Thursday, January 28, 2016

VR filmmaking Sundance, ILM

PTSD - electric patch:

Enter an experimental electrical brain treatment for PTSD called "trigeminal nerve stimulation" (TNS).
The treatment relies on a 9-volt battery that powers a low-level current that zaps the brain through an external forehead patch worn during sleep, according to the researchers. The current targets the patient's autonomic nervous system and brain regions that regulate mood, behavior and thought.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Drug to cure fear

A Drug to Cure Fear

Credit Jillian Tamaki
WHO among us hasn’t wanted to let go of anxiety or forget about fear? Phobias, panic attacks and disorders like post-traumatic stress are extremely common: 29 percent of American adults will suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives.
Sitting at the heart of much anxiety and fear is emotional memory — all the associations that you have between various stimuli and experiences and your emotional response to them. Whether it’s the fear of being embarrassed while talking to strangers (typical of social phobia) or the dread of being attacked while walking down a dark street after you’ve been assaulted (a symptom of PTSD), you have learned that a previously harmless situation predicts something dangerous.
It has been an article of faith in neuroscience and psychiatry that, once formed, emotional memories are permanent. Afraid of heights or spiders? The best we could do was to get you to tolerate them, but we could never really rid you of your initial fear. Or so the thinking has gone.
The current standard of treatment for such phobias revolves around exposure therapy. This involves repeatedly presenting the feared object or frightening memory in a safe setting, so that the patient acquires a new safe memory that resides in his brain alongside the bad memory. As long as the new memory has the upper hand, his fear is suppressed. But if he is re-traumatized or re-exposed with sufficient intensity to the original experience, his old fear will awaken with a vengeance.
This is one of the limitations of exposure therapy, along with the fact that it generally works in only about half of the PTSD patients who try it. Many also find it upsetting or intolerable to relive memories of assaults and other traumatizing experiences.
We urgently need more effective treatments for anxiety disorders. What if we could do better than creating a new safe memory — and actually get rid of emotions attached to the old bad one?
New research suggests that it may be possible not just to change certain types of emotional memories, but even to erase them. We’ve learned that memories are uniquely vulnerable to alteration at two points: when we first lay them down, and later, when we retrieve them.
Merel Kindt, a professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam, and her colleagues have seemingly erased the emotional fear response in healthy people with arachnophobia. For a study published last month in the journal Biological Psychiatry, she compared three groups made up of 45 subjects in total. One group was exposed to a tarantula in a glass jar for two minutes, and then given a beta-blocker called propranolol that is commonly prescribed to patients for performance anxiety; one was exposed to the tarantula and given a placebo; and one was just given propranolol without being shown the spider, to rule out the possibility that propranolol by itself could decrease spider fear.
Credit Jillian Tamaki
Dr. Kindt assessed the subjects’ anxiety when they were shown the spider the first time, then again three months later, and finally after a year. What she found was remarkable. Those who got the propranolol alone and those who got the placebo had no improvement in their anxiety. But the arachnophobes who were exposed to the spider and given the drug were able to touch the tarantula within days and, by three months, many felt comfortable holding the spider with their bare hands. Their fear did not return even at the end of one year.
How does this work? Well, propranolol blocks the effects of norepinephrine in the brain. This chemical, which is similar to adrenaline, enhances learning, so blocking it disrupts the way a memory is put back in storage after it is retrieved — a process called reconsolidation.

Arachnophobes have an emotional memory that involves an association between spiders and a dreaded outcome, like a spider bite. This “fear memory” is the source of their phobia — even if (as is often the case) it never actually happened. The basic idea is that when Dr. Kindt briefly exposed the subjects to the spider, she reactivated their fear, which made the fear memory susceptible to the influence of propranolol.

Reconsolidation is a bit like pulling up a file on your computer, rewriting the same material in a bigger, bolder font and saving it again. Disrupting reconsolidation with propranolol or another drug is akin to retrieving this document, erasing some or all of the text and then writing something new in its place.

