Me: Anyway, even if your BMI is 25.1 the CDC will tell you that you need to lose weight.
Anon: Yeah well if you’re that big maybe you should drop all those pounds fat ass.
[Images are photos of a bmi calculator, one reads a height of 5′2, and a weight of 137 pounds, with a bmi of 25.1, the second image reads a height of 5′2, and a weight of 136 pounds, with a bmi of 24.9, these images depict a one pound difference, but a drastic change in bmi, going from overweight to “normal weight” in bmi standards]
Neuroscientists establish brain-to-brain networks in primates, rodents
Neuroscientists at Duke University have introduced a new paradigm for
brain-machine interfaces that investigates the physiological properties
and adaptability of brain circuits, and how the brains of two or more
animals can work together to complete simple tasks.
These brain networks, or Brainets, are described in two articles published in the July 9, 2015, issue of Scientific Reports (1, 2).
In separate experiments reported in the journal, the brains of monkeys
and the brains of rats are linked, allowing the animals to exchange
sensory and motor information in real time to control movement or
In one example, scientists linked the brains of rhesus macaque
monkeys, who worked together to control the movements of the arm of a
virtual avatar on a digital display in front of them. Each animal
controlled two of three dimensions of movement for the same arm as they
guided it together to touch a moving target.
In the rodent experiment, scientists networked the brains of four
rats complete simple computational tasks involving pattern recognition,
storage and retrieval of sensory information, and even weather
Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) are computational systems that allow
subjects to use their brain signals to directly control the movements
of artificial devices, such as robotic arms, exoskeletons or virtual
The Duke researchers, working at the Center for Neuroengineering,
have previously built BMIs to capture and transmit the brain signals of
individual rats, monkeys, and even human subjects to artificial devices.
“This is the first demonstration of a shared brain-machine
interface, a paradigm that has been translated successfully over the
past decades from studies in animals all the way to clinical
applications,” said Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph. D., co-director of the
Center for Neuroengineering at the Duke University School of Medicine
and principal investigator for the study. “We foresee that shared BMIs
will follow the same track, and could soon be translated to clinical
To complete the experiments, Nicolelis and his team outfitted the
animals with arrays implanted in their motor and somatosensory cortices
to capture and transmit their brain activity.
For one experiment highlighted in the primate article, researchers
recorded the electrical activity of more than 700 neurons from the
brains of three monkeys as they moved a virtual arm toward a target. In
this experiment, each monkey mentally controlled two out of three
dimensions (i.e., x-axis and y-axis; see video) of the virtual arm.
The monkeys could be successful only when at least two of them
synchronized their brains to produce continuous 3-D signals that moved
the virtual arm. As the animals gained more experience and training in
the motor task, researchers found that they adapted to the challenge.
The study described in the second paper used groups of three or four
rats whose brains were interconnected via microwire arrays in the
somatosensory cortex of the brain and received and transmitted
information via those wires.
In one experiment, rats received temperature and barometric pressure
information and were able to combine information with the other rats to
predict an increased or decreased chance of rain. Under some
conditions, the authors observed that the rat Brainet could perform at
the same level or better than one rat on its own.
These results support the original claim of the same group that
Brainets may serve as test beds for the development of organic computers
created by the interfacing of multiple animal brains with computers.
Nicolelis and colleagues of the Walk Again Project, based in the
project’s laboratory in Brazil, are currently working on a non-invasive
human Brainet to be used for neuro-rehabilitation training in paralyzed
New studies say rats and monkeys whose brains are linked by electrodes can coordinate their brains to carry out tasks, often better than individuals do.
Wait, what? A team around Miguel A. Nicolelis, director of the Center for Neuroengineering at Duke University, has made the idea of a brain-network a bit more tangible by linking together animal brains with electrodes. In their paper Building an organic computing device with multiple interconnected brains the scientist report
that rats & monkeys can coordinate their brains to carry out such tasks as moving a simulated arm or recognizing simple patterns. In many of the trials, the networked animals performed better than individuals.
According to Karen S. Rommelfanger, director of the Neuroethics Program at the Center for Ethics at Emory University, possible future use cases are
Police officers might be able to make collective decisions on search-and-rescue missions. Surgeons might collectively operate on a single patient. But she also warned that brain networks could create a host of exotic ethical quandaries involving privacy and legal responsibility. If a brain network were to commit a crime, for example, who exactly would be guilty? […]
By understanding this capacity of the brain, it may someday be possible to combine the power of many human brains. […] [But] Dr. Rommelfanger considers it unlikely that people would be willing to have brain surgery to join a network.
Researchers Build Brain-Machine Interface to Control Prosthetic Hand
A research team from the University of Houston has created an algorithm that allowed a man to grasp a bottle and other objects with a prosthetic hand, powered only by his thoughts.
