What happens when a nuclear bomb explodes under water.

According to the cameramen who documented US atomic tests during the 1950s, the Wahoo and Umbrella underwater explosions were more amazing than a atmospheric nuclear explosion. Watch this stunning video and listen to him explaining his experience of living these explosions just 2.5 miles away.

What is the best treatment to manage peritonitis in people on peritoneal dialysis? | Cochrane Summaries


From the desk of Zedie.

Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support: Knowledge of Medical Students in New Delhi

Background: The chain of survival includes basic life support (BLS) as an important element. Knowledge of CPR is an important part of medical student’s training but there is still no routine training included in medical undergraduate teaching in developing countries like India, thus, medical graduates often face difficulty in emergency situations.
Aim: To assess BLS/ACLS knowledge among medical students from different professional years in New Delhi.
Methodology: A multi-centric study was planned as an analytical cross-sectional study with study sample drawn from medical students enrolled in various professional years and interns during the session 2012-2013 at 5 medical colleges of New Delhi. The sample was randomly drawn from each professional year and interns of 5 teaching hospitals of New Delhi. The study was conducted from May to August 2013.A predesigned self-administered objective questionnaire was distributed and15 minutes were given to each participant. Twenty questions were based on BLS while ten on ACLS.
Results: The data from 288 responders was analyzed using Microsoft Excel 2010 and Stata S.E 9.0.The mean scores of first-year students in BLS and ACLS were the lowest, 4.56 + 2.76 and 1.65 +  1.35 respectively while the mean scores of second-,third- and final-year students in BLS and ACLS were 6.28 +3.03 and 2.6 + 1.68, 7.75 + 3.34 and 3.62 + 2.47, 10.17 + 2.4 and 6.1 + 2.04 respectively. The mean scores of interns were the highest, 10.85 +1.83 in BLS and 6.35 + 2.59 respectively(p<0.001). The mean score of study sample was 7.416 + 3.55 in BLS and 3.7 + 2.66 in ACLS.
Those who received a formal training in BLS/ACLS had a mean score of 11.07+ 1.86 compared to those who had not received formal training and had a score of 6.99 + 3.43(p<0.001).
Conclusion: The study revealed that the medical undergraduates (UGs) had inadequate knowledge in BLS and ACLS. Most of them support the idea of training in BLS/ACLS to be a part of the UG curriculum. Those who were performing CPR (interns) had a significantly higher knowledge than those who didn’t. The knowledge of formally trained students is significantly higher than untrained students.
Despite important advances in prevention, cardiac arrest remains a substantial public health problem and a leading cause of death in many parts of the world.[1]In the United States and Canada, approximately 3,50,000 people per year (approximately half of them admitted in-hospitals) suffer a cardiac arrest and receive attempted resuscitation. This estimate does not include the substantial number of victims who suffer an arrest without attempted resuscitation. While attempted resuscitation is not always appropriate, there are many lives and life-years lost because appropriate resuscitation is not attempted.[2]
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a series of life-saving actions that improve the chances of survival, following cardiac arrest.[3] Successful resuscitation, following cardiac arrest, requires an integrated set of coordinated actions represented by the links in the Chain of Survival. The links include the following: immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system, early CPR with an emphasis on chest compressions, rapid defibrillation, effective advanced life support (ALS), and integrated post-cardiac arrest care.[4] The likelihood to achieveROSC increases with drug therapy, advanced airway management and physiological monitoring.
Return to a prior quality of life and functional state of health is the ultimate goal of a resuscitation system of care.In 1966 the AHA developed the first CPR guidelines which have been followed by periodic updates, the latest one being of 2010.[5]
Knowledge of CPR is an important part of medical student’s training but there is still no routine training included in the medical UG teaching in developing countries like India, thus, medical graduates when they become interns and post graduates often face difficulty in emergency situations. In this study we aimed at finding the awareness of medical students of various professional years and interns regarding BLS and ACLSwhich can be provided by either trained medical personnels,emergency medical technicians or by ordinarypeopletrained in BLS. This ability to recognize and treat a respiratory or cardiac arrest is a basic skill that all doctors are expected to have mastered. However,not many junior doctors are competent to carry out effective CPR.[6] There’s a lack of structured pattern of BLS/ACLS training in medical curriculum.[7]Thus, they are not completely confident when they suddenly face a situation of resuscitation.There are not many studies to assess the knowledge of medical students regarding resuscitation, especially in India. Hence this study was conducted to assess BLS/ACLS knowledge among them.
AIM:To assess BLS/ACLSknowledge among medical students from different professional years inNew Delhi.
Study Design: A multi-centric study was planned as an analytical cross-sectional study.