Dr. Kindt is not the first to demonstrate that disrupting reconsolidation can weaken or erase emotional memories. Several studies of rats done in 2000 showed that a drug called anisomycin, which blocks the synthesis of proteins in the brain, could reduce fear associations. In one, researchers taught rats to fear a sound by pairing it with a shock. After the animals were fear-conditioned, they were presented with the sound and then immediately given the drug. When the animals were exposed to the sound again, they no longer appeared afraid; they had forgotten their original fear.

Curiously, there is a very narrow time window after retrieving a fear memory when you can disrupt that memory — hours, in the animal studies — before it closes and the drug has no effect.
These studies suggest that someday, a single dose of a drug, combined with exposure to your fear at the right moment, could free you of that fear forever. But there’s a flip side to this story about how to undo emotional learning: how to strengthen it. We can do that with drugs as well, and may have been doing it for some time.

ANXIETY enhances emotional memory. We all know that — it’s why you can easily forget where you put your wallet, but will never forget being attacked. This is the case because anxiety leads to the release of norepinephrine in the brain, which, again, strengthens emotional learning. It is also why we should think twice about casually prescribing stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall for young people who really don’t need them. Stimulants also cause the release of norepinephrine and may enhance fear learning. So it is possible that taking stimulants could increase one’s risk of developing PTSD when exposed to trauma.

Indeed, a study that will be published next month found that the escalating use of stimulants by the military in active duty soldiers, including those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, was strongly correlated with an increase in the rates of PTSD, even when controlling for other factors, like the rate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The study examined the use of prescription stimulants, like Ritalin and Adderall, and the rates of PTSD in nearly 26,000 military service members between 2001 and 2008, and found that the incidence of PTSD increased along with the prescriptions.
By blocking the effect of norepinephrine and disrupting memory reconsolidation, we could perhaps reverse this process. The clear implication of these studies is that emotional memory is not permanent after all.

Before you rush off into a panic about the dystopian possibility of mind control or memory deletion, it’s important to recognize that the procedure in Dr. Kindt’s study only weakened the subjects’ fear memory and avoidant behavior. Although the procedure is able to alter or perhaps delete the fear memory (something exposure therapy cannot do), it does nothing to the factual, or biographical, memory, which remains intact.

This is not “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” the movie in which a dysfunctional couple decides to erase their memories of each other and start their lives all over again. To the contrary, you still remember your biography, but your fear would be stripped of its force. The subjects knew perfectly well after the study that they previously feared spiders and that they now — strangely — felt little to no anxiety around them.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Sources: Mayo Clinic
I'm already like the elderly woman in the illustration, and I can't imagine it's going to get any better.

Sometimes in the morning I find myself staring into the mirror, holding a razor and wondering what I was going to do, and in the next moment my gums are bleeding, or I look down and find my eyebrows in the sink.

Someone on wrote in their profile: 'I hate to sound so one demential' and I made a smart ass remark about her spelling error. But then I recalled an episode involving a wild-eyed, shriveled woman who tried to choke my grandmother at assisted living, and I thought to look up the symptoms of dementia.

I'm perfectly capable of going through a couple of gallons of milk and several dozen eggs, so it's not currently a problem. I've only tried choking myself, and it was below the waist.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Apple VR

More on Doug Bowman:

About 3DUI:


As reported in, Apple has recently hired Doug Bowman, a leading US virtual reality researcher, as it increases its push to explore virtual and augmented reality interfaces. Bowman has previously focused on 3D interface design and has conducted research on virtual reality immersion. He was also part of the team responsible for designing the Virginia Tech Cube, which served as a VR research vehicle.

Bowman’s hire cements recent acquisition activities by Cupertino as it explores immersive and interactive interfaces and virtual assistants. Apple AAPL +0.00% quietly acquired a small UK artificial intelligence outfit in 2015, based in Cambridge and called Vocal IQ, in which many believe is a play to just enhance Siri’s capabilities. Vocal IQ, a speech-related artificial intelligence company, says its technology is a core component to the delivery of the Internet of Things. The software, based on more than a decade of research, offers users the ability to talk more naturally with their smart devices.

