Chapter 19. Language and Lateralization

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Ian Sample Science editor Claims that US diplomats suffered mysterious brain injuries after being targeted with a secret weapon in Cuba have been challenged by neurologists and other brain specialists. A medical report commissioned by the US government, published in March, found that staff at the US embassy in Havana suffered concussion-like brain damage after hearing strange noises in homes and hotels, but doctors from the US, the UK and Germany have contested the conclusions. In four separate letters to the Journal of the American Medical Association, which published the original medical study, groups of doctors specialising in neurology, neuropsychiatry and neuropsychology described what they believed were major flaws in the study. Among the criticisms, published on Tuesday, are that the University of Pennsylvania team which assessed the diplomats misinterpreted test results, overlooked common disorders that might have made the workers feel sick, or dismissed psychological explanations for their symptoms. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania defended their report in a formal response in the journal, but the specialists told the Guardian they stood by their criticisms. The US withdrew more than half of its Havana diplomats last year and expelled 15 Cubans after 24 embassy staff and family reported a bizarre list of symptoms, ranging from headaches, dizziness and difficulties in sleeping, to problems with concentration, balance, vision and hearing. Many said their symptoms developed after they heard strange noises, described as cicada-like chirps, grinding, or the buffeting caused by an open window in the car. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Hearing
Link ID: 25334 - Posted: 08.15.2018

by Amy Ellis Nutt Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability in young adults in the developed world. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Though the reasons for any particular suicide are often inscrutable, research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that at least a fraction of the blame could be placed on traumatic brain injuries. Researchers found that of the nearly 7.5 million people who make up the population of Denmark, more than 34,500 deaths between 1980 and 2014 were by suicide. Approximately 10 percent of those who took their own lives had also suffered a medically documented traumatic brain injury. The statistical analysis was conducted using the Danish Cause of Death registry. “Individuals with mild TBI, with concussion, had an elevated suicide risk by 81 percent,” said Trine Madsen of the Danish Research Institute of Suicide Prevention, one of the authors of the study. “But individuals with severe TBI had a higher suicide risk that was more than double [the risk of someone with no TBI].” Three factors most strongly predicted the risk of suicide: the severity of the traumatic brain injury, a first incidence occurring in young adulthood and discharge from a hospital for a TBI in the previous six months. Seena Fazel, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Oxford, has studied TBIs and health risks, including mental health issues, in large Scandinavian populations as well. “What is important in this study,” Fazel said, “is that we can say that these risks are also found when TBIs are sustained in childhood.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Depression
Link ID: 25330 - Posted: 08.15.2018

By Victoria Gill Science correspondent, BBC News Our primate cousins have surprised and impressed scientists in recent years, with revelations about monkeys' tool-using abilities and chimps' development of complex sign language. But researchers are still probing the question: why are we humans the only apes that can talk? That puzzle has now led to an insight into how different non-human primates' brains are "wired" for vocal ability. A new study has compared different primate species' brains. It revealed that primates with wider "vocal repertoires" had more of their brain dedicated to controlling their vocal apparatus. That suggests that our own speaking skills may have evolved as our brains gradually rewired to control that apparatus, rather than purely because we're smarter than non-human apes. Humans and other primates have very similar vocal anatomy - in terms of their tongues and larynx. That's the physical machinery in the throat which allows us to turn air into sound. So, as lead researcher Dr Jacob Dunn from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge explained, it remains a mystery that only human primates can actually talk. "That's likely due to differences in the brain," Dr Dunn told BBC News, "but there haven't been comparative studies across species." So how do our primate brains differ? That comparison is exactly what Dr Dunn and his colleague Prof Jeroen Smaers set out to do. They ranked 34 different primate species based on their vocal abilities - the number of distinct calls they are known to make in the wild. They then examined the brain of each species, using information from existing, preserved brains that had been kept for research. © 2018 BBC

