Chapter 1. An Introduction to Brain and Behavior

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by Lindsey Bever A rare, brain-damaging virus has killed at least 10 people in southern India, where medical crews are scrambling to manage the spread of the deadly disease — and to minimize panic. Health officials said Tuesday that 10 people who were exposed to the Nipah virus and showed symptoms have died. Two others have tested positive for Nipah and are considered critically ill, and more than three dozen people have been put into quarantine since the outbreak began in the Indian state of Kerala, according to BBC News. “This is a new situation for us; we have no prior experience in dealing with the Nipah virus,” said K.K. Shailaja, health minister of the state, according to Reuters. “We are hopeful we can put a stop to the outbreak.” Shailaja had said earlier the outbreak had been “effectively” contained and that there was no need for the public to panic. But the virus's spread — and the rapidly rising death toll — have prompted concern in the outbreak's epicenter, Kozhikode, a coastal city in Kerala, where people have been “swarming” hospitals with fevers and other illnesses to ensure they do not have the virus, a local government official told Reuters. “We’ve sought the help of private hospitals to tide over the crisis,” said the official, U.V. Jose. Gulf News reported that Kerala “is in a state of panic after many cases of the killer Nipah virus were detected.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25009 - Posted: 05.23.2018

by Karin Brulliard For several years, an animal rights organization has sought to convince New York courts that chimpanzees kept by private owners are “legal persons” with a right to be free. For several years, the courts have rejected that argument. New York’s highest court did the same on Tuesday, denying an appeal of a lower court’s refusal to grant writs of habeas corpus to two caged chimps named Tommy and Kiko. But in a striking concurring opinion that was cheered by the chimps’ advocates, one judge wrote that the legal question at the heart of the case — whether all animals are mere property or things — is far from settled. “Does an intelligent nonhuman animal who thinks and plans and appreciates life as human beings do have the right to the protection of the law against arbitrary cruelties and enforced detentions visited on him or her?” wrote Eugene Fahey, one of five Court of Appeals judges who ruled on the matter. “This is not merely a definitional question, but a deep dilemma of ethics and policy that demands our attention.” The 5-to-0 vote upheld a June decision by a lower appeals court that, like courts before it, ruled that chimpanzees could not be legal persons because they cannot take on legal duties. The Nonhuman Rights Project, which has asked courts to move Tommy and Kiko to a sanctuary, says the interpretation is flawed. The group’s director, Steven M. Wise, has noted in interviews that both infants or comatose people possess rights despite an inability to assume legal duties and that primate experts say chimps have rights and responsibilities within peer groups and in settings with humans. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24956 - Posted: 05.10.2018

By Vanessa Zainzinger Two years ago, when the U.S. Congress approved a major rewrite of the nation’s chemical safety law, lawmakers ordered federal regulators to take steps to reduce the number of animals that companies use to test compounds for safety. But a recent analysis by two animal welfare groups found that the number of animal tests requested or required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jumped dramatically last year, from just a few dozen tests involving fewer than 7000 animals in 2016, to more than 300 tests involving some 75,000 rats, rabbits, and other vertebrates. The cause of the increase isn’t clear. But the new law imposes stricter requirements on a broader array of chemicals than its predecessor, including both new products and ones already on the market, and experts say EPA staff may be trying to comply by gathering more test data from companies. Both industry and animal welfare groups are alarmed by the trend, and are asking agency officials to clarify why they are requesting the tests—and how they plan to reduce the number in the future. In a 27 March letter to EPA officials, the two Washington, D.C.–based groups that produced the analysis—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)—wrote that the “appalling” number of animals being used in tests “indicates EPA is failing to balance” its responsibility to evaluate chemicals’ risks against its obligation to pursue alternatives to animal testing. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24954 - Posted: 05.09.2018

Nicola Davis Brain tumour research is to get an £18 million injection of funding to aid projects ranging from exploring how such cancers begin to developing new ways to treat them. More than 250,000 people worldwide, including 11,400 people in the UK alone, are diagnosed with a brain tumour every year and often the prognosis is bleak. According to Cancer Research UK figures, just 14% of those diagnosed survive for 10 years or more, while less than 1% of brain tumours are preventable. The disease was recently thrown into the spotlight after Tessa Jowell, the former Labour minister, revealed she has terminal brain cancer. Among the reasons why treatments have proved elusive, experts say, are that brain tumours show a lot of variation from person to person, are often diagnosed at an advanced stage, and are often resistant to treatments used for other cancers, with the blood-brain barrier also preventing some drugs from reaching the cancer. Also, as the cancer is in the brain, it is not possible to remove large amounts of tissue during surgery. “The human brain has about 100bn neurons and each of those neurons connects to tens of thousands of other neurons – it is incredibly complex,” said Dr Iain Foulkes, CRUK’s executive director of research and innovation. “What we are trying to do here is understand one of the most complex diseases known to humankind, which is cancer, in the most complex of organs. So it is a big challenge.” © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24929 - Posted: 05.02.2018

