Electric shock treatment ‘cures memory loss’, scientists claim

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Measuring brain waves with EEG machine: Electric shock treatment 'cures memory loss', scientists claim Researchers found that a tiny surge of power to parts of the brain can improve recall memory by 11 per cent. Photo: ALAMY

Researchers found that a tiny surge of power to parts of the brain can improve recall memory by 11 per cent.

The treatment stimulates certain neurons in the brain so when a person tries to retrieve a name from their brain, they suddenly start working,

If developed it could provide treatment for stroke victims as well as people whose memory fades through other ailments or even old age.

The study, from Temple University, Philadelphia, could also offer solutions to those who suffer the embarrassing situation of forgetting a person’s name.

“We know a lot about how to make people’s memory worse, but we don’t know very much about how to make people’s memory better,” said Ingrid Olson, a psychologist who led the study.

“These findings hold promise because they point to possible therapeutic treatments for memory rehabilitation following a stroke or other neurological insult.

“As we age, the connections between the neurons in our brains weaken.”

Researchers found the amount of current needed was a fraction used in controversial electric shock treatment on mentally ill patients.

In their study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, researchers used a current of 1-2 milliamps via electrodes to the scalp of volunteers to stimulate the anterior temporal lobes of the brain.

This is the section which deals with the memory of proper names – those with a capital letter at the front like people and places.

The subjects were given photos of famous faces to look at and were tested before, during and after the process.

Recognising the face but not being able to recall the name is a common phenomenon for almost everyone but worse for those suffering neurological disorders.

They found the electrical stimulation increased memory by 11 per cent but only for up to an hour after the treatment was given.

The study did not say how the treatment could be administered on a regular basis.

Cambridge scientists prove ‘home is happiest’ with help from mobile phones

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They say that by analysing people in “natural environments”, psychologists could reach better conclusions through unobtrusive methods when studying periods of happiness, anger or stress.

While the researchers said the technology was safe, it could lead to fears that advertisers could one day be able to “read” a person’s mood.

In their study, presented at a conference on “Ubiquitous Computing” in Denmark, the Cambridge researchers assessed how a person was influenced by their surroundings, the time of day and their relationships with others.

They concluded that a person’s location had a “pronounced effect on the users’ state of mind” with almost half of respondents found to be most happy when in residential locations while 54 per cent recorded “sad” emotions at work.

The pioneering study also found users exhibited more “intense emotions” at night while people expressed their emotions more in smaller groups than in larger crowds.

Dr Cecilia Mascolo, who led the study, said the new technology would enable psychologists to “get out of laboratories” and “artificial” environments and analyse people in more natural settings without the need for surveys.

“Our research confirmed that we can study the same (human behaviour) with this new technology,” she said.

“We are able to undertake longer studies with more people and build a better picture of people’s behaviour that we have not been able to do before now.

“Mobile phones are powerful tools to allow studies of a person’s behaviour and we can do that in a way that is safe and unobtrusive … and when they are in a more natural environment.”

In their study, a group of 18 volunteers were given a modified Nokia 6210 Navigator phone over 10 days while at the same time recording their emotions in a diary.

Researchers then used mobile phone speech recognition software to track a person’s emotional behaviour.

Discussions were then cross referenced with existing speech studies while GPS was used to pinpoint a person’s location when talking on their phone and Bluetooth technology to gauge who they were speaking to.

Dr Mascolo, from the university’s Computer Laboratory, stressed the small study only used volunteers while at all times maintaining a person’s privacy. Volunteers at all times “owned” the findings.

“We are trying to make the technology safe when keeping all the data in the phone,” she said.

She said the research team was working to refine the system further by improving its emotion classification and its response to background noise.

The successful trial will be detailed on Wednesday to the Association for Computing Machinery’s conference in Copenhagen.

Scaling buildings like Spiderman could be a reality, scientists claim

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Sticky gloves and shoes are being developed using a material that allows the wearing to stick and climb up walls.

They have already created a new textile inspired by geckos which has been tested successfully on a small robot that can scale smooth surfaces such as glass and metal.

Engineers now want to “scale up” the design for humans as part of a project that has been codenamed Z-Man.

Geckos’ ability to defy gravity is due to microscopic hairs on their toes, increasing the surface area, which creates a “one-way adhesive”. A sticky bond is created with each step but that bond can be broken by movement in the other direction.

Technicians have struggled over the last 10 years to create an artificial version strong enough for a vertical climb to be attempted successfully. However, researchers at Stanford University, California, have created a rubber-like material covered with thousands of tiny polymer fibres to imitate the gecko’s hairs. These hairs, which are called setae, are ten times thinner than a human hair.

The material is said to be strong and reusable, and leaves no residue or damage. It has been tested on a “robotic gecko” called Stickybot which can walk up panes of glass.

Scientists are now on the way to making a version of the material that “would allow humans to climb with gecko adhesive.”

This would allow someone to hang and support their whole weight using the material.

Professor Mark Cutkosky, the lead designer, said, “Unless you use suction cups, which are kind of slow and inefficient, the other solution out there is to use dry adhesion, which is the technique the gecko uses.”

The secret lies in the gecko’s “one-way adhesive” which makes them very sticky when they touch a surface in one direction – but then come free when pulled back in another.

“It’s very different from Scotch tape or duct tape, where, if you press it on, you then have to peel it off,” explained Professor Cutkosky, an expert in “bio-inspired robotics”.

He added: “Other adhesives are like walking around with chewing gum on your feet: You have to press it into the surface and then you have to work to pull it off. But with directional adhesion, it’s almost like you can sort of hook and unhook yourself from the surface.”

The Stickybot is shaped like a gecko with four feet, each about the size of a child’s hand. As it steadily moves up the wall, the robot peels and then sticks its feet to the surface with ease, just like a real gecko.

Stanford University said efforts to make the material strong enough for humans was “in the works.”

The development of the robots, which use adhesive toes and an agile tail to scale walls, just like a gecko, is funded by the US Department of Defense’s advanced research projects programme.

Scientists prove that women are better at multitasking than men

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It is an age old complaint – that men are incapable of doing more than one thing at once.

Researchers decided to test the truth of the commonly held belief after discovering that no scientific research had ever been done into it.

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They found that when women and men work on a number of simple tasks – such as searching for a key or doing easy maths problems – at the same time, the women significantly outperformed the men.

Scientists believe that the results show that females are better able to reflect upon a problem, while continuing to juggle their other commitments, than men.

Professor Keith Laws, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, who led the research, said: “We have all heard stories that either men can’t multitask or that women are exceptionally good at multitasking.

“But there didn’t appear to be any empirical evidence for this. It was all based upon folklore and hearsay when I looked through the scientific literature.”

Prof. Laws gave 50 male and 50 female students eight minutes to perform three tasks at the same time: carrying out simple maths problems, finding restaurants on a map and sketching a strategy for how they would search for a lost key in an imaginary field.

As they performed the tasks, the volunteers also received a phone call that they could either chose to answer or not. If they did answer, they were given an additional general knowledge test while they continued to carry out their other activities.

While women were able to preform well in all four activities at once, men performed, on average, worse when it came to planning to search for the key.

Professor Laws said: “Men are supposed to have better spatial awareness than women, so they should have outperformed the women on the map task and the key task.

“But of all the tasks we gave, the key searching task also requires planning and some kind of strategy.

“Men tended to start their search in a less logical place such as the centre of the field and they would not cover the whole area when they were outlining their search. women tended to enter in one corner and search in concentric circles or lines.

“It shows that women are better at being able to stand back and reflect for a moment while they are juggling other things.”

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