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 25314 - Posted: 08.10.2018

Laura Sanders A career of hard hits to the head doesn’t inevitably lead to brain decline, a small study of former football and hockey pros suggests. The results counter a specter raised by other studies on pro football players’ brains after death. The new findings come from extensive brain scans and behavioral tests of 21 retired athletes — football players from New York’s Buffalo Bills and hockey players from the Buffalo Sabres. In a series of papers published August 7 in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, researchers report finding no signs among the athletes of early dementia or mental slipping. Those symptoms are early hallmarks of the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which can be diagnosed by a brain examination only after death. Such studies involving living subjects “are exactly what we really need,” says cognitive neuroscientist and psychologist Carrie Esopenko of Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. “They are really going to help us understand what’s going on in these lives, rather than what’s happening when they’re dead.” Using a battery of clinical tests, researchers at the University at Buffalo measured brain function and mental health, while also investigating other aspects of the ex-players’ health, such as diet, body mass index and history of drug and alcohol use. The team then compared the results with the same measures taken for 21 noncontact athletes, including runners and cyclists. Participating football players and hockey players expected bad news. They “were pretty much their own worst critics,” believing themselves to be impaired, says coauthor and psychiatrist Barry Willer. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 25308 - Posted: 08.08.2018

Sukanya Charuchandra R. Liu et al., “Perception of social interaction compresses subjective duration in an oxytocin-dependent manner,” eLife, 7:e32100, 2018. External stimuli can affect our perception of time. Researchers in China set out to test whether a person’s social skills and perception of social interactions alters their sense of time. Subjects viewed two motion sequences depicting two humans composed of dots of light. The first video clip showed sociable behavior between the figures, such as passing an object, while the second showed no interaction—the figures moved independently of each other. The subjects had to indicate which clip appeared to last longer. Overall, volunteers found the clips with communicative behavior to be shorter, even when that wasn’t true. This “temporal compression effect” was not as pronounced in less sociable test subjects, as measured by their Autism Spectrum Quotient, a questionnaire-based assessment that determines where people fall on the neurotypical or autistic scale. “It not only highlights the idiosyncrasy of subjective time but also demonstrates that our perception of the world (something as basic as time) is ingrained with our personality traits,” writes coauthor Wen Zhou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Psychology in an email to The Scientist. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Autism
Link ID: 25306 - Posted: 08.08.2018

Tina Hesman Saey Humans’ gift of gab probably wasn’t the evolutionary boon that scientists once thought. There’s no evidence that FOXP2, sometimes called “the language gene,” gave humans such a big evolutionary advantage that it was quickly adopted across the species, what scientists call a selective sweep. That finding, reported online August 2 in Cell, follows years of debate about the role of FOXP2 in human evolution. In 2002, the gene became famous when researchers thought they had found evidence that a tweak in FOXP2 spread quickly to all humans — and only humans — about 200,000 years ago. That tweak swapped two amino acids in the human version of the gene for ones different than in other animals’ versions of the gene. FOXP2 is involved in vocal learning in songbirds, and people with mutations in the gene have speech and language problems. Many researchers initially thought that the amino acid swap was what enabled humans to speak. Speech would have given humans a leg up on competition from Neandertals and other ancient hominids. That view helped make FOXP2 a textbook example of selective sweeps. Some researchers even suggested that FOXP2 was the gene that defines humans, until it became clear that the gene did not allow humans to settle the world and replace other hominids, says archeaogeneticist Johannes Krause at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, who was not involved in the study. “It was not the one gene to rule them all.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Language; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 25293 - Posted: 08.04.2018

Matthew Warren The evolution of human language was once thought to have hinged on changes to a single gene that were so beneficial that they raced through ancient human populations. But an analysis now suggests that this gene, FOXP2, did not undergo changes in Homo sapiens’ recent history after all — and that previous findings might simply have been false signals. “The situation’s a lot more complicated than the very clean story that has been making it into textbooks all this time,” says Elizabeth Atkinson, a population geneticist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a co-author of the paper, which was published on 2 August in Cell1. Originally discovered in a family who had a history of profound speech and language disorders, FOXP2 was the first gene found to be involved in language production2. Later research touted its importance to the evolution of human language. A key 2002 paper found that humans carry two mutations to FOXP2 not found in any other primates3. When the researchers looked at genetic variation surrounding these mutations, they found the signature of a ‘selective sweep’ — in which a beneficial mutation quickly becomes common across a population. This change to FOXP2 seemed to have happened in the past 200,000 years, the team reported in Nature. The paper has been cited hundreds of times in the scientific literature. © 2018 Springer Nature Limited.

