Month: October 2017

22 Oct 2017

How to Set Your New Employees Up for Success by Making Them Feel Welcome

When a new employee comes to work for you (or alongside you), making them feel welcome should be a top priority. And that’s because making a new employee feel confident, valued and engaged since the very beginning makes it much more likely that you’ll retain them for longer and help them feel motivated in their work.

Here’s a little help on how to set a good example and work positively, while making your new employee feel like part of the team from the very start.

When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.

Here are a few ways to make your new employees feel welcome:

Prepare Their Work Space

There’s nothing worse for a new employee than arriving at a new company and having no space to call their own.

Make sure your new arrival has a clean desk space and a computer with login details already set up. Provide them with the space they need to work efficiently and consider seating them next to the person they’ll be working most closely with. That way they can reach out for support more easily.

Give Them A Tour

Starting a new job can be intimidating. Not knowing the people they’ll be working with, not having a full grasp of what they’ll be doing, along with a new environment, it all adds up to the anxiety of a new start.

But introducing new hires to their workplace is the easiest fix of them all. That’s why all new employees should be given a tour of the office, shown all of the equipment they’ll need to complete their work, but also where they can make themselves a coffee and go take a break.

Giving them a personal tour will help create a positive and open relationship from the start. This can be a great stepping stone for your relationship, as it will communicate to the new employees that they can rely on you for leadership and guidance.

Introduce Them

If you have a big office, introducing your new employee to others — a few at a time — can be a less daunting experience than meeting everyone at once. We’ve all had the trouble of being introduced to lots of people at once and barely being able to remember one name correctly.

If you’d like to take things a step further, you could also provide a list of employees with photos, along with some fun tidbits of information on everyone around the office. Being able to put a face next to a name can help employees fit in much more quickly.

new-employees-having-fun-with-colleagues

Plan a Social Occasion

Getting to know people in the office environment can be tricky. Everyone has their own daily tasks to get on with and deadlines to meet, oftentimes being too busy to greet and chat with the new people that joined.

But feeling like you belong is very important to anyone joining a new work place. So consider planning a small social get-together with the new person and their team (or even the wider company if appropriate.) It could be something as simple as after-work drinks or a coffee and cake morning at the office.

Socializing in a less formal environment will help your new employee fit in faster, while also learning about their new colleagues and making valuable connections that will make them appreciate their new job more.

Plan Their Training

On your new employee’s first few days in the job, they can be left floundering if they aren’t given enough to do. Don’t add to their confusing first week and plan the workload and training for them in advance. Give them small, manageable projects that will ease them into the role, while also being useful. This can give a huge boost to their confidence and motivation.

Provide A Support Network

Some companies expect new employees to be up and running within days. This can put a lot of pressure on a newbie to learn the ropes fast. They don’t want to ask questions out of fear of looking like they’re not up to the job. But this can lead to mistakes and a feeling of being overwhelmed, which is the worst way to kick-off what could otherwise be a great opportunity for your new hire.

Encourage your new employee to come to you or a dedicated buddy with any questions they have. This will reassure them that they’re not being left to sink or swim. Instead they have a ready-made support network around them.

Making your new employees feel welcome from their very first day can have lots of benefits for them, you, and the wider team. It will also help further promote a positive work environment where employees, new and old, are embraced, motivated and valued each and every day.

Source: Goalcast

21 Oct 2017

Bitcoin Breaks $100 Billion in Value, Soars Over $6000 for the First Time in History

IN BRIEF

Bitcoin, which is unarguably the world’s most prominent digital currency, just broke through one of the most important milestones ever, vaulting to over $6000 and over $100 billion in value.

Welcome to a new kind of currency, or rather, welcome to a new kind of financial system. Today, for the first time ever, Bitcoin surpassed the $6000 barrier, proving that cryptocurrency is, in all likeliness, here to stay.

Bitfinex, which has the highest volume BTC/USD exchange, broke the $6,000 barrier initially. Now, the same can be said for all of the other major exchanges. It has only been a little over a week since the price of bitcoin soared passed $5,300, and then it quickly surpassed $5,800. Now, it has surpassed another barrier.