Study sample: It included medical students enrolled in various professional years and interns during the session of 2012-2013 at 5 medical colleges of New Delhi. The samplewas randomly drawn from each professional year and interns of 5 teaching hospitals of New Delhi. Permission was taken from the head of institutions (Table 1).
Study Time:The study was conducted over a 4-month period from May to August 2013.
Study Tool: A predesigned self-administered objective questionnaire was given to each participant. Twenty questions were based on BLS while ten were based on ACLS.A questionnaire was prepared by the authors that encompassed 3 domains:
1. Demography and formal training of the participants in BLS/ACLS
2. Theoretical and practical knowledge of the participants related to BLS,a set of self-prepared 20 MCQs with 4 options based on BLS For Healthcare Providers Student Manual,2010.
3.Theoretical and practical knowledge of the participants related to ACLS,a set of 10 MCQs with 4 options based on Advanced Cardiovascular
Life Support (ACLS) Provider Manual, 2010American Heart Association Guidelines for CPR and ECC.
Each student was given 15 minutes for 30 questions.
Data Analysis: The collected data were calculated using Microsoft Excel and then statistical analysis was made by Stata S.E 9.0. Student’s independent ‘t’ test was applied and p value <0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Out of 300 questionnaires filled,12 were excluded as they were incomplete and remaining 288 were included in the study. Table 1 gives us the demographic details of the participants.
Participants (96%) felt BLS and ACLS training should be a part of routine training in UG curriculum.
The mean scores of first-year students in BLS and ACLS were the lowest, 4.56 + 2.76 and 1.65 + 1.35 respectively while the mean scores of second-,third- and final years in BLS and ACLS were 6.28 +3.03 and 2.6 + 1.68, 7.75 + 3.34 and 3.62 + 2.47, 10.17 + 2.4 and 6.1 +2.04, respectively. The mean scores of interns were the highest, 10.85 + 1.83 in BLS and 6.35 + 2.59, respectively. The mean score of study sample was 7.416 + 3.55 in BLS and 3.7 + 2.66 in ACLS(Table 2).
An association was seen between the qualification of medical students/internsand their knowledge in BLS (p value <0.005) (Table 2).
Also an association was observed between the trained participants in BLS/ACLS and their mean scores(p<0.001) (Table 3).
Figures 1 and 2 show us the percentage score of the study group in BLS and ACLS respectively.Tables 4 and 5 show us theoretical and practical knowledge of the participants in BLS and ACLS respectively.
The study results showed that medical students in Delhi failed to show adequate knowledge in both BLS and ACLS (see Tables 4 and 5). Percentageof students who scored less than 50% in BLS was 65, only 2%(6) students scored 70%-79% and only 1% (3) studentsscored>80% (see Figure 1). Similar results were shown by ShantaChandrasekaran et al where none of the participants scored above 85% while 85% of participants scored less than 50%.[8]Only (48.1%) of the students from Switzerland could give correct answers on knowledge based questions.[9] Similarly low levels (54.3%, 25%) of knowledge have been reported from medical students in Poland and interns from southern India, respectively.[10],[11]
Early institution of CPR can double or triple the victim’s chances of survival fromsudden cardiac arrest.[12]However in our study only 41% had knowledge about the AED usage (see Table 5).In other study by Avabratha KS et al 37.4% of medical interns were aware of the AED usage.[13]
The newest development in the 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC is a change in the BLS sequence ofsteps from airway, breathing, chest compressions (ABC) tochest compressions, airway, breathing (CAB) for adultsand pediatric patients (children and infants, excluding newborns) as the highest survival rates from cardiac arrest are reported among patients of all ages with witnessed arrest and a rhythm of VF or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT). In these patients the critical initial elements of CPR are chest compressions and early defibrillation.[5] However, in our study only 4% of the participants were able to answer all questions regarding chest compressions correctly.
Very few participants (9%) had undergone formal training in BLS and only 3.6% in ACLS. HN Harsha Kumar et al have also shown poor level of training among the UG medical students.[14]Low levels of training have been reported from Pakistan and the UK.[15],[16]
Statistically significant correlation was seen between the formal training of the participants and their knowledge in both BLS and ACLS(see Table 3).Shrestha Roshana et al. also showed that CPR training significantly influenced BLS knowledge of the participants as those who had received some CPR training within 5 years obtained the highest mean score of 8.62±2.49.[17]Other studies have also concluded  that the knowledge of trained personnels was better than those of untrained ones.[18]
Also a significant correlation was observed between the qualification of medical students and their knowledge (see Table 2).Interns who get training in BLS in their anaesthesia rotations had a significantly higher knowledge than the medical UGs who had no such exposure. Chaudhari A et al showed improvement in knowledge and skill of CPR followinga BLS training.[19]Elif et al also observed that past experience in real life resuscitation improved the awareness.[20]
