Mind-reading device shows “locked-in” patients are happy and offers way to communicate
A non-invasive device has been developed that can detect yes/no answers in people who are completely paralyzed but otherwise healthy with normal cognitive function (“locked-in syndrome”). The Swiss study, published in PLOS Biology combines two techniques – one that measures blood flow in regions of the brain via a light beam and the other an EEG cap, which measures electrical brainwave activity. Four patients with locked-in syndrome due to advanced ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka “Lou Gehrig’s disease”) participated in the study. The device was trained to recognize yes and no answer patterns based on known facts, then used to ask new questions. All four patients reported they were happy – one patient stated she wished to visit New York and one man repeatedly denied his daughter permission to marry (although they went on to marry anyway!). Some patients in the study had not communicated since 2014.
This technology is a huge development for patients with no options to communicate, although other technologies are also being developed (previously reported here). This tech could completely change the way that we treat and view these patients and broaden our understanding of patients in this disease state.
How men and women are affected differently by allergic diseases
Women are more susceptible to certain stress-related and allergic diseases than men, due to the differing action of mast cells, a type of immune cell. A study, published in Biology of Sex Differences, found that although the genes in male and female mast cells are the same (barring the XY/XX chromosome), the genes were expressed differently in the two sexes. This resulted in mast cells in women creating a more aggressive inflammatory response when under stress, which may result in disease. Diseases involving mast cells include allergies, irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune diseases, which are more common in women than men.
This study was only conducted in mice; however, understanding how male and female mast cells differ in their response to stress could lead to the development of sex-tailored treatments for these diseases.
New male contraceptive gel passes monkey tests
A new male contraceptive gel has been deemed a success in monkeys. In the study, 16 monkeys received injections of Vasalgel™, which aims to block the flow of sperm (however would not protect from STDs). The monkeys were then released back into their groups and allowed to mate. According to the data, published in Basic and Clinical Andrology, no pregnancies occurred in the next 2 years.
The authors hope to begin human tests within a few years and that Vasalgel™ could be a less-invasive and reversible alternative to a vasectomy.
Scientific buzz words added to the dictionary
Merriam Webster announced over 1,000 new words to be added to its dictionary.