Social engagement may predict cognitive decline risk. According to a recent study, social interaction might help doctors predict a person’s risk of cognitive decline.
Cognitive decline is the condition affecting the mental abilities over time. The condition affects many people as they age and it’s the more serious decline of dementia.
In the recent study, the researchers looked at whether there is any link between levels of social activity and cognitive performance.
For the findings, the researchers followed 217 older adults who were involved in the Harvard Aging Brain Study. The participants, aged 63–89, showed no cognitive deficits at the beginning of the study. Then, the scientists followed the adults for 3 years.
The team asked the participant some questions to determine their levels of social interaction. The questionnaire included religious activities, volunteer work, and meeting family and friends.
The researchers also examined levels of beta-amyloid in the participant’s brain. They found that some people had higher levels that associated with increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s
The study findings now appear in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
The researchers found the effect of social activity only in participants who had the highest levels of beta-amyloid in their brains. Adults in this group, who had shown poor levels of social engagement showed higher levels of cognitive decline compared to those with similar levels of beta-amyloid but higher levels of social activity.
Senior author Dr. Nancy Donovan said, “Social engagement and cognitive function are related to one another and appear to decline together. This means that social engagement may be an important marker of resilience or vulnerability in older adults at risk of cognitive impairment.”
New research links our dreaming patterns to external temperature conditions. The research was done on genetically engineered mice. The study says that warm-blooded mammals have a hard time dreaming if the temperature outside is too hot or too cold. The extra amount of energy required to regulate the body temperature bars our brains from allowing dreams, says the study.
The research was done by a group of neuroscientists from the University of Bern in Switzerland. The team monitored a receptor gene in the brain of the mice. It is easier for our brains to allow Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REMS) when the sleep is comfortable. During this phase, the eyes move rapidly and the muscle tone is lowered. The process, however, consumes a good deal of energy in the form of increased brain activity and breathing, among other changes in the body. This process allows the brain to track the day-to-day happenings while asleep. The temperature regulations are in standby when our bodies are in the REM phase.
The brain thus prioritizes on thermoregulation in extreme conditions than processing the daily events. The body has enough energy to do only one of these tasks. The researchers tested the hypothalamus present in the brain of the mice. The hypothalamus helps in regulating body temperature and yield a non-REM sleep. The research also turned the MCH receptors on and off through optogenetics. Melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) is also a factor that affects our dreaming state.
Providing a suitable sleeping environment by warming up the temperature increased the REM sleep in the lab mice. on the other hand, mice which didn’t have their MCH receptors altered didn’t respond to this change and their REM sleep duration remained normal. “It shows that the amount and timing of REM sleep are finely tuned with our immediate environment when we do not need to thermoregulate,” said Markus Schmidt from the University of Bern and the Department of Neurology at Bern University Hospital in a blog post. The research proves that our brains can keep a better account of our daily activities if the energy doesn’t have to be spent on thermoregulation.
New research says that the location of new earthquakes is influenced by the previous breaches in the ground. The study says that previous ruptures indicate the location and source of future earthquakes. The new research was published this week in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Nature Communications.
Dr. Zoë Mildon, the lead author of the study recently presented some of her findings at the 2019 General Assembly of the European Geophysics Union. She said “Our model adds the stresses of lots of earthquakes together and shows that in the majority of cases fault lines are positively stressed when they rupture. It is a step change in modeling CST and shows this is an ignored yet vital factor when trying to explain earthquake triggering.” Mildon is a lecturer in Earth Sciences at the University of Plymouth. The Coulomb stress transfer theory assumes that stress is transferred to the nearest fault in case of a future earthquake. She stresses that assuming the pre-stress as zero is wrong and that it is very much a factor while tracing the sources and location of an earthquake. These stresses are built over millions of years over the fault planes. Her model challenges the preexisting CST theory.
Earthquakes are traditionally known to be triggered at random and even at new places. However, the new study says that following the Coulomb pre-stress can shed a lot of light on the source and location of such seismic activities. Coulomb pre-stress is the static stress within a fault plane soon before the seismic activity takes place.
The researchers examined all the records of earthquakes that took place in Italy’s central Apennines region to base their study on. The records included the history of earthquakes in the area for the last 700 years, starting from 1349. However, the researchers applied the new method on the earthquakes between 1703 and 2016. Out of the 29 earthquakes in that period, 28 were found to have taken place on the faults that were stressed either fully or in part. The researchers inferred that the event that occurred 97% of times indicated a positive Coulomb pre-stress.
Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound extracted from the cannabis plant, can treat bacterial infections. Mark Blaskovich, a senior research chemist at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience presented through research that CBD can be used as an antibiotic. The demonstration was made by Blaskovich on Sunday in its 2019 meeting by the American Society for Microbiology. The research is yet to be published.