The technique, demonstrated with a 56-year-old man whose right hand had been amputated, uses non-invasive brain monitoring, capturing brain
activity to determine what parts of the brain are involved in grasping
an object. With that information, researchers created a computer
program, or brain-machine interface (BMI), that harnessed the subject’s
intentions and allowed him to successfully grasp objects, including a
water bottle and a credit card. The subject grasped the selected objects
80 percent of the time using a high-tech bionic hand fitted to the
Previous studies involving either surgically implanted electrodes or
myoelectric control, which relies upon electrical signals from muscles
in the arm, have shown similar success rates, according to the
Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, a neuroscientist and engineer at UH, said
the non-invasive method offers several advantages: It avoids the risks
of surgically implanting electrodes by measuring brain activity via
scalp electroencephalogram, or EEG. And myoelectric systems aren’t an
option for all people, because they require that neural activity from
muscles relevant to hand grasping remain intact.
Contreras-Vidal, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished
Professor of electrical and computer engineering at UH, was lead author
of the paper, along with graduate students Harshavardhan Ashok Agashe,
Andrew Young Paek and Yuhang Zhang.
The work, funded by the National Science Foundation, demonstrates for
the first time EEG-based BMI control of a multi-fingered prosthetic
hand for grasping by an amputee. It also could lead to the development
of better prosthetics, Contreras-Vidal said.
Beyond demonstrating that prosthetic control is possible using
non-invasive EEG, researchers said the study offers a new understanding
of the neuroscience of grasping and will be applicable to rehabilitation
for other types of injuries, including stroke and spinal cord injury.
T he study subjects – five able-bodied, right-handed men and women,
all in their 20s, as well as the amputee – were tested using a
64-channel active EEG, with electrodes attached to the scalp to capture
brain activity. Contreras-Vidal said brain activity was recorded in
multiple areas, including the motor cortex and areas known to be used in
action observation and decision-making, and occurred between 50
milliseconds and 90 milliseconds before the hand began to grasp.
That provided evidence that the brain predicted the movement, rather than reflecting it, he said.
“Current upper limb neuroprosthetics restore some degree of
functional ability, but fail to approach the ease of use and dexterity
of the natural hand, particularly for grasping movements,” the
researchers wrote, noting that work with invasive cortical electrodes
has been shown to allow some hand control but not at the level necessary
for all daily activities.
“Further, the inherent risks associated with surgery required to
implant electrodes, along with the long-term stability of recorded
signals, is of concern. … Here we show that it is feasible to extract
detailed information on intended grasping movements to various objects
in a natural, intuitive manner, from a plurality of scalp EEG signals.”
Until now, this was thought to be possible only with brain signals acquired invasively inside or on the surface of the brain.
Researchers first recorded brain activity and hand movement in the
able-bodied volunteers as they picked up five objects, each chosen to
illustrate a different type of grasp: a soda can, a compact disc, a
credit card, a small coin and a screwdriver. The recorded data were used
to create decoders of neural activity into motor signals, which
successfully reconstructed the grasping movements.
They then fitted the amputee subject with a computer-controlled
neuroprosthetic hand and told him to observe and imagine himself
controlling the hand as it moved and grasped the objects.
The subject’s EEG data, along with information about prosthetic hand
movements gleaned from the able-bodied volunteers, were used to build
Contreras-Vidal said additional practice, along with refining the algorithm, could increase the success rate to 100 percent.
Child fitness levels are falling at an even
faster rate than first feared – and this time there is evidence it has
nothing to do with obesity.
Following up on their 2009 study which showed child fitness declined
by 8% over the previous ten years, researchers at the University of
Essex have reported an even larger drop in fitness in schoolchildren.
This time, however, they found the children who they tested were
actually thinner than those measured in 2008.
Lead researcher Dr Gavin Sandercock explained: “Our findings show
there is no obesity crisis in the schools we went to as less than 5% of
pupils were obese and the average BMI is now below 1998 values. This
would be good news if BMI was all we had measured, but our fitness tests
tell a different story.”
The ceremonial opening kick of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Sao Paolo, Brazil, which was performed—with the help of a brain-controlled exo-skeleton—by a local teen who had been paralyzed from the waste down due to a spinal cord injury, was a seminal moment for the area of neuroscience that strives to connect the brain with functional prosthetics. The public display was a representative of thousands of such neuroprosthetic advances in recent years, and the tens of years of brain research and technological development that have gone into them. And while this display was quite an achievement in its own right, a Drexel University biomedical engineer working at the leading edge of the field contends that these devices are also opening a new portal for researchers to understand how the brain functions.
Karen Moxon, PhD, a professor in Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering Science and Health Systems, was a postdoctoral researcher in Drexel’s medical school when she participated in the first study ever to examine how the brain could be connected to operate a prosthetic limb. More than 15 years after that neuroscience benchmark, Moxon’s lab is showing that it’s now possible to glean new insight about how the brain stores and accesses information, and into the causes of pathologies like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.
In a perspective published in the latest edition of the neuroscience journal Neuron Moxon and her colleague, Guglielmo Foffani from San Pablo University in Spain, build a framework for how researchers can use neuroprosthetics as a tool for examining how and where the brain encodes new information. The duo highlights three examples from their own research where the brain-machine-interface technology allowed them to isolate and study new areas of brain function.