By Neuroskeptic | I’ve been thinking lately about the question of what leads scientists to choose a discipline. Why does someone end up as a chemist rather than a biologist? A geneticist as opposed to a cognitive neuroscientist? We might hope that people choose their discipline based on an understanding of what doing research in each discipline involves, but I don’t think this often happens. I know it didn’t happen in my case. Here, then, is how I became a neuroscientist. As far back as I can remember, I had always wanted to be a scientist. As a young child there was no doubt in my mind about that. But back then I didn’t know what kind of science I was most interested in. I didn’t even know that I would eventually have to pick one. When I got to high school, I did well in both chemistry and biology, and I enjoyed studying both. (The less said about physics the better). But it was biology that really held my attention. Chemistry, it seemed to me, was pretty much finished. The big discoveries had all been made already. Only biology was still a work in progress. I realize now that this was a superficial view, but that was how I saw it at 17. So biology it was. But which kind of biology? Here, I didn’t really have a clue. When I arrived at university, I thought vaguely that my future lay in some kind of molecular biology. I dreamed of curing cancer or malaria one day. But this dream did not survive my first year classes in biochemistry and cell biology, which I found dry and, like chemistry, just too well understood. However many lives might be saved by finding out which gene codes for which protein, I couldn’t see myself being interested in this, so I callously abandoned my plan to save the world.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24921 - Posted: 04.30.2018

/ By Cathleen O'Grady Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Aciel Eshky didn’t get the memo that science was for boys. When she was around 10 years old, her aunt started to teach her basic computer programming. From there, going on to a degree in computer science seemed like a natural fit. So when a classmate in her master’s program abroad told her that women were weaker than men at math, it came as a shock. “I was really annoyed,” Eshky says. “I felt like I was being bullied.” “If that means that you get fewer women in certain subjects, and more women in other subjects like psychology, it’s not necessarily a catastrophe.” Despite its dismal reputation for gender equality, Saudi Arabia has a surprising level of female graduates in the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Ranked among the bottom 20 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index in 2015, women nonetheless made up 39 percent of graduates in a cluster of “core” STEM subjects. This number is higher than Iceland’s 35 percent, even though the Nordic country ranks number one for gender equality. Norway, which has the second-highest level of gender equity, sees only 26 percent of women graduating with STEM degrees. Taken together with these numbers, Eshky’s experience is illustrative of the so-called “gender-equality paradox” reported in a recent headline-grabbing paper: Countries ranking higher on measures of gender equality, the study found, tend to have fewer women pursuing a STEM education than those further down the gender equality ranks. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24910 - Posted: 04.27.2018

by Anne Ewbank By day, Janelle Letzen is a postdoctoral research fellow in clinical psychology at Johns Hopkins University. There, she researches the sobering subject of chronic pain. But in January of this year, Letzen decided to combine science with her hobby: sushi art. Using brightly colored tuna, avocado, and “krab” meat, her Instagram account the_sushi_scientist visually explains topics ranging from neuroscience to geology. The sections of the brain that control language, depicted in fish and rice. The sections of the brain that control language, depicted in fish and rice. Her sushi-making habit began in 2017 as a New Year’s resolution to learn a new skill. She settled on sushi, but as an edible medium for art. It wasn’t long before she fell in love with it. She recalls thinking that her two passions, science and sushi, could be combined. On Instagram, she began explaining neuroscience topics with fish and rice. Cucumber rolls stand in as synaptic terminals, and short videos of sushi rolls darting around a plate explain subjects such as how neurons chemically communicate. Her work is part of a larger movement, Letzen explains. Researchers and teachers are using what she calls “scienstagrams” to inform audiences visually. Letzen and other “science communicators” make science approachable and understandable. In this day and age, Letzen says, that’s especially important in a world of abundant information and misinformation. She believes that her followers are mostly medical professionals and students interested in biopsychology and neuroscience, her own fields of study. “But I’m also trying to target more informal learners as well, by making science more tangible,” she says. Professors have been using her work to explain concepts to their students, “which has been great.” © 2018 Atlas Obscura.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24909 - Posted: 04.27.2018