Apple believes this is the future of interaction with the objects we take for granted today, not just consumer items such as smartphones, tablets, TVs. The entire environment around us is up for grabs. The vision of talking to your computer like in Star Trek and it fully understanding and executing those commands are about to become reality in the next 5 years, not just explicitly but ambiently.
As reported by Dave Altavilla on Forbes earlier in 2015, Apple had also acquired Metaio, an augmented reality firm. “The most natural, immediate application for Metaio technologies would be with Apple’s iPad line. Tablet platforms have the light-weight portability you need for carrying a 3D mapping-capable device but also have enough mechanical area to house the additional circuitry and camera technology required to implement the design, not to mention the additional CPU and graphics horsepower required.” suggested Dave.

Apple joins a growing group of consumer tech companies exploring AR, VR and Holographic technologies as the future of interaction and interfaces that we will all be using in years to come. It’s only recently emerged that Amazon has patented holographic technology it sees for home use, where they believe a ceiling-mounted node could be used to track the movement of all people in a room and a projector would then use this data to create glasses-free holograms that could be controlled using your hands. Apple has also patented screen free, gesture controlled holographic inputs as far back as February 2011.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Head transplant, monkeys

Head transplant carried out on monkey, claims maverick surgeon

The plan to perform a human head transplant is on track, says Sergio Canavero, after successful experiments on monkeys and mice

The head transplant juggernaut rolls on. Last year, maverick surgeon Sergio Canavero caused a worldwide storm when he revealed his plan to attempt a human head transplant to New Scientist. He claimed that the surgical protocol would be ready within two years and said he intended to offer the surgery as a treatment for complete paralysis.

Now, working with other scientists in China and South Korea, he claims to have moved closer to that goal with a series of experiments in animals and human cadavers.
“I would say we have plenty of data to go on,” says Canavero. “It’s important that people stop thinking this is impossible. This is absolutely possible and we’re working towards it.”

“Science through PR”

The work is described in seven papers set to be published in the journals Surgery and CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics over the next few months. New Scientist has not seen the papers and has not been able verify the latest claims. The issue of CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics will be guest-edited by one of Canavero’s collaborators.

The fact that Canavero has gone public with the latest results before the papers are published has raised eyebrows. “It’s science through public relations,” says Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University School of Medicine. “When it gets published in a peer-reviewed journal I’ll be interested. I think the rest of it is BS.”
Thomas Cochrane, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School’s Centre for Bioethics, agrees that Canavero’s premature disclosure is unorthodox. “It’s frowned upon for good reason,” he says. “It generates excitement before excitement is warranted. It distracts people from actual work that everyone can agree has a valid foundation. As far as I can tell, that operation has mostly been about publicity rather than the production of good science.”
Although we can’t verify them, New Scientist has seen images and videos of some of the procedures Canavero describes.

These include the video above of mice sniffing and moving their legs, apparently weeks after having the spinal cord in their necks severed and then re-fused. C-Yoon Kim, at Konkuk University School of Medicine in South Korea, who carried out the procedure, says his team have demonstrated the recovery of motor function in the forelimbs and hindlimbs of the animals. “Therefore I guess it is possible to reconnect the [spinal] cord after complete severance,” he says.

Canavero says Kim’s work shows that the spinal cord can re-fuse if it is cut cleanly in the presence of polyethylene glycol (PEG), a chemical that preserves nerve cell membranes. “These experiments prove once and for all that simply using PEG, you can see partial recovery,” he says.
As well as the use of PEG, the procedure Canavero outlines in the papers includes techniques to aid recovery such as spinal cord stimulation and the use of a negative pressure device to create a vacuum to encourage the nerves to fuse.

According to Canavero, researchers led by Xiaoping Ren at Harbin Medical University, China, have carried out a head transplant on a monkey. They connected up the blood supply between the head and the new body, but did not attempt to connect the spinal cord. Canavero says the experiment, which repeats the work of Robert White in the US in 1970, demonstrates that if the head is cooled to -15 °C, a monkey can survive the procedure without suffering brain injury.