Ultimately, this surged caused its market capitalization to exceed $100 billion for the first time.

 

The digital currency is expected to continue rising in price, with cryptocurrency mogul Mike Novogratz predicting that it could hit $10,000 sometime next year and other industry experts saying it will top $25,000 within the next 5 years.

Considering how quickly Bitcoin has risen recently, such predictions may not be impossible…or even unlikely.

That said, Bitcoin isn’t infallible and could eventually collapse. Earlier this month, Harvard professor of economics Kenneth Rogoff claimed that it is only a matter of time before the currency takes a turn for the worse:

“It is one thing for governments to allow small anonymous transactions with virtual currencies; indeed, this would be desirable,” he said in an article that he wrote for MarketWatch. “But it is an entirely different matter for governments to allow large-scale anonymous payments, which would make it extremely difficult to collect taxes or counter criminal activity.”

This year alone, Bitcoin has been impacted by bans and restrictions that were set in countries like China, Russia, and South Korea. It seems, however, that these developments were only minor stumbling blocks for the currency, as Bitcoin has risen by more than 500 percent in value this year alone, and Vladimir Putin subsequently stated that Russia would issue its own cryptocurrency.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

Source: Futurism

19 Oct 2017

Reversing Paralysis

Scientists are making remarkable progress at using brain implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away.

Availability: 10 to 15 years

Go, go!” was the thought racing through Grégoire Courtine’s mind.

The French neuroscientist was watching a macaque monkey as it hunched aggressively at one end of a treadmill. His team had used a blade to slice halfway through the animal’s spinal cord, paralyzing its right leg. Now Courtine wanted to prove he could get the monkey walking again. To do it, he and colleagues had installed a recording device beneath its skull, touching its motor cortex, and sutured a pad of flexible electrodes around the animal’s spinal cord, below the injury. A wireless connection joined the two electronic devices.

The result: a system that read the monkey’s intention to move and then transmitted it immediately in the form of bursts of electrical stimulation to its spine. Soon enough, the monkey’s right leg began to move. Extend and flex. Extend and flex. It hobbled forward. “The monkey was thinking, and then boom, it was walking,” recalls an exultant Courtine, a professor with Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

nimals and a few people have controlled computer cursors or robotic arms with their thoughts, thanks to a brain implant wired to machines. Now researchers are taking a significant next step toward reversing paralysis once and for all. They are wirelessly connecting the brain-reading technology directly to electrical stimulators on the body, creating what Courtine calls a “neural bypass” so that people’s thoughts can again move their limbs.

At Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, a middle-aged quadriplegic—he can’t move anything but his head and shoulder—agreed to let doctors place two recording implants in his brain, of the same type Courtine used in the monkeys. Made of silicon, and smaller than a postage stamp, they bristle with a hundred hair-size metal probes that can “listen” as neurons fire off commands.

Reversing Paralysis
  • BreakthroughWireless brain-body electronic interfaces to bypass damage to the nervous system.
  • Why It MattersThousands of people suffer paralyzing injuries every year.
  • Key Players– École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
    – Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering
    – University of Pittsburgh
    – Case Western Reserve University
  • Availability10 to 15 years

To complete the bypass, the Case team, led by Robert Kirsch and Bolu Ajiboye, also slid more than 16 fine electrodes into the muscles of the man’s arm and hand. In videos of the experiment, the volunteer can be seen slowly raising his arm with the help of a spring-loaded arm rest, and willing his hand to open and close. He even raises a cup with a straw to his lips. Without the system, he can’t do any of that.

Just try sitting on your hands for a day. That will give you an idea of the shattering consequences of spinal cord injury. You can’t scratch your nose or tousle a child’s hair. “But if you have this,” says Courtine, reaching for a red espresso cup and raising it to his mouth with an actor’s exaggerated motion, “it changes your life.”

Grégoire Courtine holds the two main parts of the brain-spine interface.

PHOTOGRAPH BY HILLARY SANCTUARY | EPFL

The Case results, pending publication in a medical journal, are a part of a broader effort to use implanted electronics to restore various senses and abilities. Besides treating paralysis, scientists hope to use so-called neural prosthetics to reverse blindness with chips placed in the eye, and maybe restore memories lost to Alzheimer’s disease (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013: Memory Implants”).