Keyword: Language; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 25292 - Posted: 08.04.2018

By Michael Erard , Catherine Matacic If you want a no-fuss, no-muss pet, consider the Bengalese finch. Dubbed the society finch for its friendliness, breeders often use it to foster unrelated chicks. But put the piebald songbird next to its wild ancestor, the white-rumped munia, and you can both see and hear the differences: The aggressive munia tends to be darker and whistles a scratchy, off-kilter tune, whereas the pet finch warbles a melody so complex that even nonmusicians may wonder how this caged bird learned to sing. All this makes the domesticated and wild birds a perfect natural experiment to help explore an upstart proposal about human evolution: that the building blocks of language are a byproduct of brain alterations that arose when natural selection favored cooperation among early humans. According to this hypothesis, skills such as learning complex calls, combining vocalizations, and simply knowing when another creature wants to communicate all came about as a consequence of pro-social traits like kindness. If so, domesticated animals, which are bred to be good-natured, might exhibit such communication skills too. The idea is rooted in a much older one: that humans tamed themselves. This self-domestication hypothesis, which got its start with Charles Darwin, says that when early humans started to prefer cooperative friends and mates to aggressive ones, they essentially domesticated themselves. Along with tameness came evolutionary changes seen in other domesticated mammals—smoother brows, shorter faces, and more feminized features—thanks in part to lower levels of circulating androgens (such as testosterone) that tend to promote aggression. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 25289 - Posted: 08.03.2018

Laura Sanders Among amateur players who headed a similar number of balls, women had more signs of microscopic damage in their brains’ white matter than men, scientists report July 31 in Radiology. Female athletes are known to have worse symptoms after brain injuries than male athletes, but a clear head-to-head comparison of post-heading brains hadn’t been done until now. From 2013 to 2016, study coauthor Michael Lipton of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y., and colleagues recruited 98 soccer players from amateur teams, including from colleges. The researchers then compared male and female players who headed the ball a similar number of times over the past year. For men, that median estimate was 487 headers. Women had an estimated median of 469 headers. Despite those similar numbers of head knocks, women’s brains had more spots that showed signs of microscopic damage. A type of magnetic resonance imaging scan called diffusion tensor imaging identified brain regions with changes in white matter, bundles of message-sending fibers. In some cases, those altered spots indicated possible damage to nerve cell axons and myelin, a protective coating that speeds neural signals along. In men, only three brain regions showed potential damage associated with heading frequency. In women, eight regions showed signs of damage with frequent heading. These brain changes weren’t enough to cause symptoms in the amateur soccer players. But repeated blows to the brain can contribute to memory loss and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disorder found in professional football players, soldiers and others whose brains suffer repetitive trauma (SN: 7/13/13, p. 18). |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25281 - Posted: 08.01.2018

By Stephen T. Casper The case report is dead. At least, it seems all but so in the realm of evidence-based medicine. It is thus thoroughly refreshing to read Helen Thomson’s Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World’s Strangest Brains and Eric R. Kandel’s The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves, two ambitious books that draw on clinical profiles to tell stories about our brains and minds. Thomson’s memoir aims to help us understand our brains through stories about exceptional others, who, she argues, may serve as proxies for ourselves. Kandel’s book argues from neuroscience research and individual illness experiences for a biologically informed account of mind and brain. Both authors are unapologetic in their focus on what might be dismissed as merely anecdotal. Each foregrounds neurological and psychiatric patient narratives and experiences and from these draws out larger philosophical and scientific lessons. By profiling and seeking meaning in individuals with curious neurological conditions, Thomson’s Unthinkable follows a well-worn literary path but revitalizes the genre with an original and subtle shift to the personal. Perfected by neurologist Oliver Sacks, Thomson’s technique was invented before the 19th century but most famously pioneered in the 20th century by such eminent neurologists as Morton Prince, Sigmund Freud, and Alexander Luria. Where those authors represented patients as medical mysteries or as object lessons in physiology and philosophy, Thomson finds a timelier focus that corresponds with the growing advocacy for, and social attention to, individual patients’ rights. Unlike her predecessors in the genre, Thomson enters her subject’s lives—their restaurants, homes, families, communities, and online selves. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 25278 - Posted: 08.01.2018