The researcher stated that CBD is effective in treating bacteria. The research states that it can also be used as a possible treatment in the future against some antibiotic-resistant microbes. Resistance to antibiotics is a serious threat to their treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization called this a “global health crisis”. CBD has previously been effective in treating cases of epilepsy, inflammation, sleep disorders, etc.
The research examined a number of germs of different strains. A few of those mentioned by Blaskovich include Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Enterococcus faecalis. The particularly infectious and disease-causing bacteria can prove highly resistant to some drugs. CBD was able to effectively kill all these strains. The compound didn’t trigger any signs of antibacterial resistance.
Blaskovich, who led the research while talking to Newsweek said, “So far, we have only shown it works topically, on the skin surface. To be really useful, it would be good if we could show that it treated systemic infections e.g. pneumonia, or complicated tissue infections, where you have to give it orally or by intravenous dosing. A very preliminary study didn’t show that it works in these more difficult models.”
In a previous study, CBD was also observed to have treated certain skin infections. The effects of CBD as a bactericidal compound is still in a premature phase. It has shown positive results only with Gram-positive bacteria.
NASA has announced the selection of two new missions to study the origins of the solar wind and how it affects the Earth. The project will help in better understanding of the formation of solar weather that would mitigate the negative impacts faced by the astronauts.
The two new missions selected are the Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission and Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites (TRACERS). PUNCH mission will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system whereas TRACERS will study the response of the Earth.
“We carefully selected these two missions not only because of the high-class science they can do in their own right but because they will work well together with the other heliophysics spacecraft advancing NASA’s mission to protect astronauts, space technology and life down here on Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
According to NASA, the solar wind can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather. Solar winds which will not pose any threat to people on Earth but can be a potentially fatal danger to astronauts and spacecraft. Led by Craig DeForest at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, PUNCH will focus directly on the corona, the outer atmosphere of the sun and how it generates the solar wind. PUNCH is composed of four suitcase-sized satellites that will capture images and track the solar wind.
TRACERS will observe the particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region and will study the interaction between the magnetic fields around Earth and those from the Sun. The TRACERS mission will be lead by Craig Kletzing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Both programs will be managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA has stated that two missions will be launched before August 2022.
Amazon’s Alexa dominates the market share among consumers but in delivering accurate information about medications Google Assistant is much better according to the new study published in the journal Nature Digital Medicine. Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are far behind in comprehending medications than Google Assistant.
The study reveals that Google Assistant could comprehend 92% of brand name medicines whereas Alexa and Siri could only understand 55% and 58% respectively. 84% generic description was understood by Google Assistant. Alexa was only able to comprehend 46% of generics, and Siri could understand 51% of generics as per the results of the research. Fifty most commonly prescribed medicines have used in the research to test the capability of the voice assistants in delivering medical information. The research was conducted in the Toronto based Lab Company Klick Heath which specializes in commercializing and researching the latest health technologies.
Alexa was able to provide accurate information about the counter pain relievers like Aspirin. But it was comparatively very weak in comprehending medications such as Advil and the generic Ibuprofen. “Digital voice assistants are becoming popular tools for gathering health information, so a lack of comprehension puts them at risk of providing poor, inconsistent, and potentially dangerous advice,” said Yan Fossat according to CNBC. Yan Fossat, who is the co-author of the research article, serves as the Vice President of Klick Labs.
The study also found that Alexa and Siri have low comprehension for the foreign accent whereas Google Assistant has no such comprehension problems for the different accents. “We were encouraged by some of the comprehension rates in our research, but more work needs to be done to ensure people’s health and safety,” Yan Fossat stated. While voice assistants are geared up for enhancing the market into health care, the new study reveals that artificial intelligence software platforms require further advancements prior to step into the health sector.
Majority of the mobile applications we download every day can pose the risk of vulnerabilities. According to the recent report by Positive Technologies, 76 percent of tested mobile applications of both androids and iOS devices have the vulnerability of insecure data storage including personal information. Insecure data storage is the most common vulnerability which can pose the threat of cyber attacks including data theft. 89 percent of all vulnerabilities found in the applications can be exploited by hackers through malware. The report states that 43 percent of mobile applications in Android devices found high-risk vulnerabilities whereas in iOS devices it was 38 percent.
“Developers pay painstaking attention to software design in order to give us a smooth and convenient experience, and people gladly install mobile apps and provide personal information. However, an alarming number of apps are critically insecure, and far less developer attention is spent on solving that issue,” said Leigh-Anne Galloway, Cyber Security Resilience Lead at Positive Technologies in an official statement.
The findings have been placed in ‘Vulnerabilities and Threats in Mobile Applications 2019’, the annual report of Positive Technologies. As per the report, insecure data storage is just one vulnerability found in mobile applications. But it is the most common vulnerability founded after conducting security assessments testing of many mobile applications in both Android and iOS devices.