And they know it could work. Consider cochlear implants, which use a microphone to relay signals directly to the auditory nerve, routing around non-working parts of the inner ear. Videos of wide-eyed deaf children hearing their mothers for the first time go viral on the Internet every month. More than 250,000 cases of deafness have been treated.

In this video made by EPFL researchers, a monkey with a spinal cord injury that paralyzed its right leg is able to walk again.

But it’s been harder to turn neural prosthetics into something that helps paralyzed people. A patient first used a brain probe to move a computer cursor across a screen back in 1998. That and several other spectacular brain-control feats haven’t had any broader practical use. The technology remains too radical and too complex to get out of the lab. “Twenty years of work and nothing in the clinic!” Courtine exclaims, brushing his hair back. “We keep pushing the limits, but it is an important question if this entire field will ever have a product.”

Courtine’s laboratory is located in a vertiginous glass-and-steel building in Geneva that also houses a $100 million center that the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss funded specifically to solve the remaining technical obstacles to neurotechnologies like the spinal cord bypass. It’s hiring experts from medical-device makers and Swiss watch companies and has outfitted clean rooms where gold wires are printed onto rubbery electrodes that can stretch as our bodies do.

A close-up of a brain-reading chip, bristling with electrodes.
Flexible electrodes developed to simulate the spinal cord.

The head of the center is John Donoghue, an American who led the early development of brain implants in the U.S. (see “Implanting Hope”) and who moved to Geneva two years ago. He is now trying to assemble in one place the enormous technical resources and talent—skilled neuroscientists, technologists, clinicians—needed to create commercially viable systems.

Among Donoghue’s top priorities is a “neurocomm,” an ultra-compact wireless device that can collect data from the brain at Internet speed. “A radio inside your head,” Donoghue calls it, and “the most sophisticated brain communicator in the world.” The matchbox-size prototypes are made of biocompatible titanium with a sapphire window. Courtine used an earlier, bulkier version in his monkey tests.

As complex as they are, and as slow as progress has been, neural bypasses are worth pursuing because patients desire them, Donoghue says. “Ask someone if they would like to move their own arm,” he says. “People would prefer to be restored to their everyday self. They want to be reanimated.”

A model of a wireless neurocommunication device sits on a skull.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603492/10-breakthrough-technologies-2017-reversing-paralysis/

 

18 Oct 2017

We May Have Found a Pathway That Controls Aging

Cracking Aging in Animals

A team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has identified a conserved molecular pathway that controls health and lifespan in nematode worms (Caenorhabditis elegans) — a frequently studied model organism in biological research.

“We find that by artificially increasing or decreasing the levels of a family of proteins called Kruppel-like transcription factors (KLFs), we can actually get C. elegans to live for longer or shorter time periods,” study first author Dr. Nelson Hsieh said to Sci News. “Since this same family of proteins also exists in mammals, what is really exciting is that our data suggests KLFs also have similar effects on aging in mammals, too.”

Animal models are essential to biological research. To study a human disease or process you can’t perform most preliminary work on humans for ethical reasons. Therefore, you must instead develop a model. While some models can stay in vitro (outside a living body) eventually you must be able to produce the disease in a context that allows study — e.g. in a living body. Animal models, such as nematode worms and mice, enable a much closer approximation to a human response to disease and other processes.

Image Credit: Hsieh et al./Nature
Image Credit: Hsieh et al./Nature

Mice share 99 percent of their DNA with humans, and have short  lifespans compared to humans and other mammals. Therefore, studies with mice involving “knockout” genes allows researchers to observe the effects of removing single genes. C. elegans is also useful, especially in aging research, for several reasons. For one, the worms have a short three day lifecycle, allowing researchers to observe many generations quickly. They are very simple organisms, which makes the effects of single proteins much easier to see. C. elegans’ genome was sequenced by the end of 1998, so scientists have had ample opportunities to experiment with this relatively short, but very well-known, genome.