“The monkey fully survived the procedure without any neurological injury of whatever kind,” says Canavero, adding that it was kept alive for only 20 hours after the procedure for ethical reasons. New Scientist was, however, unable to obtain further details on this experiment.
“We’ve done a pilot study testing some ideas about how to prevent injury,” says Ren, whose work is sponsored by the Chinese government. He and his team have also performed experiments on human cadavers in preparation for carrying out the surgery, he says.

Rich backers needed

Canavero is seeking funds to offer a head transplant to a 31-year-old Russian patient, Valery Spriridonov, who has a genetic muscle-wasting disease. Canavero says he intends to make a plea to Mark Zuckerberg to finance the surgery. Last week, Trinh Hong Son, director of the Vietnam-Germany Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam, offered to host the procedure.
“If the so-called head transplant works, this is going to open up a whole new science of spinal cord trauma reconstruction,” says Michael Sarr, editor of the journal Surgery and a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “We are most interested in spinal cord reconstruction using head transplantation as a proof of principle. Our journal does not necessarily support head transplantation because of multiple ethical issues and multiple considerations of informed consent and the possibility of negative consequences of a head transplant.”

Against the odds

Caplan says Canavero should study nerve regrowth with PEG in people with spinal cord injury before attempting a head transplant. “There are hundreds of thousands of people who could benefit from something that would regrow the spinal cord. It’s like saying I want to fly to the next galaxy when it would be nice to set up a colony on Mars, and I think about the same odds.”
Nevertheless, Canavero believes head transplantation is the only treatment that will work for paralysed patients. “Gene therapy has failed. Stem cells, we’re still waiting. Even if they come now, for these patients there is no hope. Tetraplegia can only be cured with this. Long term, the body decays, organs decay. You have to give them a new body because even if you take care of the cord, you’re going nowhere.”

DARPA brain chip interface

Bridging the Bio-Electronic Divide

New effort aims for fully implantable devices able to connect with up to one million neurons

A new DARPA program aims to develop an implantable neural interface able to provide unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world. The interface would serve as a translator, converting between the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain and the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology. The goal is to achieve this communications link in a biocompatible device no larger than one cubic centimeter in size, roughly the volume of two nickels stacked back to back.

The program, Neural Engineering System Design (NESD), stands to dramatically enhance research capabilities in neurotechnology and provide a foundation for new therapies.

“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, the NESD program manager. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”

Among the program’s potential applications are devices that could compensate for deficits in sight or hearing by feeding digital auditory or visual information into the brain at a resolution and experiential quality far higher than is possible with current technology.

Neural interfaces currently approved for human use squeeze a tremendous amount of information through just 100 channels, with each channel aggregating signals from tens of thousands of neurons at a time. The result is noisy and imprecise. In contrast, the NESD program aims to develop systems that can communicate clearly and individually with any of up to one million neurons in a given region of the brain.

Achieving the program’s ambitious goals and ensuring that the envisioned devices will have the potential to be practical outside of a research setting will require integrated breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing. In addition to the program’s hardware challenges, NESD researchers will be required to develop advanced mathematical and neuro-computation techniques to first transcode high-definition sensory information between electronic and cortical neuron representations and then compress and represent those data with minimal loss of fidelity and functionality.

To accelerate that integrative process, the NESD program aims to recruit a diverse roster of leading industry stakeholders willing to offer state-of-the-art prototyping and manufacturing services and intellectual property to NESD researchers on a pre-competitive basis. In later phases of the program, these partners could help transition the resulting technologies into research and commercial application spaces.

To familiarize potential participants with the technical objectives of NESD, DARPA will host a Proposers Day meeting that runs Tuesday and Wednesday, February 2-3, 2016, in Arlington, Va. The Special Notice announcing the Proposers Day meeting is available at A Broad Agency Announcement describing the specific capabilities sought will be forthcoming on

NESD is part of a broader portfolio of programs within DARPA that support President Obama’s brain initiative. For more information about DARPA’s work in that domain, please visit:

Friday, January 15, 2016

hormone increases life span 40%
  • FGF21 is produced by the thymus gland and extends lifespan by 40%
  • Scientists discovered it protects the immune system from effects of age
  • Hope it could help treat elderly, obesity, cancer and type 2 diabetes