Evetts A.-A.M.,Western University
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology | Year: 2016
ABSTRACT: It is common practice in pediatric autopsies to compare the body and organ measurements of the deceased child against the existing reference data. Although a number of resources are available, many are outdated and have significant limitations. The goal of this study was to assess the reference sources currently used by the Ontario pathologists in pediatric autopsies. A survey of 14 Ontario pathologists, who do coronersʼ pediatric autopsies, identified 20 publications commonly referenced for body and organ measurements. Of all the cited sources, only a few had all the features regarded by the pathologists as ideal for a reference source. These features included accessibility to the source, large sample size, defined control populations, statistical analyses, and sex distinctions. The results of this study will be used to guide the development of a new reference, based on Ontario data, that will enhance measurement standards in pediatric autopsy practice. © 2016 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
News Article | March 10, 2016
Computers are smart enough to beat humans at chess, Go, and Jeopardy!, but when it comes to basic hand movements, robots can still only master rudimentary tasks. Robots aren’t able to bake a cake or mow the lawn, for example, which means “we don’t fully understand how the brain does it,” said neuroscientist Jörn Diedrichsen, who’s working to untangle how the human brain controls hand movement. “We don’t even have a robot that can control its hand as well as a two-year-old.” Once we figure out how the brain controls fine motor skills, we’ll be able to build more skilled, capable robots—and prosthetics that make us more powerful. Diedrichsen is working on that now. The scientist, who just joined Western University after leaving University College London, is focused on helping stroke patients and others regain fine motor control, although more capable robots and improved prostheses will be another outcome. Western University, in London, Ontario, is investing heavily in cognitive neuroscience research. Diedrichsen was lured there partly because of its state-of-the-art imaging facilities: The campus is home to three fMRI machines, used to measure and map brain activity. Using the scanner, he can chart people’s neural activity as they perform various tasks and movements with their hands. Diedrichsen needs as much imaging technology as he can get, given the magnitude of the mystery around what he’s studying. For example, his research has found that electrical stimulation to the brain can help motor training—in a double-blinded study published in 2014, subjects who were zapped with weak currents performed 20 percent better than those who were not, and the effect lasted for a month—but the reasons why still aren’t clear. Further research on so-called “electric doping” could potentially help stroke patients and people who have suffered a spinal cord injury recover lost function. It could also improve prosthetics by informing our understanding of how the brain and body connect. Scientists have already built bionic limbs that patients can control with their minds. But they still aren’t very good. “Our body is a complete engineering nightmare. Our muscles fatigue. Our tendons are sloppy and hard to control. We have good sensors in our fingertips, but they’re not reliable,” Diedrichsen said. “The brain makes really amazing things out of a quite poorly engineered physical plan.” If we could engineer something better—and harness a fuller understanding of the brain—imagine what we could do.
Mafic, a producer of continuous and chopped basalt fiber as well as long fiber thermoplastic (LFT) resins, says that tests have proved the strength and stiffness of basalt fiber in composites. According to the tests, which took place at the Western University in Canada, Mafic’s basalt fiber composite had a specific strength typically 50% higher and a specific stiffness 25% higher than similar glass composite. Additionally, the interlaminar shear strength, a measure of the fiber matrix adhesion, was shown to be half way between similar glass and carbon composites in the same resin system. ‘We believe these results further demonstrate the value of basalt fiber,’ said Jeff Thompson, head of marketing at Mafic. ‘Our customers have seen fantastic results using our products; we are seeing expanding adoption of basalt where customers are looking to reduce mass, or improve stiffness and strength of their composite products without the costs of using carbon fiber.’ This story uses material from Mafic, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.
Something amazing happened at the TED2016 conference today: HoloLens developer Alex Kipman "teleported" a NASA scientist onto the stage, on the surface of Mars. Jeff Norris of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was physically across the street from the auditorium in Vancouver, Canada, but with the HoloLens cameras, a hologram of him (a three-dimensional, talking hologram, which is made entirely of light) was beamed onto the stage where a virtual Mars surface was waiting. "I'm actually in three places," Norris said. "I'm standing in a room across the street, while I'm standing on the stage with you, while I'm standing on Mars a hundred million miles away." [See Photos of the HoloLens Experience and Teleported Scientist] Kipman demoed the HoloLens for the audience and, for the first time, revealed this new holographic teleportation aspect of the technology. "I invite you to experience, for the first time anywhere in the world, here on the TED stage a real-life holographic teleportation…," Kipman said. When Norris, wearing a NASA T-shirt and baseball cap appeared onstage (his hologram, that is), Kipman was ecstatic. "Woo. That worked," he said. The alien scape on which Norris stood was a holographic replica of the planet created from data collected by NASA's Curiosity rover. To infinity and beyond Kipman sees the technology as a game-changer for the world. Today, he says, humans are limited by our two-dimensional interaction with the world, through monitors and other screens. "Put simply I want to create a new reality," Kipman said. "A reality where technology brings us infinitely closer to each other, a reality where people, not devices, are at the center of everything. I dream of a reality where technology senses what we see, touch and feel, a reality where technology no longer gets in the way but instead embraces who we are." Enter the HoloLens: "This is the next step in the evolution. This is Microsoft Hololens, the first fully untethered holographic computer," said Kipman. "I'm talking about freeing ourselves from the 2D confines of traditional computing." [Here's How the Microsoft HoloLens Works] The technology relies on a fish-eye camera lens, loads of sensors and a holographic processing unit, according to Microsoft. And to allow the viewer to walk around in their own environment overlaid with various holograms, the devices maps your home or any surroundings in real-time. "The HoloLens maps in real-time at about five frames per second with this technology we call spatial mapping. So