Lessons Applied to Humans

The research also demonstrated that C. elegans with high levels of KLF proteins lived healthier, longer lives than normal worms. Similarly, mice with elevated levels of KLF proteins were found to exhibit a delay in age-related blood vessel dysfunction. The team determined that the KLF proteins’ function is to control autophagy — a quality control mechanism that allows cells to clear up debris such as molecular byproducts and misfolded proteins that build over time, reaching critical mass in old age. Loss of this process of cleaning and recycling is a classic sign of aging.

Cells are less able to undertake these recycling functions as they age. Once an unsustainable level of toxic debris builds up, cellular survival is threatened. This is why the team observed worms without KLF proteins dying early, as their cells were no longer able to maintain autophagy. From here, the researchers plan to study how autophagy affects blood vessel function, and develop strategies for targeting KLF proteins in humans.

“The observation that KLF levels decrease with age and that sustained levels of KLFs can prevent the age-associated loss of blood vessel function is intriguing given that vascular dysfunction contributes significantly to diverse age-associated conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and dementia,” senior author Professor Mukesh K. Jain said to Sci News.

“As our population ages, we need to understand what happens to our heart and arteries, as we rely on them to function perfectly later and later on in our lives,” Dr. Hsieh added to Sci News. “Our findings illuminate what can happen during aging, and provide a foundation to designing interventions which slow these processes.”

Source: Futurism

17 Oct 2017

In the Future, Your Home May Be Powered by a Tesla Battery

IN BRIEF

A shift in how electricity is generated and when it’s used is creating a massive need for home batteries. These home energy storage devices, like Tesla’s Powerwall, are particularly useful during natural disasters.

THE BATTERY-POWERED FUTURE

Battery technology has essentially been the same over the past years, albeit with a bunch of improvements that increase battery capacity and prolong battery life. Lithium ion batteries remain the popular choice, and they’re found in all of today’s battery-powered mobile devices and in many electric cars. Soon, these batteries might also be powering your houses, thanks to the likes of Tesla and other startups that now sell these home batteries to utility providers.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, homes located in New York, California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Arizona, and in other states are working on new ways to make their electric grids battery-powered, an infrastructural switch which Ravi Manghani of GTM Research says is a “powerful need.” Without home batteries, the ability of utility companies to deliver power is in danger.

Utilities often have difficulty allocating excess power, particularly those on interstate markets where at certain times the price of electricity tends to dip into the negative. Usually, utilities resort to dumping excess electricity or paying others to take it. With the rise of solar power, the same issue happens. Energy generated by solar panels depend on certain conditions and, more often, generation doesn’t match the needs of homes.

In California and Arizona, the Journal reports, there’s lost of solar electricity during the day at cool times of the year and too little at night, when usage spikes. “This is not a long-term theoretical issue that might happen—this is now,” Marc Romito, Arizona Public Service director of customer technology, told the Journal. Home batteries are sorely needed.

IN A TIME OF NEED

There’s wisdom in keeping spare batteries at home, or in this case, keeping your home plugged into one. Particularly during times of disasters, home batteries can be really useful. When the grid is down, home batteries coupled with solar panels can provide much needed electricity, as was the case in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, where customers of Tesla and German battery-maker Sonen were able to keep their houses powered. Tesla has also, in fact, started shipping batteries to Puerto Rico, which has been largely without power since Hurricane Maria.

It’s this self-sustaining energy ecosystem that Tesla’s been working on thanks to their Powerwall and Powerpack batteries. Both work as electricity storage units, with the former designed for homes, while the latter is meant for utilities. Instead of relying on the grid, the home batteries like the Powerwall allow households to source out electricity, so to speak, following what some have called a “grid defection.” It’s enough to even power a small island.

The likes of Tesla, Sonen, and even Ikea in the U.K., are making this grid defection into a reality, in the U.S. and abroad. For example, both companies have partnered with Green Mountain Power in Vermont, which offers 2,000 home owners the chance to install a Powerwall for just $15 a month. Meanwhile, real-estate developer Mandalay Homes recently announced plans to build some 4,000 energy-efficient homes each with an 8-kilowatt-hour battery from Sonen — 2,900 of which would be built in Prescott, Arizona.

