Pop science

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A COUPLE OF DRINKS A DAY CAN KEEP YOUR BRAIN ‘CLEAN’, CLAIMS STUDY

AS IF WE NEEDED ANOTHER EXCUSE TO ENJOY A PINT.

New research out of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, New York, claims that a little alcohol can go a long way in reducing inflammation in your brain. Low-level alcohol consumption has been shown to also clear away toxins from the brain, including those that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. This study isn’t the first to extol the beneficial health effects of low or moderate alcohol consumption. Many studies have linked low levels of alcohol to the reduction of cardiovascular disease as well. While most of us don’t need an excuse to enjoy a glass of wine or a cold pint, it must be noted that alcohol is best when consumed in moderation.

 

Spending time in dimly lit rooms could reduce our brain power

IT DEFINITELY MAKES MICE DUMBER.

Neuroscientists at Michigan State University have found some proof that spending too much time in dimly lit rooms could change the structure of the brain, thus affecting learning and memory. While this study was conducted on mice kept in low light conditions or prolonged darkness, and therefore may not affect humans the same way, the thought is if it harms one mammalian species the data could be extrapolated out to suggest how it may affect humans as well. Rodents kept in the dark were found to have reduced hippocampal capacity, the learning and memory centre of the brain, while those exposed to bright light improved when performing spatial tasks. This is the first study to link environmental light to brain structure, and could have implications for the elderly who generally spend a lot of time indoors, or those suffering from glaucoma, retinal degeneration or cognitive impairments.

 

Your heartbeat could one day be displayed on your artificial skin

VITAL STATISTICS DISPLAYED FOR ALL TO SEE.

Scientists have been working on electronic skins (or e-skins) for a few years now, with dreams of making robots that look more like human beings. Electronic skins can convey information on temperature and pressure and, in January 2018, scientists in the US were able to create e-skin that could self-heal when damaged. Now, researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed an e-skin that can measure and display vital signs in real time. The design included a breathable nanomesh electrode and elastic wiring attached to micro LEDs that form the display on the e-skin. The sensor can even be paired to an app which transmits information to the cloud. One Japanese company is keen on offering the skin commercially in the next three years, so if you need medical attention, all anyone needs to do is look at your hand.

 

Consider putting your phone away to better enjoy your night out

DID WE NOT KNOW THAT ALREADY?

Being always connected has become a way of life but new research out of the University of British Columbia, Canada, suggests that people who put their phones away while at dinner when out and about enjoy themselves more than those who don’t. “As useful as smartphones can be, our findings confirm what many of us likely already suspected,” said Ryan Dwyer, lead author and PhD student in the department of psychology. For the study, 300 people were asked to go to dinner with friends or family and were randomly assigned to either keep their phones handy on the table or stow them away. Post-dinner questionnaires were then filled out, revealing that those who had the phones on the table felt distracted and, strangely, bored, which negatively effected how they enjoyed the night.

 

HYPERTENSION, SLEEP APNEOA & DIABETES: THE APPLE WATCH CAN DETECT THEM ALL WITH RESOUNDING ACCURACY

Data collected from 14,000 Apple Watch users has shown that the wearable is able to detect diabetes with an accuracy of 85% just by using the heart rate sensor. The impetus to use the Watch to see if it could accurately detect a diabetic patient came from a 2015 study conducted in the UK, which showed that resting heart rate and beat variability can be successfully used to predict both diabetes and hypertension. Previously the Apple Watch was able to detect abnormal heart rates with 97% accuracy, sleep apneoa with 90% accuracy and hypertension with 82% accuracy when paired with an AI-based algorithm. If wearables are able to detect signs of diseases, the hope is that these will enable doctors and patients to catch them earlier, and be treated before things become more serious.

 

ELECTRIC EELS INSPIRE TECH THAT COULD KEEP HEARTS BEATING

A research team at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, has created electric eel-inspired batteries that are soft with the potential to one day power medical implants like pacemakers. The power source is capable of generating 110 volts by using compartments filled with salt solutions of differing concentrations. While it may seem that the system would be large, given it needs several compartments, the researchers were able to make it all work on a sheet the size of printer paper. Eels are able to generate electricity from ion gradients in their body, so this sheet-like battery mimics that. The proof-of-concept batteries are made from hydrogels and could be biocompatible as well.

 

EVOLUTION COULD STOP ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IN ITS TRACKS

We may not often see it working, but evolution never takes a holiday. Along with every plant and animal on the planet, we’re evolving too, changing in subtle ways that are unknown to us. A paper published recently in the journal Nature, Ecology & Evolution suggests that this natural process could be helping humans develop a gene that could cause an “adverse physical response” when alcohol is consumed. The authors of the paper believe the process has already begun, as there are people who find any form of alcohol extremely unpleasant. Once this gene has been inherited by different populations, the human race could even stop drinking alcohol altogether. In fact, evolution is already to blame for the gene variation that has made many ethnic groups lactose intolerant.