“We believe neuroprosthetics can be a powerful tool to address fundamental questions of neuroscience,” Moxon said. “These subjects can provide valuable data as indirect observers of their own neural activity that are modulated during the experiments they are taking part in. This allows researchers to pinpoint a causal relationship between neural activity and the subject’s behavior rather than one that is indirectly correlative.”
The challenge faced by all scientists who study the brain is proving a direct relationship between the action of the subject and the behavior of brain cells. Each experiment is designed to chisel away at the uncertainty in this relationship with the goal of establishing causality—proof that the behavior of neurons in the brain is actually what is causing a subject to perform a certain action. Or, conversely, that a certain neural behavior is the direct result of an external stimulus.
Neuroprosthetics, according to Moxon, could be the way around this obstacle. This is because the prosthetic, as a stand-in for an actual body part or set of them, is also a vehicle for getting real-time feedback from the brain.
“Subjects can be viewed as indirect observers of their own neurophysiological activity during neuroprosthetic experiments,” Moxon said. “To move the prosthesis they must think both about the motor functions involved and the goal of the movement. As they see the movement of the prosthetic their brain adjusts in real time to continue planning the movement, but doing it without the normal feedback from the moving body part—as the prosthetic technology is standing in for that part of the body.”
This separation of planning and movement control was pivotal to Moxon’s research on how the brain encodes for the passage of time, which she recently reported in the Journal of Neuroscience. But this is just one example of how brain-machine-interface technology can be used to experimentally tease out and observe new certainties about the brain.
Moxon, who was recently elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers, suggests that in addition to the study of how neurons encode and decode information in real time, incorporating neuroprosthetics into experiments could also show how this coding process changes with learning and is altered in pathological conditions like the ones that cause epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.
“While the past 15 years have witnessed tremendous advancements in neuroprosthetic technology and our basic understanding of brain function, the brain-machine-interface approach is still expanding the landscape of neuroscienctific inquiry,” Moxon said. “By circumventing classical object-observer duality, the BMI research paradigm opens doors for a new understanding of how we control our own brain function including neural plasticity—and this has the potential to lead to new treatments and therapies for epilepsy, Parkinson’s and other pathologies.”
Presumed Guilty: The Public’s Perception of Childhood Obesity
By Bailey Webber–They are mocked by their peers, scolded by their parents, lectured by doctors, and even judged by their government. Again and again, overweight kids are in the line of fire. The message is clear, “If you are overweight, you have done something wrong. It’s your fault.” But, is it really?
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about this while filming the documentary The Student Body, which is about the government’s attempt to solve childhood obesity through state mandated “fat letters" based on BMI (Body Mass Index). Over the past three years I’ve been immersed in this issue, speaking with medical experts, government officials, parents and student all across the country. This has led me to a deeper understanding of this complicated issue. But it has also led me to a particular thought that keeps me up at night.
What if our concept of the cause of obesity in some kids is wrong? What if for those kids, it’s not as simple as poor diet and exercise? What if there are other forces at play, outside of the control of the child, that are just as impactful? If this is the case, then we can also assume that the treatment is doomed to fail too, which seems to be happening so much of the time. Worse yet, the child who is already struggling with obesity, now must deal the judgment, even punishment, that comes along with “doing something wrong.”
Some of the professionals I’ve interviewed seem to be wondering the same thing. For instance, one physician and university professor suspects there is a disease process in the bodies of this new generation of kids, causing an abnormal weight issue. She points out that this can even be seen in our most active students, our athletes. But where is it coming from? Could it be environmental? Could it actually be something in our food?
Others who specialize in the field of nutrition and eating disorders have commented that we have to take into account the significant impact of genetics, economic issues and cultural influences. But if we have an attitude of treating all people with obesity the same way, addressing mostly diet and exercise, we are likely not to lose weight, but instead lose the battle! In fact, the past 50 years of this mindset has only caused us to become a more obese and unhealthy nation.
And of all the possibilities mentioned, none of them are within the control of the overweight child. Still, our lawmakers (like the general public) are only hyper-focused on BMI and blaming the child for their poor diet and exercise when they have no idea of the individuals’ lifestyles. Similar to the way we may have treated kids who suffered from dyslexia, prior to understanding that there was such a thing, I wonder if a deeper understanding of obesity in the future will look the same way.
As a society, we’ve come a long way in our understanding of other diseases and disorders. Look at how we once treated people with learning disabilities, depression, and other diseases, prior to knowing that they even existed. Today, with more science and understanding, we have changed our attitudes and our methods of treatment. So, my question is, will obesity be the same way? Experts I’ve talked to say that the science and research has come a long way in understanding this disease. And yet the public recognition, understanding and perception of those suffering from obesity is lagging behind the science.
My hope is that in the near future, people will finally change their perception about the causes of obesity, stop pointing a judging finger at the kids who suffer from this disease and encourage more research into developing better cures. Because, after all this time of shaming and blaming… what if we were wrong?
About this blogger: Bailey Webber is a student investigative journalist, writer and co-director of The Student Body - an inspiring new film being released this spring that explores the controversial issue of government mandated BMI testing of students and the ensuing ‘Fat Letters’.