According to the General Medical Council of the UK, preregistration house officers shouldhave training in BLS before they join their post and that theyshould receive ACLS training during the first year.[21]The royalcollege of physicians has also stated that ALS should be taught in theUG courses and the preregistration house officers should be capable ofinstituting ALS.[22]Participants (96%) felt BLS and ACLS training should be a part of routine training in the UG curriculum which is similar to other study, thus, reflecting that these are “felt needs” of the students.[14]
Training of resuscitation skills is poor due to lack of resources in developing countries like India.[23],[24]Moreover, as the guidelines are updated every 5 years, the need for repetitive training is a must so as to ensure that these changes are implemented. Medical schools are expected to produce well-trained doctors who are competent in clinical practice which include the techniques ofbasic resuscitation, thus, it is time that we standardize training in BLS and ACLS and make it a mandatory component of all medical UG curricula. The Medical Council of India has already incorporated emergency medicine as a separate speciality. Spreading awareness and teaching the basics of ALS to the medical and paramedical team as well as teaching BLS and first aid to the community will be the prime responsibility of this new emergency specialty.[13]
In conclusion, this study has revealed a critical issue that medical students in New Delhi lack adequate knowledge in BLS and ACLS which should be addressed promptly. Since prior CPR training and
clinical exposure influence the retention of knowledge, standard BLS/ACLS training should be incorporated in the UG curriculum and should be repeated periodically. It is also necessary to evaluate and update the knowledge of medical students in BLS and ACLS for better patient outcome and bringing about uniformity in healthcare delivery.
  1. Lloyd-Jones D, Adams RJ, Brown TM, et al; American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics–2010 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation.2010;121:e46-e215.
  2. Nichol G, Thomas E, Callaway CW, et al. Regional variation in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence and outcome. JAMA. 2008;300:1423-1431.
  3. Sasson C, Rogers MA, Dahl J, Kellermann AL. Predictors of survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: a systematic review and meta-analysis. CircCardiovascQual Outcomes. 2010;3:63-81.
  4. Lee K. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation: new concept.TubercRespir Dis (Seoul).May 2012;72(5):401-408.
  5. John M. Field, Mary Fran Hazinski, Michael R. Sayre, et al.Part 1: Executive summary 2010 American Heart Association guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care.Circulation. 2010;122:S640-S656.
  6. Skinner D, Camm A, Miles S. Cardiopulmonary skills of preregistration house officers.BMJ.1985; 290: 1549-1550.
  7. Zaheer H, Haque Z. Awareness about BLS (CPR) among medical students: status and requirements. JPMA.2009; 59(1):57-59.
  8. Chandrasekaran S, Kumar S, Bhat SA, et al. Awareness of basic life support among medical, dental, nursing students and doctors. Indian J Anaesth. 2010;54:121-126..
  9. Businger A, Rinderknecht S, Blank R, Merki L, Carrel T. Students’ knowledge of symptoms and risk factors of potential life-threatening medical conditions. Swiss Med Wkly. 2010;140:78-84.
  10. Chojnacki P, Ilieva R, Kolodziej A, Krolikowska A, Lipka J, Ruta J. Knowledge of BLS and AED resuscitation algorithm amongst medical students–preliminary results. AnestezjolIntensTer 2011;43:29-32.
  11. Sharma R, Attar NR. Adult basic life support (BLS) awareness and knowledge among medical and dental interns completing internship from deemed university. NUJHS. 2012;2:6-13.
  12. Larren MP, Eisenberg MS, Cummins RO, Hallstrom AP. Predicting survival from out of hospital cardiac arrest: a graphic method. Ann Emerg Med.1993; 22:1652-1658.
  13. K.ShreedharaAvabratha, Bhagyalakshmi K, GanapathyPuranik,VaradarajShenoy,SanjeevaRai.A study of the knowledge of resuscitation among interns.Al Ame en J Med Sci (2 012 )5 (2 ) :1 5 2 -1 5 6
  14. HN Harsha Kumar, P SwasthikUpadhya, P Shruthi Ashok.A cross-sectional study on awareness and perception about basic life support/cardio-pulmonary resuscitation among undergraduate medical students from coastal South India.Int J Med Pub Health. 2013(3) ;146-150.
  15. Zaheer H, Haque Z. Awareness about BLS (CPR) among medical students: status and requirements. J Pak Med Assoc. 2009;59:57-59.
  16. Mastoridis S, Shanmugarajah K, Kneebone R. Undergraduate education in trauma medicine: the students’ verdict on current teaching. Med Teach. 2011;33:585-587.
  17. Shrestha Roshana1, Batajoo KH, Piryani RM, Sharma MW.Basic life support: knowledge and attitude of medical/paramedical professionals.World J Emerg Med, vol 3, no 2, 2012.
  18. Abbas A, Bukhari SI, Ahmed F. Knowledge of first aid and basic life support amongst medical students:a comparison between trained and un-trained students. JPMA.2011; 61: 613-616.
  19. Chaudhary A, Parikh H, Dave V. Current scenario: knowledge of basic life support in medical college. Natl J Med Res. 2011; 1: 80-82.
  20. Elif AA, Zeynep K. Knowledge of basic life support: a pilot study of the Turkish population by Baskentuniversity  in Ankara. Resuscitation.2003; 58: 187-192.
  21. Philips PS, Nolan JP. Training in basic and advanced life support in UK medical schools: questionnaire survey.BMJ.2001; 323(7303): 22-23.
  22. Royal College of Physicians of London.Resuscitation from cardiopulmonary arrest.J R Coll Physicians Lond.1987; 21:175-182.
  23. Garg RH. Who killed Rambhor?:the state of emergency medical services in India. J Emerg Trauma Shock. 2012;5:49-54.
  24. Jakob de Vries. Learning by (re)searching.J Young Med Researchers. 2013.