Nita A. Farahany, Henry T. Greely and 15 colleagues. If researchers could create brain tissue in the laboratory that might appear to have conscious experiences or subjective phenomenal states, would that tissue deserve any of the protections routinely given to human or animal research subjects? This question might seem outlandish. Certainly, today’s experimental models are far from having such capabilities. But various models are now being developed to better understand the human brain, including miniaturized, simplified versions of brain tissue grown in a dish from stem cells — brain organoids1,2. And advances keep being made. These models could provide a much more accurate representation of normal and abnormal human brain function and development than animal models can (although animal models will remain useful for many goals). In fact, the promise of brain surrogates is such that abandoning them seems itself unethical, given the vast amount of human suffering caused by neurological and psychiatric disorders, and given that most therapies for these diseases developed in animal models fail to work in people. Yet the closer the proxy gets to a functioning human brain, the more ethically problematic it becomes. “We believe it would be unethical to stop the research at this point.” There is now a need for clear guidelines for research, albeit ones that can be adapted to new discoveries. This is the conclusion of many neuroscientists, stem-cell biologists, ethicists and philosophers — ourselves included — who gathered in the past year to explore the ethical dilemmas raised by brain organoids and related neuroscience tools. A workshop was held in May 2017 at the Duke Initiative for Science & Society at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, with limited support from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative. A similar US meeting was held last month on related topics. Here we lay out some of the issues that we think researchers, funders, review boards and the public should discuss as a first step to guiding research on brain surrogates. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24907 - Posted: 04.26.2018

Ian Sample Science editor “I have never seen so many brains out of their heads before!” declares Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr, the world-renowned neurosurgeon played by Steve Martin who has a love affair with a brain in a jar in the 1983 movie, The Man with Two Brains. Thirty five years on, the prospect of falling for a disembodied brain is still looking slim, but researchers have made such progress in growing and maintaining human brain tissue in the lab that a group of scientists, lawyers, ethicists and philosophers have called for an ethical debate about the work. Writing in the journal Nature on Wednesday, 17 experts argue that it is time to consider what guidelines might be needed for dealing with lumps of human brain tissue, because the more complex they become the greater the chance that they gain consciousness, feel pleasure, pain and distress, and deserve rights of their own. “It’s not an imminent issue, but the closer these models come to being like human brains, the more we potentially edge towards the ethical problems of human experimentation,” said Prof Hank Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University in California. “Right now, I see no reason to be worried about consciousness in a six million neuron, half-a-centimetre-wide, hollow ball of cells, but we do need to be thinking about this,” he said. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24906 - Posted: 04.26.2018

Mariarosaria Taddeo and Luciano Floridi. Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent, sophisticated and destructive. Each day in 2017, the United States suffered, on average, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks, which encrypt computer files until the owner pays to release them1. In 2015, the daily average was just 1,000. In May last year, when the WannaCry virus crippled hundreds of IT systems across the UK National Health Service, more than 19,000 appointments were cancelled. A month later, the NotPetya ransomware cost pharmaceutical giant Merck, shipping firm Maersk and logistics company FedEx around US$300 million each. Global damages from cyberattacks totalled $5 billion in 2017 and may reach $6 trillion a year by 2021 (see go.nature.com/2gncsyg). Countries are partly behind this rise. They use cyberattacks both offensively and defensively. For example, North Korea has been linked to WannaCry, and Russia to NotPetya. As the threats escalate, so do defence tactics. Since 2012, the United States has used ‘active’ cyberdefence strategies, in which computer experts neutralize or distract viruses with decoy targets, or break into a hacker’s computer to delete data or destroy the system. In 2016, the United Kingdom announced a 5-year, £1.9-billion (US$2.7-billion) plan to combat cyber threats. NATO also began drafting principles for active cyberdefence, to be agreed by 2019. The United States and the United Kingdom are leading this initiative. Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain are also involved (see go.nature.com/2hebxnt). © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Intelligence; Robotics
Link ID: 24873 - Posted: 04.17.2018