In short, as the market for electricity undergoes a radical shift thanks to the availability of renewable energy sources — especially the increasing popularity of cheaper solar home panels — power storage is becoming an important factor. Home batteries are the future.

Source: Futurism

16 Oct 2017

Scientists Confirmed the Theory Behind the Quantum Networks of the Future

IN BRIEF

Scientists have finally been able to demonstrate and prove the theory of quantum entanglement of many atoms — 16 million, in fact — revealed by a single photon.

QUANTUM LIGHT ANALYSIS

Quantum theory predicts entanglement; that huge numbers of atoms can be intertwined due to quantum forces, across distances, or inside macroscopic structures. However, “predicts” has been the key phrase up until recently — as actual hard evidence from experiments has been lacking. Experimental evidence was just presented by University of Geneva scientists, who demonstrated the entanglement of 16 million atoms in a one-centimeter crystal.

Achieving entanglement hasn’t been the real challenge for physicists looking to generate empirical proof of the concept, though. Researchers can generate entangled photons by splitting a photon. It is the observation and recording of entanglement that has proven next to impossible — until now. With one caveat, as explained by UNIGE applied physics group researcher Florian Fröwis explained in a press release  about the team’s research. “But it’s impossible to directly observe the process of entanglement between several million atoms since the mass of data you need to collect and analyze is so huge.”

Image Credit: UNIGE
Image Credit: UNIGE

Therefore, Fröwis and his team took inventory of which measurements they were able to take, and of those, which might be able to generate the evidence they were searching for. They settled on the single direction of light re-emitted by the crystal, and analyzed its statistical properties. This was how the the team was able to show the entanglement of 16 million atoms, rather than a few thousand.

QUANTUM FUTURES

Quantum networks will be essential to data protection in the future, because they make it possible to send a signal and detect any interception of that signal by a third part immediately. To send and receive these kinds of signals, you need quantum repeaters which can unify entangled atoms with a strong quantum relationship despite being separated by great distances. These quantum repeaters house crystal blocks supercooled to 270 degrees below zero and enriched with rare earth atoms. Once these blocks are penetrated by a photon, entanglement is created.

Particle entanglement is at the heart of the coming revolutions in quantum computing and quantum encryption, which will themselves be driving everything from artificial intelligence to personalized medicine. And while this is high-level stuff, it all depends on the entanglement of atoms at the quantum level, which this research has demonstrated on an unprecedented scale.

Read more: Futurism

14 Oct 2017

You Cannot Always Change Situations, but You Can Change Your Attitude

I am sure that there are certain situations and circumstances in your life that you would like to change. Often, it is quite simple to make changes, but we let laziness, procrastination or fear to stand in our way.

You might be surprised to hear that many of the changes you would like to make are within you reach, and often, within your immediate reach.

For example, you might always complain that you have no time to read. If reading is so important to you, what’s so difficult to arrange your day so that you can find the time? You can always get up half an hour earlier in the morning, or give up half an hour of watching TV in favor of reading a book.

Do you want to learn a foreign language, swim twice a week or arrange your wardrobe? These are simple to accomplish goals, but you might always seek excuses why you don’t have the time for them. You simply do not give them any priority, and prefer to stick to your comfort zone.

Sometimes, we might encounter situations and circumstances that we are unable change. What should we deal with such situations?

If you cannot change a situation, accept it, and learn to live with it. Sure, this requires a certain degree of self-discipline and inner strength.

You might complain, resent the situation and the people involved and be unhappy. This would not help change the situation, and you will be creating suffering and unhappiness for you.

You cannot always change a situation or circumstances, but you can change your attitude toward it.

Changing external situations and circumstances might not always be possible, but changing your attitude is possible.

Read this sentence several times and try to remember it. You cannot always change situations and circumstances, but you can certainly learn to change your attitude. Instead of feeling resentful, frustrated and unhappy, you can learn to be calm, accept the situation, and not fight with it. You can try to look at the situation dispassionately, and try to find out what you can learn from it.

  • Are there people you cannot get along with at work?
  • Do you have neighbors you do not like?
  • Is your boss too demanding?