Why wave energy isn’t powering our planet

Among the mix of renewable energy sources, collecting energy from the movement of the ocean seems like it should be a sure thing. It has the benefit of being abundant, constant, and predictable, all good qualities when you’re looking for a new energy source. The U.K. alone believes wave and tidal power (there’s a difference) could meet 75 percent of its current electricity needs.

So why isn’t marine energy powering our planet yet?

As renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, become a greater part of the energy mix worldwide, marine energy is struggling to develop at the same rate.

One of the latest setbacks comes from Ocean Power Technologies which had to abandon a buoy project that would have captured enough energy from the ocean’s movement to power 100 homes. The problem? Higher-than expected costs, The New York Times reports. And with “only a few” other projects even in the planning stages, the marine power potential seems to be greater than reality.
Even the World Energy Council, which has estimated that energy from oceans could one day provide double the current electricity needs worldwide, has its doubts. In a 2013 report, WEC said: “It remains to be seen if the ‘cost down’ curve is such that technology will achieve the scale necessary to make [marine energy] a significant global contribution to electricity production.”
So what’s holding back the industry?
At Yale Environment 360, Dave Levitan has some ideas. One of the main issues: the industry has yet to agree on an optimal design like, say, wind energy. And that makes it hard to scale and bring down costs.

A recurring theme among wave power experts is that wave energy is where wind energy was three decades ago. At that time, engineers had not settled on the optimal design for wind turbines, but decades of ensuing research have resulted in highly sophisticated turbine designs. With wave power, some research occurred after the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, but since then government and commercial research and development into wave power has paled compared to wind and solar energy.