Abby Olena To convince female Drosophila melanogaster flies to mate, males sing—that is, they vibrate their wings to serenade females. In more than 50 years of studying these songs, scientists thought there were only two song modes, known as pulse and sine. But in a study published today (July 26) in Current Biology, researchers found that there are actually two different types of pulse songs, lengthening the set list to three and paving the way for a greater understanding of how the brain generates behavior. “The beauty of the paper is that it demonstrates the hidden complexity in these fruit fly songs,” says David Stern, a biologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus who did not participate in the work. “Even what we thought was one song type hides really interesting variation, and this is a beautiful quantitative description of that underlying complexity that most of us missed in the past.” In a 2014 Nature study, Princeton biologist Mala Murthy and colleagues used computational models to predict which song male flies would produce based on sensory cues they received during courtship. The researchers’ models accounted for much of the variability in the males’ choice of song modes, but not all of it. Murthy says that one reason the models didn’t account for all the variability could be that they were missing information about the song itself. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 25266 - Posted: 07.28.2018

Sara Kiley Watson Read these sentences aloud: I never said she stole my money. I never said she stole my money. I never said she stole my money. Emphasizing any one of the words over the others makes the string of words mean something completely different. "Pitch change" — the vocal quality we use to emphasize words — is a crucial part of human communication, whether spoken or sung. Recent research from Dr. Edward Chang's lab at the University of California, San Francisco's epilepsy center has narrowed down which part of the brain controls our ability to regulate the pitch of our voices when we speak or sing— the part that enables us to differentiate between the utterances "Let's eat, Grandma" and "Let's eat Grandma." Scientists already knew, more or less, what parts of the brain are engaged in speech, says Chang, a professor of neurological surgery. What the new research has allowed, he says, is a better understanding of the neural code of pitch and its variations — how information about pitch is represented in the brain. Chang's team was able to study these neural codes with the help of a particular group of study volunteers: epilepsy patients. Chang treats people whose seizures can't be medically controlled; these patients need surgery to stop the misfiring neurons. He puts electrodes in each patient's brain to help guide the scalpel during their surgery. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 25265 - Posted: 07.28.2018

Jon Hamilton Daniel, a Marine Corps veteran, used to fire a rocket launcher called the shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon. Two decades later, he still experiences dizzy spells and disorientation. But the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn't have a category for vets like him, who may have sustained traumatic brain injuries from training rather than combat. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: We heard yesterday from a Marine named Daniel. He spent years firing rocket launchers. Now he thinks that experience may have injured his brain. DANIEL: I lose my spatial orientation. I don't know where I am. Vision gets blurrier, even sound is kind of muffled. CORNISH: But when Daniel went to the Veterans Affairs Department for help, he discovered that the VA doesn't have a category for people like him. NPR's Jon Hamilton reports on how the VA is dealing with veterans who may have a new kind of brain injury, one caused by the weapons they fired. JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: Daniel, who asked us not to use his last name, used to fire a rocket launcher called the Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon or SMAW. UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Left. Right. Back left stay all clear. Rocket. (SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION) HAMILTON: That meant his head was just inches from the explosion used to launch each rocket. And during his training in the late 1990s, Daniel began to have episodes where he'd feel dizzy and disoriented. Now, 20 years later, those symptoms can still return when he turns his head quickly or stumbles. DANIEL: It's disturbing to me. And it is terrifying to me. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 25258 - Posted: 07.27.2018

Jon Hamilton Chris Ferrari was just 18 the first time he balanced a rocket launcher on his right shoulder and aimed it at a practice target. "Your adrenaline's going and you're trying to focus on getting that round to hit, and then you go to squeeze that trigger and, you know." Boom! The report is loud enough to burst the eardrums of anyone not wearing military-grade hearing protection. And the blast wave from the weapon is so powerful it feels like a whole-body punch. "It's exhilarating," says Chris's buddy Daniel, a former gunner in the Marine Corps who asked that we not use his last name. "When you feel a concussive wave, it's an awesome thing. It fills you with awe." It also may do bad things to your brain. Studies show that troops who repeatedly fire powerful, shoulder-launched weapons can experience short-term problems with memory and thinking. They may also feel nauseated, fatigued and dizzy. In short, they have symptoms like those of a concussion. It's still not clear whether firing these weapons can lead to long-term brain damage. But Chris and Daniel suspect that, for them, it may have. While in the Marines, Daniel and Chris spent two years in the late 1990s firing a rocket launcher called the shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon, or SMAW. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 25251 - Posted: 07.26.2018