in your home as soon as you put it on holograms will start showing up and you'll start placing them, you'll start learning your home," Kipman said. For the demo, where Kipman's headset was wirelessly linked to big screens, the HoloLens relied on stored information. "In a stage environment where we're trying to get something on my head to communicate with something over there with all of the wireless connectivity that usually brings all conferences down we don't take the risk of trying to do this live," Kipman said. "So what we do is we pre-map the stage at five frames per second with the same spatial mapping technology that you'll use with the product at home and then we store it." Demoing more of the HoloLens experience, Kipman shows the audience what he sees through the headset as he dials his world from reality toward the imaginary, turning people in the audience, for instance, into elves with wings. The technology is already being put to good use in the scientific and consumer realm. Medical students at Case Western University are using HoloLens to learn about medicine and the human body in an augmented-reality world; Volvo has developed a partnership with Microsoft to use the HoloLens for both design of their cars and as a way to enhance consumers' experiences with their vehicles and brand. And Kipman's "personal favorite" — NASA is using the technology to let scientists explore planets holographically, a partnership dubbed OnSight. "Today a group of scientists on our mission are seeing Mars as never before, an alien world made a little more familiar because they are finally exploring it as humans should," Norris said of the ability to use HoloLens to experience the planet as if one were there. "But our dreams don't have to end with making it just like being there. If we dial this real world to the virtual, we can do magical things. We can see in invisible wavelengths or teleport to the top of a mountain. Perhaps some day we'll feel the minerals in a rock just by touching it." Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have HoloLens headsets so that scientists on Earth can assist them as if both were in the same place. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
News Article | September 6, 2016
At some point, as each of us develops from being a tiny ball of cells to a functioning human, we “wake up” and become conscious. “We have absolutely no idea when or how consciousness emerges,” neuroscientist Adrian Owen told me. “At some point, you have to accept that a zygote isn’t conscious, but a [healthy] 10-year-old child is.” To better define human consciousness, Owen and other scientists are looking for it where many have long believed it doesn't exist, including among patients who are in a persistent vegetative state, and even comatose. New research is also trying to pinpoint when cognition emerges, by doing brain scans on babies and young children, even fetuses. This research just got a major push forward. On Tuesday, Western University’s BrainSCAN initiative received a $66 million infusion, which comes among many federal funding announcements for science and research this week. That money will allow Western “to extend this science in new directions,” said Owen, the scientific director of BrainSCAN. “On a basic science level, it will allow us to start to understand how consciousness evolves.” Infant being put into an MRI brain scanner. Padding keeps the child from squirming too much inside the machine. Image: Rhodri Cusack Today's research builds on a decade of findings from Owen, who’s been exploring human consciousness in vegetative patients, a group that was long thought to lack any awareness: they typically have roving eye movements, and retain some basic reflexes, but won’t respond when a doctor asks them to squeeze their hand, for example. Owen has put some vegetative patients inside a brain scanner and played them Hitchcock films, to observe brain activity during the scary scenes. He’s asked them to imagine doing specific tasks like playing tennis, enabling some to answer yes-and-no questions from inside an fMRI machine by activating certain targeted parts of their brains. Most vegetative patients are not conscious, Owen will emphasize, and giving families false hope that their loved one might recover can be a dangerous thing. But Owen believes that as many as one-in-five who are diagnosed as “vegetative” could actually retain some level of consciousness that’s undetectable by the methods that doctors traditionally use. He's been working on developing better ways to define this group, and help them communicate. The British neuroscientist is also taking what he’s learned by working with vegetative patients and applying it to other types of patients, like comatose people, playing them audio from a scene from the movie Taken as they lie inside a scanner. “Coma patients have their eyes closed, so showing them a movie doesn’t work,” he told me. “There’s a great scene from Taken, with Liam Neeson, and it works like a charm.” (It’s a suspenseful scene in which the Neeson character’s daughter is hiding from kidnappers, he told me.) Scanning an infant from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Image: Rhodri Cusack Western neuroscientist Rhodri Cusack, a frequent collaborator of Owen’s, is spearheading the work on infant cognition. I gave Cusack a call to find out what baby brain scans show. “We know so little about what’s going on in a baby’s brain,” Cusack told me, partly because scientists and doctors can’t directly ask babies about it. (The same could be said for vegetative patients, or those in a coma.) But understanding an infant’s cognition is hugely important for a few reasons—not only to tell us when and how cognition develops, but to help diagnose certain brain injuries in babies and newborns. “Unlike an adult with mild brain damage, an infant can’t tell you what they can’t do,” Owen said. Cusack has been using neuroimaging to study babies’ brain function, playing them lullabies like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Mary Had a Little Lamb inside a brain scanner. (Subjects need to stay very still for it to work properly, and babies are notoriously wiggly; so they’ll often perform these studies while the babies are sleeping, he said.) They’ve also done a limited number of scans on fetuses, including Owen’s son, who’s a toddler now. While it’s too early to talk about results, Cusack said that brain scans on fetuses in utero are being developed as another avenue for research. Cusack’s work doesn’t get directly at consciousness, he told me—he’s interested in the emergence of cognition, a particular type of brain activity that comes in response to challenging tasks—but similar techniques could be used to pinpoint consciousness, too. For Owen, pinning down the origins of human consciousness could eventually help scientists answer other questions, for example defining it in other species. “Nobody really knows what form consciousness takes in a chimpanzee,” he said. In the process, the work could get at “what makes us human,” Owen said. Image Above: Connections in the infant brain at age 1 mo., 3 mos., 11 mos., 7 yrs., 28 yrs. Rhodri Cusack Want more Motherboard in your life? Then sign up for our daily newsletter.