Will you leave your job or go live somewhere else because of that?

Often, by accepting the situation, it will stop bothering you, or a solution might come along.

Various situations and circumstances could be lessons you need to learn, and after learning and acknowledging the lessons, the situations and circumstances will start to change.

If you accept what you cannot change and learn to live with it, it will stop to be an issue and stop to bother it.

When you accept what you cannot change, you save yourself a lot of energy and time, and can devote your time to better things than thinking about the situation you cannot change.

When you accept what you cannot change, sometimes, even without any effort on your part, as if miraculously, things start to change and improve.

Some people might misinterpret what I said and think that accepting situations means giving up. Others might regard acceptance as an excuse for laziness and doing nothing. This is far from the truth. Acceptance of situations that you cannot change is wisdom and not passivity, and has nothing with giving up and should not be an excuse for passivity.

You cannot change the past, and regretting and feeling bad about it is not going to change it. However, you can learn to stop dwelling on the past and move on.

If you don’t like one of your colleagues at work and you do not get along with him, anger and resentment would not help. However, you can try to be friendly and stop being resentful.

Suppose it is raining outside, but you need to go to work, go the grocery or meet friends. You cannot stop the train and you cannot fight the rain. Would you give up and stay at home, or wear a raincoat and go outside despite rain?

If it is very hot outside and you need to go somewhere, will anger and unhappiness change the weather? You can let thoughts about the weather to cause you suffering and unhappiness, and you can accept it and live with it.

When you change your attitude toward people, situations or circumstances they stop bothering you and they stop causing you suffering.

When you change your attitude, you start to feel better, you become happier, recognize opportunities to make changes, and on many occasions, the situations or circumstances you could not change, begin to change. By changing your attitude, situations and circumstances would start to change, as if by magic.

Are there any tools that can help you change your attitude? Yes, there are a few, such as repeating affirmations, practicing visualization and developing inner peace.

Source:SuccessConsciousness

13 Oct 2017

Bitcoin Price Goes Over $5,800, Setting a New All-Time High Record in Less Than 24 Hours

After reaching a record high $5,300 price at the end of Thursday, Bitcoin surged even higher earlier this morning. Bitcoin’s renewed price vigor seems to indicate that the market has now gotten over the fears caused by recent policy concerns.

Bitcoin prices surged past the $5,300 mark on Thursday, closing at $5,363 — only to reach a new all-time high value at $5,856.10 some time early Friday morning, after markets had opened at a $5,439.

The increase in value comes after Russia banned Bitcoin and expressed interest in rival Ethereum. The Russian ban followed previous moves against cryptocurrencies by South Korea and China, which included prohibiting initial coin offerings (ICOs). The market, it would seem, finally got over the fears incited by these moves.

bitcoin-price-surge-coindesk
Image credit: Coindesk

At the time of writing, revitalized Bitcoin is now at $5,714.95 marking a more than 13 percent increase in value in less than one day, and an over 30 percent increase in just one week. It isn’t the only cryptocurrency benefitting from the price surge, as the overall cryptocurrency market cap peaked at $171.94 billion early Friday morning — almost reaching a high comparable to that of September 1, when it reached $172.5 billion. Bitcoin, which makes up more than 55 percent of the whole crypto market, capped at $95.5 billion today (Friday, Oct 13).

Cryptocurrencies are no stranger to fluctuations in prices, which critics are always quick to note. Experts say crypto is destined to be more than a fad however, and that Bitcoin’s popularity will herald a bigger blockchain revolution. Whatever the case may be, experts expect Bitcoin to go as high as $6,000 by the end of the year, and over $10,000 by the first half of 2018.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

Read more at: Futurism

12 Oct 2017

Scientists Just Used Brain Stimulation to Literally Change How People Think

IN BRIEF

What if you could improve your mental aptitude and performance by directly stimulating specific parts of the brain? That’s what a team of researchers from Boston University wanted to find out, and they developed an experimental procedure that can change how you think.