By Jeff Sebo You might be aware that chimpanzees can recognize themselves in a mirror, communicate through sign language, pursue goals creatively and form long-lasting friendships. You might also think that these are the kinds of things that a person can do. However, you might not think of chimpanzees as persons. The Nonhuman Rights Project does. Since 2013, the group has been working on behalf of two chimpanzees, Kiko and Tommy, currently being held in cages by their “owners” without the company of other chimpanzees. It is asking the courts to rule that Kiko and Tommy have the right to bodily liberty and to order their immediate release into a sanctuary where they can live out the rest of their lives with other chimpanzees. The problem is that under current United States law, one is either a “person” or a “thing.” There is no third option. If you are a person, you have the capacity for rights, including the right to habeas corpus relief, which protects you from unlawful confinement. If you are a thing, you do not have the capacity for rights. And unfortunately, even though they are sensitive, intelligent, social beings, Kiko and Tommy are considered things under the law. In response, the Nonhuman Rights Project is taking a bold position: It is arguing that if every being must be either a person or a thing, then Kiko and Tommy are persons, not things. I agree, and many other philosophers do, too. In February, a group of philosophers, including me, submitted an amicus curiae brief to the New York Court of Appeals in support of legal personhood for Kiko and Tommy. (Members of the group contributed to this article as well.) The court is considering whether to allow the case to proceed. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24838 - Posted: 04.09.2018

David Cyranoski Beijing has announced plans to build a brain-science centre that will rival in size some of the world’s largest neuroscience organizations. It will also serve as a core facility for the country’s long-awaited brain project — China’s version of the high-profile brain-science initiatives under way elsewhere in the world. The Chinese Institute for Brain Research was officially established in Beijing on 22 March, with an agreement signed by representatives of the Beijing municipality and seven research organizations based in the capital. The agreement named two neuroscientists — Peking University’s Rao Yi and Luo Minmin of the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing — as co-directors. The new Beijing facility will be one of the first concrete developments in the national China brain-research project, which has been under discussion for five years but has yet to be formally announced. The United States and Europe each launched billion-dollar brain initiatives in 2013, and Japan followed with a smaller project the following year. South Korea answered with its own initiative in 2016. The Chinese project is expected to complement these projects with its rapidly growing cadre of top neuroscientists, abundant supplies of research monkeys, the country’s heavy burden of people with neurological diseases and its big investments in brain-imaging facilities. “The brain is such a complex system that significant efforts are needed to tame this complexity at an international level,” says Katrin Amunts, scientific research director of Europe’s Human Brain Project. China has the potential to provide important insights that relate to the work of other projects, she says. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24826 - Posted: 04.06.2018

Dr Sarah Bailey If you have ever taken a medicine, you have benefited from the humane use of animals in medical research. My research at the University of Bath focuses on understanding how the brain responds to stress and how we can use that knowledge to develop new and better antidepressants. We use mice to study how their behaviour changes in response to stress, or potential new drug treatments, and then we analyse their brains to identify affected brain circuits and the molecules involved in those behaviours. Over four million UK adults experience depression at any one time, and only around half of those will respond to the existing medications. There is a vital need to understand more about the brain mechanisms that cause depression in order to develop new and better antidepressants. Animal research plays a key role in this. In the UK the Home Office regulates animal research under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. At the heart of the legislation is the humane treatment of animals. This is enshrined in “the 3Rs” that regulate all research conducted with animals in the UK – replacement, reduction and refinement. Replacement: the act does not allow animal research to be done where alternatives exist. ● Reduction: the minimum number of animals is used to obtain valid results for any experiment. ● Refinement: all techniques, from picking up an animal to a simple injection, must be done in a way that minimises animal suffering and emphasises the welfare of the animal. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24824 - Posted: 04.06.2018

By Danna Staaf "You're doing your surgery, but you don't know if the animal still feels it and you've just stolen its ability to respond," says biologist Robyn Crook of San Francisco State University (SFSU) in California. Until recently, researchers working with octopuses, squids, and other cephalopods routinely faced this dilemma, an ethical and, in some cases, legal challenge to studying these intelligent creatures in the laboratory. But Crook has now shown that both ordinary alcohol and magnesium chloride are effective anesthetics—crucial information for scientists pursuing cephalopod research. Cephalopods might not seem to be ideal laboratory animals. They're exclusively marine, so a complex seawater system is needed to keep them alive, and they're disinclined to stay put—octopuses can escape through minuscule holes, while squids may jet right out of their tanks. But their unique biology and behavior have made them indispensable to researchers in many fields. Studies of the squid's giant axon helped spawn modern neuroscience decades ago, and the light organ of the bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) powered a revolution in the study of symbiotic host-microbe interactions. Today, some researchers are studying how the animals accomplish their striking feats of regeneration, while others use them in ecotoxicology studies; cephalopods even guide research into the origins of consciousness. Because of their complex brains, cephalopods became the first invertebrates to be protected by laboratory animal laws. In 1991, the Canadian Council on Animal Care decided to extend the standards for vertebrate care to cephalopods, meaning, among other things, that researchers have to get ethical approval for their studies and must use anesthesia, when possible, for procedures that could cause pain. Since then, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and some Australian states have passed similar regulations. The biggest expansion of cephalopod rights came in 2013, when an EU-wide directive gave them the same protections as vertebrates in scientific studies in 28 countries. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science. A