By Perri Klass, M.D. You probably remember the before and after of learning to ride a bicycle — and perhaps the joy of helping your children learn how. Riding together is a wonderful family activity — good exercise, outdoor time, and it even gets you places. But safety is a vital part of what parents should be teaching. A recent study looked at bicycle-related injuries in children treated in emergency departments in the United States over a 10-year period from the beginning of 2006 through the end of 2017. Over that time, there were more than two million such injuries in children from 5 to 17, which the researchers calculated meant more than 600 a day, or 25 an hour. “That’s a lot,” said Lara McKenzie, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Given the age of the most-injured group, 10 to 14, she said, “I feel this is a group where the parents might view the child as an experienced rider, but perhaps they’re riding in places they shouldn’t ride.” The study did not include fatalities, since it was looking only at children in the emergency room and excluded the 12 who actually died there. Of the injuries, 36 percent were to the upper extremities, 25 percent to the lower extremities, 15 percent to the face, and 15 percent to the head and neck. Many were related to falling off bikes, or crashing into something, Dr. McKenzie said, and when cars were involved, whether stationary or moving, the risk of traumatic brain injury (11 percent) and hospitalization (4 percent) increased. So safety first and foremost: wear helmets. In the new study, “helmet use at the time of injury was associated with lower risk of head and neck injury, and of hospitalization — that’s protective, we know,” Dr. McKenzie said. And it isn’t just about making your children wear helmets; when parents wear helmets, they are not only protecting themselves, but research has shown that when parents model the safe behavior, it’s more likely that children will be putting those helmets on themselves. Make sure the child is riding a bike the right size, and make sure the helmet fits correctly. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 25235 - Posted: 07.23.2018

Noise from oil and gas pumps can be a real mood-killer for a male sparrow trying to attract a mate, but a team of biologists in southern Alberta has discovered that songbirds are finding ways to cope. Their research involves high fidelity speakers, powerful microphones and many early morning hours spent on a patch of prairie near the small city of Brooks. They blast recordings of various types of oil and gas pumps through the speakers and then track and record the birds' response. The acoustic experiments are producing intriguing results. One songbird species, the Savannah sparrow, appears to be adapting its love songs with a high degree of complexity. "They're doing whatever they can to make the sound go further," said Nicola Koper, a conservation biologist from the University of Manitoba's Natural Resources Institute who is involved in the research. After all, the birds have flown all the way up from the southern U.S. on important business: to breed and raise their young. Fastest declining avian group in Canada The mixed grass prairies in southern Alberta serve as a bug buffet and a nursery for grassland birds, but their territory has shrunk. "We've converted so much of our grassland habitat to cropland, that grassland birds are declining more rapidly than birds of any other ecosystem across North America, including in Canada," said Koper. ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada

Keyword: Animal Communication; Hearing
Link ID: 25233 - Posted: 07.21.2018

Tom Goldman CTE has been part of the national lexicon in the U.S. since the 2015 movie Concussion dramatized the discovery of this degenerative brain disease among football players. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is found among people who've had head injuries. Though not everyone with head trauma develops CTE, the group that's come to be most associated with it is football players, whose brains can be routinely jarred by hard hits. The disease has been linked to depression, dementia and even suicide among those who play the game. But the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease published a study Tuesday that helps broaden the understanding of who is potentially affected by CTE to include military personnel. And, perhaps more significantly, the study represents a step forward in developing a test for the disease in the living. Right now, accurately diagnosing CTE requires the close study of brain tissue during autopsy, to identify the telltale abnormal proteins that kill brain cells. And this is a key reason why knowledge about CTE — who gets it, how widespread it is and the development of treatments — has lagged. "You've really got to have a living diagnosis scan in order to make much headway on understanding the disease," says Dr. Julian Bailes, a neurosurgeon at the Chicago area's NorthShore University HealthSystem, and one of the study's authors. That diagnostic scan is what researchers have gotten close to in this case. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Brain imaging
Link ID: 25227 - Posted: 07.19.2018