Another setback is that marine energy has yet to secure the amount of investment needed from large companies — like GE has done with wind — to make marine energy a commercial reality. The reason, according to Levitan: “Those companies may be waiting for the technology to sort itself out before investing, a common dilemma in any nascent field.”
And, of course, the ocean is a challenging environment — with its corrosive salt water and damaging storms — for any industry or technology.
There are some promising signs that the industry is moving forward. Lockheed Martin announced that it is teaming up with Ocean Power Technologies to build the world’s largest wave energy project (62.5 megawatts) off the Australian coast. And places like Scotland and Oregon continue to invest in development of marine technology.
Still, all of this represents more potential than commercial demonstration.

Diets high in fruits and veggies cut mortality risk by almost half.

A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health confirms what many of us have suspected, that eating loads of FRESH (and preferably organic) fruits and vegetables daily significantly lowers your risk of death at any age.

According to the study, the more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables you consume, the less likely you are to have death knocking at your door.


By analyzing the eating habits of more than 65,000 people residing in England between 2001 and 2013, researchers found that those who ate seven or more portions of fruits and vegetables per day experienced a 42 percent decrease in the risk of death, compared to those who only ate less than one portion per day.

“The risk of death was reduced by 36 percent with five to seven portions, 29 percent with three to five portions, and 14 percent with one to three portions,” reported HealthDay News.

Interestingly, vegetables are slightly healthier than fruits.

Consuming multiple portions a day decreases your overall death risk by 16 percent, “compared with 13 percent per portion of salad and 4 percent per portion of fresh fruit.”

However, researchers warn that the study only associated a decreased risk in death to eating “fresh produce.”

The findings did suggest that eating seven or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day reduced the risk of heart disease by a staggering 31 percent, and the risk of death from cancer by a whopping 25 percent.

These are obviously very encouraging numbers, and a form of treatment that should not be dismissed.

“We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering,” said the study’s author, Oyinlola Oyebode, with the department of epidemiology and public health at the University of London.

Oyebode also commented in the university’s press release:

“Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.”

Also important to note is that the study found no significant health benefit associated with fruit juice. Fruit juice often contains loads of additional processed sugar and sugary syrups, rather than natural fruit flavors.

Of course, consuming organic, rather than conventional, fruits and vegetables will provide you with the necessary vitamins and minerals, but without the pesticides.

Additionally, fruits and veggies also supply your body with much needed fiber, a resource that helps you feel full and maintains your digestive system.

Keeping your gut healthy is key, especially as more and more Americans are being diagnosed with mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

While some experts argue that anxiety begins within the mind and subsequently displays symptoms in the digestive track, others believe that it’s the other way around, with digestive problems causing emotional anxiety.

ABC News reported that “scientists think there may be a link between what’s in your gut and what’s in your head, suggesting that bacteria may play a role in disorders such as anxiety, schizophrenia and autism.”

Dr. James Greenbalt, a Boston-area psychiatrist, strongly recognizes the power of healthy gut bacteria and the mental health complications that can occur when bacterial levels become unbalanced.

“The gut bacteria talk to the brain in multiple ways through either the immune system or the enteric nervous system,” said Jane Foster, associate professor of neuroscience and behavioral science and part of the McMaster University and Brain-Body Institute.

Overall, the more you incorporate fresh, whole foods into your diet, the less likely you are to suffer from both physical and mental health problems.

Additional sources:






Male Researchers Stress Out Lab Rodents | I Fucking Love Science


From the desk of Zedie.

New medical microchips to be implanted by 2017, delivering drugs, routine birth control through wireless communications.

The future of prescription drugging and birth control lies in a microchip.

Right now, chips with drug reservoirs can be implanted directly under the skin, delivering doses of pharmaceuticals or birth control hormones at the same time each day. The implanted chip is designed to be remote-controlled and governed by “medical professionals.”

Essentially, chipped individuals won’t be able to wean themselves off of side-effect-ridden drugs. The chip can be programmed to release drugs, day after day, year after year, at a “professional’s” directive.


The micro-reservoir technology, first developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1990s, involves an implantable chip designed to release drugs into the body by a wireless signal. This technology, first pioneered by Robert Langer, Michael Cima, and John Santini, now powers a new company called microChip.

On their site, the company states that they are ready to safely incorporate “long-term implantable drug delivery technologies with wireless communications.”