Keyword: Animal Rights; Sleep
Link ID: 24823 - Posted: 04.06.2018

By LIZ SZABO, When she was a young physician, Dr. Martha Gulati noticed that many of her mentors were prescribing vitamin E and folic acid to patients. Preliminary studies in the early 1990s had linked both supplements to a lower risk of heart disease. She urged her father to pop the pills as well: “Dad, you should be on these vitamins, because every cardiologist is taking them or putting their patients on [them],” recalled Dr. Gulati, now chief of cardiology for the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. But just a few years later, she found herself reversing course, after rigorous clinical trials found neither vitamin E nor folic acid supplements did anything to protect the heart. Even worse, studies linked high-dose vitamin E to a higher risk of heart failure, prostate cancer and death from any cause. Dr. Gulati told her father he “might want to stop taking” the vitamins. More than half of Americans take vitamin supplements, including 68 percent of those age 65 and older, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. Among older adults, 29 percent take four or more supplements of any kind, according to a Journal of Nutrition study published in 2017. Often, preliminary studies fuel irrational exuberance about a promising dietary supplement, leading millions of people to buy in to the trend. Many never stop. They continue even though more rigorous studies — which can take many years to complete — almost never find that vitamins prevent disease, and in some cases cause harm. “The enthusiasm does tend to outpace the evidence,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. There’s no conclusive evidence that dietary supplements prevent chronic disease in the average American, Dr. Manson said. And while a handful of vitamin and mineral studies have had positive results, those findings haven’t been strong enough to recommend supplements to the general American public, she said. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24812 - Posted: 04.03.2018

By David Grimm After years of experiments, a protracted battle to grant them legal “personhood,” and a life spent bouncing between two scientific facilities, two of the world’s most famous research chimpanzees have finally retired. Hercules and Leo arrived this morning at Project Chimps, a 95-hectare sanctuary in the wooded hills of Morgantown, Georgia. In many ways, the pair had also become the face of a tortuously slow effort to move hundreds of the United States’s remaining research chimpanzees to wildlife refuges. Their arrival at Project Chimps suggests plans to retire these animals—which can live up to 50 years in captivity—may be back on track. “For the first time, there are more chimpanzees in sanctuaries than there are in labs,” says Stephen Ross, director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, and board chair of Chimp Haven in Keithville, Louisiana, the only sanctuary authorized to take government-owned chimps. “Hercules and Leo are representative of a movement that’s finally bearing fruit.” Hercules and Leo were born in 2006 at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, home to the world’s largest collection of privately owned lab chimps. In 2011, New Iberia loaned the duo out to the State University of New York in Stony Brook. There, they lived in a three-room enclosure and researchers inserted small electrodes into their muscles to study the evolution of bipedal walking. While there, the Nonhuman Rights Project—an animal rights group based in Coral Springs, Florida—filed a lawsuit to have Hercules and Leo declared legal persons and moved to a sanctuary in Florida. Despite multiple appeals over 2 years, the effort failed, and the chimps were shipped back to New Iberia in 2015. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Scienc

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24778 - Posted: 03.22.2018

By JAMES GORMAN Recently someone (my boss, actually) mentioned to me that I wrote more articles about dogs than I did about cats and asked why. My first thought, naturally, was that it had nothing to do with the fact that I have owned numerous dogs and no cats, but rather reflected the amount of research done by scientists on the animals. After all, I’ll write about any interesting findings, and I like cats just fine, even if I am a dog person. Two of my adult children have cats, and I would hate for them to think I was paying them insufficient attention. (Hello Bailey! Hello Tawny! — Those are the cats, not the children.) But I figured I should do some reporting, so I emailed Elinor Karlsson at the Broad Institute and the University of Massachusetts. She is a geneticist who owns three cats, but does much of her research on dogs — the perfect unbiased observer. Her research, by the way, is about dog genomes. She gets dog DNA from owners who send in their pets’ saliva samples. The research I have been interested in and writing about involves evolution, domestication, current genetics and behavior. And the questions are of the What-is-a-dog-really? variety. Dogs and cats have also been used as laboratory animals in invasive experiments, but I wasn’t asking about which animal is more popular for those. I had gotten to know Dr. Karlsson a bit while reporting on research she was doing on wolves. I asked her whether there was indeed more research on dogs than cats, and if so, why? “Ooo, that is an interesting question!” she wrote back. “Way more interesting than the various grant-related emails that are filling up my inbox. “The research has lagged behind in cats. I think they’re taken less seriously than dogs, probably to do with societal biases. I have a vet in my group who thinks that many of the cancers in cats may actually be better models for human cancer, but there has been almost no research into them.” Better models than cancers in dogs, that is. Dogs do get many of the same cancers as humans, but in dogs the risk for these cancers often varies by breed, which narrows the target down when looking for the cause of a disease. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24694 - Posted: 02.26.2018