Layal Liverpool A treatment given to thousands of people who suffer cardiac arrest in Britain every year nearly doubles the risk of permanent brain damage and only marginally improves the chances of survival, a landmark study has found. More than 30,000 people have cardiac arrests – where the heart stops beating – annually in the UK. More than half receive shots of adrenaline alongside other interventions that are designed to restart the heart. In most cases the attacks are still fatal, with fewer than 10% of patients surviving to be discharged from hospital. In a study of more than 8,000 people across Britain, doctors found that adrenaline shots increased the survival rate of patients by less than 1%, but nearly doubled the risk of serious brain damage. Nearly a third of survivors who received adrenaline ended up in a vegetative state or were unable to walk and look after themselves, compared with 18% of survivors who had a placebo instead. “What we’ve shown is that adrenaline can restart the heart but it is no good for the brain,” said study leader Gavin Perkins, a professor of critical care medicine at the University of Warwick and a consultant physician at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. The practice of giving adrenaline to people who suffer cardiac arrest has been the standard of care in the UK for more than half a century. Under guidelines set by the Resuscitation Council UK, adrenaline is given to people who fail to respond to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or defibrillation immediately following cardiac arrest. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 25226 - Posted: 07.19.2018

By Matthew Hutson Bird populations are plummeting, thanks to logging, agriculture, and climate change. Scientists keep track of species by recording their calls, but even the best computer programs can’t reliably distinguish bird calls from other sounds. Now, thanks to a bit of crowdsourcing and a lot of artificial intelligence (AI), researchers say they have something to crow about. AI algorithms can be as finicky as finches, often requiring manual calibration and retraining for each new location or species. So an interdisciplinary group of researchers launched the Bird Audio Detection challenge, which released hours of audio from environmental monitoring stations around Chernobyl, Ukraine, which they happened to have access to, as well as crowdsourced recordings, some of which came from an app called Warblr. Humans labeled each 10-second clip as containing a bird call or not. Using so-called machine learning, in which computers learn from data, 30 teams trained their AIs on a set of the recordings for which labels were provided and then tested them on recordings for which they were not. Most relied on neural networks, a type of AI inspired by the brain that connects many small computing elements akin to neurons. At the end of the monthlong contest, the best algorithm scored 89 out of 100 on a statistical measure of performance called AUC. A higher number, in this case, indicates the algorithm managed to avoid labeling nonbird sounds as bird sounds (humans, insects, or rain often threw them off) and avoid missing real bird sounds (usually because of faint recordings), the organizers report in a paper uploaded to the preprint server arXiv. The best previous algorithm they tested had an AUC score of 79. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Scienc

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Animal Communication
Link ID: 25223 - Posted: 07.19.2018

Ashley Yeager Exosomes in the blood that originated from brain cells carry biomarkers that indicate the severity of traumatic brain injuries, researchers reported in Brain Injury in June. The authors say certain proteins in these vesicles could help predict the progression and long-term effects of the brain damage. “Developing a peripheral blood test to track TBIs [traumatic brain injuries] is a holy grail,” says John Lukens, a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine who was not involved in the study. Showing that blood-derived biomarkers can be predictive of the issues individuals with TBIs might experience, he says, is a big advance toward achieving that goal. Past studies have shown that elevated levels of tau and amyloid-β in blood plasma are associated with post-concussive symptoms after a TBI, and postmortem studies of the brains of athletes that have had repeated head injuries also have shown increased levels of tau. The detection of amyloid-β in postmortem brain tissue has been tied to repeated hits to the head that didn’t cause concussions but hinted at brain injury. Other research has also suggested links between brain inflammation, TBIs, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but such connections have been hard to identify using blood biomarkers. In the new study, Jessica Gill, who studies the neurobiology of trauma at the National Institute of Nursing Research, and colleagues collected blood from 60 men and 4 women who served in the military. Some of the individuals had suffered mild TBIs, while others had not. The team then used recently developed nanoparticle sorting technology to isolate individual exosomes—extracellular vesicles that carry contents from their cells of origin—from the soldiers’ blood. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 25215 - Posted: 07.17.2018