The report found that most cases are caused by weaknesses in security mechanisms. And these vulnerabilities are reportedly placed during the design stage. The report suggests that developers need to make changes in their codes which can mitigate the vulnerabilities. The critical vulnerabilities are found slightly more often in Android applications than in iOS. But the security level of a mobile application for both Android and iOS is almost similar. The report points out the errors technology leaves behind which is often unnoticed but can pose a threat to our privacy.
Waymo has partnered up with Nissan and Renault to make self-driven cars and trucks for the overseas. The companies have reportedly been considering a possible partnership since February. Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google. The company is popularly known for developing self-driving technology. Waymo has been testing several of its driverless minivans for the last couple of years. These minivans are regular Chrysler Pacifica minivans, modified by Waymo. The company has already partnered with Fiat-Chrysler and Jaguar-Land Rover in its effort to make self-driving cars.
John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo, said in an official statement, “This is an ideal opportunity for Waymo to bring our autonomous technology to a global stage, with an innovative partner.” The information about the deal was announced on Thursday. The three companies have decided to join forces to manufacture driverless cars and trucks for France and Japan. The companies will be setting up 50-50 joint ventures in the two countries. Renault and Nissan are both parts of a syndicate with the Japanese company, Mitsubishi. Recent reports have revealed friction among the companies causing the decreased rate of production lately, says The Financial Times.
Both Renault and Nissan are already developing their own self-driving technologies. ProPilot Assist from Nissan is a Level 2 self-driving system that has been approved by the Government of Japan. The technology assists in various self-controlled manoeuvers like controlling the car speed, maintain the lane with the help of cameras, etc. Self-driving technology is one much sought after in the current automobile industry. The American multinational automaker, Ford is planning a partnership with the German company, Volkswagen to develop a range of such cars. Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors is teaming up with Honda. Many other automobile giants are in talks for such possible partnerships.
Bottled water has surged popularity within a few years when people perceived it as safer and a better choice than tap water. But the recent research reveals that bottled water is not any safer. The research conducted by the Centre for Environmental Health found that two brands of bottled water sold at Whole food, Walmart and Target contain a high level of toxic metal Arsenic.
The two brands are Starkey bottled water which is produced and sold by Whole Food and Penafiel which is owned by Keurig Dr Pepper and sold at Target and Walmart. CEH, the nonprofit organization based in California, has sent legal notices to both manufacturers and retailers. According to California Proposition 65, a warning is required if it contains a higher level of arsenic which has not followed in this case.
“There is no place for arsenic in bottled water,” said Caroline Cox, Senior Scientist at CEH. “Bottled water companies need to take the necessary steps to remove this toxic metal from their products, and retailers should stop selling them now. Until those conditions are met, we recommend consumers avoid purchasing Whole Foods’ Starkey and Dr Pepper’s Penafiel,” he further added.
Keurig Dr Pepper has suspended the production and announced Voluntary withdrawal of the brand and said that the users can return it to the retailer for a refund. “Arsenic when present in the diet at very high levels, well above those detected in recent samples of Penafiel, is associated with numerous chronic diseases,” Keurig Dr Pepper said in the official statement.
Arsenic is naturally present in the groundwater of many countries including the United States of America. According to the World Health Organization, the exposure to the metal from drinking water and food on a long term would cause cancer, skin lesions, cardiovascular disease, etc. The current results confirm the Consumer Reports which also found the level of arsenic as double in these bottled water brands.
Smart speakers will be able to detect in the future if their users are having a heart attack. Virtual assistants like Alexa from Amazon will soon be available with features that can identify signs like abnormal breathing or panting sounds. A group of researchers from the University of Washington has been working on a tool that can identify these signs. The research was published on Wednesday in NPJ Digital Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal.
The researchers have developed an artificial intelligence tool that will look out for their users for signs of a possible heart attack. The group of researchers examined 162 clips from recorded 911 calls. They found that such abnormal breathing patterns could be detected by smart devices. The recordings were collected in devices like Amazon smart speakers, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5s.
There already exist a number of such wearable devices that can look out for signs of a medical emergency. However, the new AI tool doesn’t need to be worn to detect the signs. Shyam Gollakota, the co-author of the research and an associate professor at the University of Washington in a statement said, “We envision a contactless system that works by continuously and passively monitoring the bedroom for an agonal breathing event, and alerts anyone nearby to come provide CPR.”
The researchers pointed out that 50% of the people going under cardiac arrest make agonal breathing sounds. Most of the deaths due to cardiac arrest occur when the people are alone by themselves or in their sleep. In case of such an emergency, the technology shall call out for medical support. The tool shall in the future be used in such smart speakers or other gadgets. The group says that the tool has a 97% efficiency in identifying such agonal sounds. It shall be released in the form of downloadable apps, soon after running some crucial tests. The developers need to make sure that the device is proofed against false alarms.