Sarah Webb Four years ago, scientists from Google showed up on neuroscientist Steve Finkbeiner’s doorstep. The researchers were based at Google Accelerated Science, a research division in Mountain View, California, that aims to use Google technologies to speed scientific discovery. They were interested in applying ‘deep-learning’ approaches to the mountains of imaging data generated by Finkbeiner’s team at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease in San Francisco, also in California. Deep-learning algorithms take raw features from an extremely large, annotated data set, such as a collection of images or genomes, and use them to create a predictive tool based on patterns buried inside. Once trained, the algorithms can apply that training to analyse other data, sometimes from wildly different sources. The technique can be used to “tackle really hard, tough, complicated problems, and be able to see structure in data — amounts of data that are just too big and too complex for the human brain to comprehend”, Finkbeiner says. He and his team produce reams of data using a high-throughput imaging strategy known as robotic microscopy, which they had developed for studying brain cells. But the team couldn’t analyse its data at the speed it acquired them, so Finkbeiner welcomed the opportunity to collaborate. “I can’t honestly say at the time that I had a clear grasp of what questions might be addressed with deep learning, but I knew that we were generating data at about twice to three times the rate we could analyse it,” he says. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Robotics
Link ID: 24684 - Posted: 02.21.2018

By David Grimm ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN—If they weren't in the windowless basement of a cavernous biomedical research building, the "Aquatic Suites" might sound like a cushy vacation destination. But the zebrafish here at the University of Michigan (UM) still have it pretty good. In a large room full of aquaria, the striped, pinkie-size swimmers flit past fake green plants, white plastic tunnels, and multicolored marbles that may remind them of the bottoms of lakes and streams. These simple accoutrements are a luxury for creatures typically housed with little more than food and the water they swim in. And the enrichments may make the animals better at what they do: serving as important models for human disease. For decades, lab animals such as rodents and fish have lived in barren enclosures: a small plastic box, few—if any—companions, and little else. The smaller the number of variables, the thinking went, the greater the accuracy of the experiment. But a growing number of studies suggests that this approach may have backfired. Only one in nine drugs that works in animals ever succeeds in human clinical trials, and labs often struggle to reproduce one another's results. Could the environment these creatures live in be part of the problem? That's what a new group of advocates argues. "We're trying to control these animals so much, they're no longer useful," says Joseph Garner, a behavioral scientist who runs a program to improve the value and welfare of lab animals at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. "If we want animals to tell us about stuff that's going to happen in people, we need to treat them more like people." © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24630 - Posted: 02.08.2018

by William Wan Last year, the National Institutes of Health announced plans to tighten its rules for all research involving humans — including new requirements for scientists studying human behavior — and touched off a panic. Some of the country’s biggest scientific associations, including the American Psychological Association and Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, penned impassioned letters over the summer warning that the new policies could slow scientific progress, increase red tape and present obstacles for researchers working in smaller labs with less financial and administrative resources to deal with the added requirements. More than 3,500 scientists signed an open letter to NIH director Francis Collins. The new rules are scheduled to take effect Thursday. They will have a big impact on how research is conducted, especially in fields like psychology and neuroscience. NIH distributes more than $32 billion each year, making it the largest public funder of biomedical and health research in the world, and the rules apply to any NIH-supported work that studies human subjects and is evaluating the effects of interventions on health or behavior. In the biggest change, many studies that investigators previously considered basic research will now be considered clinical trials. That means those studies will be subject to the same stringent rules and reporting requirements demanded of traditional clinical trials, such as those that test the efficacy and dangers of a new drug or medical procedure. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24604 - Posted: 02.02.2018