Their first microchip experiment is projected to hit the medical field in 2017 and will offer contraceptive services. The new chip is to be implanted just under the skin by local anesthesia. Once inside, the reservoirs can begin delivering hormones progestin and estrogen as a birth control method.

According to Obamacare, businesses are required by law to offer contraceptive services like this chip. Theoretically, the American people have been ordered to chip one another, through a required tax that is used to invest in controlling everyone’s fertility and liberty.

Osteoporosis drug delivered consistently for four months in clinical trials

A clinical trial was conducted in 2012 for an osteoporosis treatment initiated by the new microchip technology. The chip delivered parathyroid hormone 1-34 (PTH), an anabolic agent also known as teriparatide, directly into the blood of volunteers with osteoporosis. The chip was implanted directly under the skin of the patients’ waist line and delivered a controlled dose of PTH for four months. Medically, the chip was deemed safe, as its implementation advances forward.

New microchips could deliver drugs consistently for up to 16 years

According to the company microChip, the first installments may realistically deliver drugs for up to five years, allowing users to take their prescriptions hands-free without daily injections or pill popping. The company believes that they can even make a chip that delivers a consistent dose for up to 16 years!

The company reports that the device could even transmit data back to hospitals, so doctors “could have permanent records of exactly what you took when.”

CEO Bradley Paddock believes, “The MicroCHIPS implantable drug delivery device is the greatest advancement in delivering medicine since the first tablet pill was developed in 1876.”

Medical microChips destroy liberty, subjecting people to control

How might the concept of being chipped destroy personal sovereignty, as a system of sick care is branded inside the skin?

How might individual liberty be demolished as “health care professionals” govern one’s dosage through wireless communications?

How might this technology be disrupted, misused or hacked, potentially delivering obscene amounts of drugs into user’s systems?

How might this technology ultimately be a form of greater population control through its aggressive birth control mechanisms?

How might this technology open the door for drug companies to gain an even tighter grip over the lives of people who struggle with horrendous side effects, drug-to-drug interactions, and drug-to-heavy-metal-catalyst implications?

Sources for this article include:




Scientists create circuit board modeled on the human brain .

Scientists have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain — 9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC. This offers greater possibilities for advances in robotics and a new way of understanding the brain. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions.

Human brain and circuits illustration (stock image). Stanford scientists have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain — 9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC.
Credit: © agsandrew / Fotolia

Stanford scientists have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain — 9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC. This offers greater possibilities for advances in robotics and a new way of understanding the brain. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions.

Stanford scientists have developed a new circuit board modeled on the human brain, possibly opening up new frontiers in robotics and computing.

For all their sophistication, computers pale in comparison to the brain. The modest cortex of the mouse, for instance, operates 9,000 times faster than a personal computer simulation of its functions.

Not only is the PC slower, it takes 40,000 times more power to run, writes Kwabena Boahen, associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford, in an article for the Proceedings of the IEEE.

“From a pure energy perspective, the brain is hard to match,” says Boahen, whose article surveys how “neuromorphic” researchers in the United States and Europe are using silicon and software to build electronic systems that mimic neurons and synapses.

Boahen and his team have developed Neurogrid, a circuit board consisting of 16 custom-designed “Neurocore” chips. Together these 16 chips can simulate 1 million neurons and billions of synaptic connections. The team designed these chips with power efficiency in mind. Their strategy was to enable certain synapses to share hardware circuits. The result was Neurogrid — a device about the size of an iPad that can simulate orders of magnitude more neurons and synapses than other brain mimics on the power it takes to run a tablet computer.

The National Institutes of Health funded development of this million-neuron prototype with a five-year Pioneer Award. Now Boahen stands ready for the next steps — lowering costs and creating compiler software that would enable engineers and computer scientists with no knowledge of neuroscience to solve problems — such as controlling a humanoid robot — using Neurogrid.

Its speed and low power characteristics make Neurogrid ideal for more than just modeling the human brain. Boahen is working with other Stanford scientists to develop prosthetic limbs for paralyzed people that would be controlled by a Neurocore-like chip.

“Right now, you have to know how the brain works to program one of these,” said Boahen, gesturing at the $40,000 prototype board on the desk of his Stanford office. “We want to create a neurocompiler so that you would not need to know anything about synapses and neurons to able to use one of these.”

