SciTech Briefs

Brain views images past borders

Researchers from the University of Delaware and Yale University recently performed a study showing that the brain uses boundary extension to process certain images. Boundary extension is the process of predicting features that exist beyond the image’s borders (i.e., beyond peripheral vision).

In this study, researchers presented participants with pairs of images. In some conditions, the images were identical, but in other conditions, one of the images showed a close-up shot whereas the other image showed a distant shot.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, researchers observed the functioning of the parahippocampal place area (PPA) in the brains of participants.

Researchers found that in most conditions, the PPA exhibited less activity for the second image than for the first. This finding suggests that the brain does not process all features of an image if it is viewing that image for the second time. Instead, the brain focuses on the focal point of the image and predicts the image’s outer features using boundary extension.

Source: Scientific American

Ethanol vehicles pose health risk

Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson created a computer model showing that the use of bioethanol cars in 2020 will cause ozone levels to increase in some United States locations. Ozone is a pollutant that can lead to respiratory problems.

The simulation compared air quality 13 years from now under two conditions. In the first condition, cars were filled with gasoline. In the second condition, cars were filled with 85% ethanol.

Jacobson found that there were higher ozone levels in some United States locations when cars were filled with ethanol than when they were filled with gasoline. According to the study, this increase would cause 990 hospitalizations due to respiratory problems.

Source: BBC News

Robot to be used in brain surgery

A group of researchers, led by Garnette Sutherland of the University of Calgary, has developed a surgical robot called NeuroArm. The robot is intended to be used for neurosurgical procedures.

NeuroArm uses MRI scans to obtain images of body parts. These images allow doctors to control NeuroArm at a microscopic level from a computer.

The major benefit of NeuroArm is that doctors no longer need to use their hands in surgical procedures. Doctors hope to perform NeuroArm’s first surgical procedure this summer.


Virus kills fish in Great Lakes

A virus called viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) has killed thousands of fish in the Great Lakes area due to hemorrhaging and organ failure. The virus does not have a known cure, and it may be spreading to Lake Michigan.

Scientists first identified VHS in 2005. Since this time, the virus has spread to Lake St. Claire, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and other bodies of water in the Great Lakes area.

Sources: The New York Times