, a major setback in prior attempts at stem cell transplantation.

When threatened, a few African frogs can morph toes into claws
Biologists at Harvard University have determined that some African frogs carry concealed weapons: when threatened, these species puncture their own skin with sharp bones in their toes, using the bones as claws capable of wounding predators.

University of Pennsylvania engineers reveal what makes diamonds slippery at the nanoscale
Penn engineers have conducted the first study of diamond friction supported by spectroscopy and determined that this slippery behavior comes from passivation of atomic bonds at the diamond surface that were broken during sliding and not from the diamond turning into its more stable form, graphite.

Viruses hitch a ride in the cell
Viruses can travel around cells they infect by hitching a ride on a microscopic transport system, according to new research. Cells are exposed to foreign DNA and RNA and it is understood that some of this genetic material can be integrated into the host genome. Using modern microscopic techniques, scientists have been able to see how virus DNA is transported in the cell.

Mechanism and function of humor identified by new evolutionary theory
(Pyrrhic House) The pattern recognition theory of humor is an evolutionary and cognitive explanation of how and why any individual finds anything funny. Effectively it explains that humor occurs when the brain recognizes a pattern that surprises it. It also identifies implications of pattern recognition in childhood cognitive development, other species and artificial intelligence, and posits humor as a major driving force in the evolution of humankind's unique perceptual and intellectual abilities.

New process creates 3-D nanostructures with magnetic materials
(National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)) Materials scientists at NIST have developed a process to build complex, three-dimensional nanoscale structures of magnetic materials such as nickel or nickel-iron alloys using techniques compatible with standard semiconductor manufacturing. The process could enable whole new classes of sensors and microelectromechanical devices.

Quantum computing breakthrough arises from unknown molecule
(Purdue University) In a Nature Physics journal paper currently online, the researchers describe how they have created a new, hybrid molecule in which its quantum state can be intentionally manipulated -- a required step in the building of quantum computers.

Discovery by UC Riverside physicists could enable development of faster computers
(University of California - Riverside) Physicists at the University of California, Riverside, have made an accidental discovery in the lab that has potential to change how information in computers can be transported or stored. Dependent on the "spin" of electrons, a property electrons possess that makes them behave like tiny magnets, the discovery could help in the development of spin-based semiconductor technology such as ultrahigh-speed computers.


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