Brain ferment

In his article, Boahen notes the larger context of neuromorphic research, including the European Union’s Human Brain Project, which aims to simulate a human brain on a supercomputer. By contrast, the U.S. BRAIN Project — short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies — has taken a tool-building approach by challenging scientists, including many at Stanford, to develop new kinds of tools that can read out the activity of thousands or even millions of neurons in the brain as well as write in complex patterns of activity.

Zooming from the big picture, Boahen’s article focuses on two projects comparable to Neurogrid that attempt to model brain functions in silicon and/or software.

One of these efforts is IBM’s SyNAPSE Project — short for Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics. As the name implies, SyNAPSE involves a bid to redesign chips, code-named Golden Gate, to emulate the ability of neurons to make a great many synaptic connections — a feature that helps the brain solve problems on the fly. At present a Golden Gate chip consists of 256 digital neurons each equipped with 1,024 digital synaptic circuits, with IBM on track to greatly increase the numbers of neurons in the system.

Heidelberg University’s BrainScales project has the ambitious goal of developing analog chips to mimic the behaviors of neurons and synapses. Their HICANN chip — short for High Input Count Analog Neural Network — would be the core of a system designed to accelerate brain simulations, to enable researchers to model drug interactions that might take months to play out in a compressed time frame. At present, the HICANN system can emulate 512 neurons each equipped with 224 synaptic circuits, with a roadmap to greatly expand that hardware base.

Each of these research teams has made different technical choices, such as whether to dedicate each hardware circuit to modeling a single neural element (e.g., a single synapse) or several (e.g., by activating the hardware circuit twice to model the effect of two active synapses). These choices have resulted in different trade-offs in terms of capability and performance.

In his analysis, Boahen creates a single metric to account for total system cost — including the size of the chip, how many neurons it simulates and the power it consumes.

Neurogrid was by far the most cost-effective way to simulate neurons, in keeping with Boahen’s goal of creating a system affordable enough to be widely used in research.

Speed and efficiency

But much work lies ahead. Each of the current million-neuron Neurogrid circuit boards cost about $40,000. Boahen believes dramatic cost reductions are possible. Neurogrid is based on 16 Neurocores, each of which supports 65,536 neurons. Those chips were made using 15-year-old fabrication technologies.

By switching to modern manufacturing processes and fabricating the chips in large volumes, he could cut a Neurocore’s cost 100-fold — suggesting a million-neuron board for $400 a copy. With that cheaper hardware and compiler software to make it easy to configure, these neuromorphic systems could find numerous applications.

For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions — but without being tethered to a power source. Krishna Shenoy, an electrical engineering professor at Stanford and Boahen’s neighbor at the interdisciplinary Bio-X center, is developing ways of reading brain signals to understand movement. Boahen envisions a Neurocore-like chip that could be implanted in a paralyzed person’s brain, interpreting those intended movements and translating them to commands for prosthetic limbs without overheating the brain.

A small prosthetic arm in Boahen’s lab is currently controlled by Neurogrid to execute movement commands in real time. For now it doesn’t look like much, but its simple levers and joints hold hope for robotic limbs of the future.

Of course, all of these neuromorphic efforts are beggared by the complexity and efficiency of the human brain.

In his article, Boahen notes that Neurogrid is about 100,000 times more energy efficient than a personal computer simulation of 1 million neurons. Yet it is an energy hog compared to our biological CPU.

“The human brain, with 80,000 times more neurons than Neurogrid, consumes only three times as much power,” Boahen writes. “Achieving this level of energy efficiency while offering greater configurability and scale is the ultimate challenge neuromorphic engineers face.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. The original article was written by Tom Abate. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Ben Varkey Benjamin, Peiran Gao, Emmett McQuinn, Swadesh Choudhary, Anand R. Chandrasekaran, Jean-Marie Bussat, Rodrigo Alvarez-Icaza, John V. Arthur, Paul A. Merolla, Kwabena Boahen. Neurogrid: A Mixed-Analog-Digital Multichip System for Large-Scale Neural Simulations. Proceedings of the IEEE, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1109/JPROC.2014.2313565

Beyond graphene: Controlling properties of 2D materials

Researchers at The University of Manchester have shown how they can control the properties of stacks of two-dimensional materials, opening up opportunities for new, previously-unimagined electronic devices.

