15 October 2014

Probing the Spiderweb Galaxy Cluster (MRC 1138-262) Yields Surprising Data

A galaxy cluster is composed of smaller galaxies held together by gravity. It is the largest object found in the Universe.

Using the APEX telescope, astronomers probed the Spiderweb Galaxy which is a galaxy cluster 10.6 billion light years away. Formed by smaller galaxies, the Spiderweb Galaxy (also known as MRC 1138-262) has been studied for twenty years. It has been observed that the object contains a supermassive black hole and is a powerful source of radio waves.

The data from the observation has surprised scientists with their discovery of the formation of the stars in the galaxy cluster taking place. They have noted that instead of the stars being formed from the filaments of the cluster, APEX data has shown that the star formation region is concentrated in one area and not even centered on the galaxy cluster itself.

The Spiderweb Galaxy contains a supermassive black hole and is a powerful source of radio waves — which is what led astronomers to notice it in the first place. The object has thick dust clouds which the LABOCA camera on the APEX telescope can see through.

29 August 2014

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Found To Improve Memory

(c) Copyright: EPFL, Blue Brain Project
A study by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine find that stimulating a part of the brain with electromagnetic pulses in a process called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can improve memory.

The non-invasive process uses electrical current using magnetic pulses to target a region of the brain. This is the first time that memory functions of a brain can be manipulated without the use of surgery or of drugs.

By targeting a specific area of the brain in the hippocampus, they observed that TMS can be used to improve memory for events at least 24 hours after the stimulation is given.

The study, published in Science, used 16 healthy adults ages 21 to 40 (see video below). They received brain stimulation through Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) twenty minutes a day for five consecutive days. It was noted that the group performed better on memory tests as a result of the brain stimulation and that it took three days of TMS before they improved.

Neurostimulation is a process where neurons in the nervous system are stimulated to either restore functionality of a certain organ, control an organ, or induce/reduce a specific nerve signal within the system. This is done through micro-electrodes that deliver electrical signals to the neurons.

There are four types of neurostimulation; Brain Stimulation, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS). Each of these types have been used to alter/improve brain activity in the past.

This recent discovery is the first to show how electrical stimulation can improve new learning long after treatment and may help treat memory disorders resulting from stroke, Alzheimer's Disease and other types of brain injury.