Digitally tracking cognitive decline

digital-tracking-cognitive-declinePinpointing where healthy brain aging leaves off and dementia begins is difficult. Is a slip in memory an expected outcome for a too-busy person or a warning of something else? If an empty-nester loses the motivation to cook, is it a sign that the person is enjoying retirement after a lifetime spent cooking or an early sign of a cognitive decline?

Now, experts are now turning to computerized tools to detect dementia in earlier stages. Early detection might bring more successful clinical trials for treatments, which, by and large, have failed for full-blown dementia; at the very least, early detection helps people prepare for what is to come.

Read this story at IEEE Pulse.

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Committing to memory

committing-to-memoryCell phone chimes, sticky notes, even the proverbial string around a finger—these external cues help guard against inevitable memory lapses. But internal help to the brain itself may be on the way in the form of  memory prosthetics. Once considered to be on the fringes of neuroscience, the idea of adding hardware to the brain to help with memory is gathering steam.

Read this story at IEEE Pulse.

Remote control of seizures

chemogeneticsDuring a seizure, the brain’s electrical signals run amok, producing torrents of neural activity that can cause a person to lose consciousness, shake involuntarily and disconcertingly, and even stop breathing. Researchers are now forging a path toward controlling seizures through chemogenetics, a method that introduces molecular control switches into the brain.

Read this story at IEEE Pulse.

Steering organoids toward discovery

organoids-openerSince the 1980s, stem cells’ shape-shifting abilities have wowed scientists. With proper handling, a few growth factors, and some time, stem cells can be cooked up into specific cell types, including neurons, muscle, and skin.

Yet, stem cells know more than they’re given credit for. Over the past decade, researchers have discovered that, left to their own devices, stem cells will generate multiple cell types that assemble into structures resembling an organ. These “organoids” have been made for many body parts, including the retina, liver, intestine, kidney, and even the brain.

Read this story at IEEE Pulse.