The isolation of at the University in 2004 led to the discovery of many other 2D . While graphene has an unrivalled set of superlatives, these crystals cover a large range of properties: from the most conductive to isolating, from transparent to optically active.


The next step is to combine several of these crystals in a 3D stack. This way, one can create ‘heterostructures’ with novel functionalities – capable of delivering applications as yet beyond the imagination of scientists and commercial partners.

The first examples of such heterostructures already exist: tunnelling transistors, resonant tunnelling diodes, and solar cells.

Writing in Nature Physics, the scientists, led by Nobel Laureate Sir Kostya Novoselov, demonstrate that layers in such stacks can interact strongly, which helps the researchers learn how to control the properties of such heterostructures.

By controlling the relative orientation between graphene and underlying boron nitride – one of the 2D materials and an excellent insulator – the team can reconstruct the crystal structure of graphene. This leads to creation of local strains in graphene and even opening of a band-gap, which might be useful for the functionality of many .

Professor Novoselov said: “Research on heterostructures is gaining momentum, and such possibilities for controlling the properties of heterostructures might become very useful for future applications.”

PhD student Colin Woods, the researcher who carried out the vast majority of the work, said: “It was extremely exciting to see that the properties of graphene can change so dramatically by simply twisting the two crystals only a fraction of a degree.

“Generally, the previous model used to describe the sort of interaction which has been observed in our experiments describes only the 1-dimensional case, but even there it produces very nontrivial solutions.

“We hope that our system will push the mathematical development of the model to two-dimensions, where even more exciting mathematics is to be expected.”

Scripps Florida Scientists Find Connection Between Gene Mutation, Key Symptoms of Autism

Scientists have known that abnormal brain growth is associated with autism spectrum disorder. However, the relationship between the two has not been well understood.

Now, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have shown that mutations in a specific gene that is disrupted in some individuals with autism results in too much growth throughout the brain, and yet surprisingly specific problems in social interactions, at least in mouse models that mimic this risk factor in humans.

“What was striking is that these were basically normal animals in terms of behavior, but there were consistent deficits in tests of social interaction and recognition—which approximate a major symptom of autism,” said Damon Page, a TSRI biologist who led the study. “This suggests that when most parts of the brain are overgrown, the brain somehow adapts to it with minimal effects on behavior in general. However, brain circuits relevant to social behavior are more vulnerable or less able to tolerate this overgrowth.”

The study, which focuses on the gene phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN), was recently published online ahead of print by the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder involving a range of symptoms and disabilities involving social deficits and communication difficulties, repetitive behaviors and interests, and sometimes cognitive delays. The disorder affects in approximately one percent of the population; some 80 percent of those diagnosed are male.

In a previous study, Page and colleagues found that mutations in Pten causes increased brain size and social deficits, with both symptoms being exacerbated by a second “hit” to a gene that regulates levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. In the new study, the TSRI team set out to explore whether mutations in Pten result in widespread or localized overgrowth within the brain, and whether changes in brain growth are associated with broad or selective deficits in tests of autism-relevant behaviors in genetically altered mice. The team tested mice for autism spectrum disorder-related behaviors including mood, anxiety, intellectual, and circadian rhythm and/or sleep abnormalities.

The researchers found that Pten mutant mice showed altered social behavior, but few other changes—a more subtle change than would have been predicted given broad expression and critical cellular function of the gene.

Intriguingly, some of the more subtle impairments were sex-specific. In addition to social impairments, males with the mutated gene showed abnormalities related to repetitive behavior and mood/anxiety, while females exhibited additional circadian activity and emotional learning problems.

The results raise the question of how mutations in PTEN, a general regulator of growth, can have relatively selective effects on behavior and cognitive development. One idea is that PTEN mutations may desynchronize the normal pattern of growth in key cell types—the study points to dopamine neurons—that are relevant for social behavior.

“Timing is everything,” Page said. “Connections have to form in the right place at the right time for circuits to develop normally. Circuitry involved in social behavior may turn out to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of poorly coordinated growth.”

The first author of the study, “Pten Haploinsufficient Mice Show Broad Brain Overgrowth but Selective Impairments in Autism-Relevant Behavioral Tests,” is TSRI Research Associate Amy E. Clipperton-Allen.