HITTING THE RIGHT LOBES

A team of researchers from Boston University (BU) has explored the possibility of enhancing a person’s ability to learn and control their behavior — in short, to change how people think — by stimulating the brain. BU researcher Robert Reinhart used a new form of brain stimulation, called high-definition transcranial alternating current stimulation (HD-tACS), to “turbo charge” two brain regions that influence how we learn.

“If you make an error, this brain area fires. If I tell you that you make an error, it also fires. If something surprises you, it fires,” Reinhart said in a BU Research press release, referring to the medial frontal cortex, which he calls the “alarm bell of the brain.”

A scan of a brain involved in the study shows how brain stimulation lights up the medial frontal cortex and prefrontal cortex, both involved in how people learn.
The brain’s right hemisphere was more involved in changing behavior. Image credit: Robert Reinhart/Boston University

Reinhart and his colleagues found that stimulating this region, as well as the lateral prefrontal cortex, could change how a person learns. “These are maybe the two most fundamental brain areas involved with executive function and self-control,” he added.

In a study published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Reinhart’s team described how applying electrical stimulation using HD-tACS quickly and reversibly increased or decreased a healthy person’s executive function, which led to a change in behavior.

SMART CHARGE

Reinhart’s team tested 30 healthy people, each wearing a soft cap with electrodes that conveyed the stimulation. The test was simple: each subject had to press a button every 1.7 seconds. In the first three rounds of tests, the researchers either cranked up the synchronicity between the two lobes, disrupted it, or did nothing.

The participants’ brain activity, monitored with an electroencephalogram (EEG), showed statistically significant results. When the brain waves were upped, the subjects learned faster and made fewer mistakes, which they corrected abruptly. When it was disrupted, they made more errors and learned more slowly.

Although their study still leaves much to learn, the BU team was actually the first to identify and test how the millions of cells in the medial frontal cortex and the lateral prefrontal cortex communicate with each other through low frequency brain waves. “The science is much stronger, much more precise than what’s been done earlier,” said David Somers, a BU brain sciences and psychology professor who wasn’t part of the study.What was even more surprising was when 30 new participants took an adjusted version of the test. This group started with their brain activity temporarily disrupted, but then received stimulation in the middle of the activity. The participants quickly recovered their original brain synchronicity levels and learning behavior. “We were shocked by the results and how quickly the effects of the stimulation could be reversed,” says Reinhart.

The bigger question, Somers noted, is how far a person can go with such a technology. Who doesn’t want to have their brain performance enhanced? This could produce the same effects as nootropics or smart drugs, but with fewer potential side effects, as the brain is stimulated directly. Having access to such a technology could be a game changer — but just as with smart drugs, there’s the question of who should have access to such a technology.

Source: Futurism

10 Oct 2017

New Eyeglass Accessory Translates Sound Into Light for the Hearing Impaired

IN BRIEF

A group of students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design have designed a clip-on accessory for glasses that turns nearby sounds into flashing lights. The project, called Peri, is meant to help those suffering from hearing loss.

Peri is an accessory that clips onto eyeglasses and translates nearby sounds into flashing lights — perfect for those with hearing problems, who sometimes miss out on what’s being said to them, or on noises that could alert them to events occurring nearby.

The design takes some inspiration from video games, which alert the player to nearby threats via a red glow. In games, however, they typically only appear when someone takes damage, while Peri could help the wearer avoid harm.

Pavithren Pakianathan, lead designer of the team from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), told Mashable it took about four months to complete the current prototype, which utilizes four microphones and LED lights. Peri’s circuits create a specific lighting pattern according to the loudest sound detected, and indicate the direction of the sound. The project was so impressive it won the James Dyson engineering award.

The Peri prototype, worn by one of the team members. (Image Credit: Peri/Pavithren Pakianathan)

Pakianathan and his team aim to improve the accessory’s design while maintaining the low cost to users. Future iterations may be able to better separate sounds in busy areas, and could include light sensors capable of adjusting the brightness of the LED lights.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 5 percent of the world’s population(360 millions people) suffer from hearing loss, with 32 million being children. If Peri, or a similar idea, gets proper funding, development, and becomes mainstream, it could improve the lives of those with hearing problems, and provide some additional color to their quieter world.

Source: Futurism