The “still-in-vacation-mode” excuses are no longer valid and the secret stash of holiday treats have finally dried up. Oh, and the silly groundhog is gracing us with an extended winter. Yay! But that’s all okay. And you know why? Because a new month means that the ZOMG Science! January installment is finally here. *computer five* Nice!
Brainwaves Worth Thousands of Words
Neuroscience is taking mind-reading to a whole other step. After proving that they are capable of reading memories, scientists have now developed a way to translate your auditory brain activity into sound. Researchers from UC Berkeley were able to place a network of electrodes directly to the brains of 15 conscious volunteers over their hearing centers. The volunteers listened to a set of pre-recorded words while their brain activity was recorded. Through two computer programs, developed by the researchers, the words could be reconstructed from the brain recordings.
A sample of the recordings can be heard below. For each word set, the true sound is played first followed by the versions reconstructed by the brain recordings. The words are “waldo,” “structure,” “town,” “doubt,” “property,” and “pencil.”
The applications for this technology are vast. It has the potential to be used to develop an implantable prosthetic device in patients that have difficulty speaking due to conditions such as Lou Gehrig’s disease or strokes. On the flip side, it could also enable you to listen to other people’s thoughts and internal monologues, and vice versa. Possibly good at keeping you out of the doghouse but also could put you there.
Read more about this research here.
Zapped Testicles: The Future of Contraception?
Researchers out of the University of North Carolina may have found a suitable male contraceptive. No, it isn’t a pill you need to pop, lads. According to the researchers, all you need is a couple of blasts of high frequency sound waves… aimed directly at the twins. The doses of ultrasound radiation have been found to significantly reduce the sperm count in rats to levels that would prevent pregnancy if replicated in humans. The researchers are currently trying to determine the duration of the contraceptive effects and if it is safe to use multiple times. Oh, and ensuring that the effects are reversible and that it is, indeed, causing contraception rather than sterilization. If proven to be safe and effective, this could become a common and cheap form of male birth control. And don’t worry boys, these blasts to the nether regions, while scary sounding and intimidating, are supposedly painless.
Check out the research here.
Have you ever wanted to be able to do this:
Thanks to research out of Boston University and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, this may be closer to reality than we think. Neuroscientists claim to have developed a new novel method of learning that can result in long-lasting improvements in highly visually-dependent tasks. Through an individual’s visual cortex, the researchers could induce brain activity to match a previously known target state, thereby improving the performance of visual tasks. In other words, you could stare at a computer screen and have your brain activity modified to match that of an elite athlete or kungfu master. What’s kind of cool (but super creepy at the same time) is that the learning method worked even if the subjects were not consciously aware of what they were learning. So while this could allow me to become a super kick ass spy/anything I want to be with little effort on my part, it could also enable someone else to convertly control my mind. Needless to say, I am mind-blown and excited yet insanely sketched out.
If you are interested, check this paper out here.