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Science Nation – Mind Reading Computer System May Help People with Locked-in Syndrome

Article / Review by on November 4, 2011 – 6:41 pmNo Comments

Science Nation – Mind Reading Computer System May Help People with Locked-in Syndrome



Mind Reading Computer System May Help People with Locked-in Syndrome

Imagine living a life in which you are completely aware of the world around you but you’re prevented from engaging in it because you are completely paralyzed.

Even speaking is impossible. For an estimated 50,000 Americans this is a harsh reality.

It’s called locked-in syndrome, a condition in which people with normal cognitive brain activity suffer severe paralysis, often from injuries or an illness such as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Boston University neuroscientist Frank Guenther works with the National Science Foundation’s Center of Excellence for Learning in Education, Science and Technology (CELEST), which is made up of eight private and public institutions, mostly in the Boston area. Its purpose is to synthesize the experimental modeling and technological approaches to research in order to understand how the brain learns as a whole system. In particular, Guenther’s research is looking at how brain regions interact, with the hope of melding mind and machine, and ultimately making life much better for people with locked-in syndrome.

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About the National Science Foundation (NSF)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), we are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing

NSF’s goals–discovery, learning, research infrastructure and stewardship–provide an integrated strategy to advance the frontiers of knowledge, cultivate a world-class, broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce and expand the scientific literacy of all citizens, build the nation’s research capability through investments in advanced instrumentation and facilities, and support excellence in science and engineering research and education through a capable and responsive organization. We like to say that NSF is “where discoveries begin.”

Many of the discoveries and technological advances have been truly revolutionary. In the past few decades, NSF-funded researchers have won more than 180 Nobel Prizes as well as other honors too numerous to list. These pioneers have included the scientists or teams that discovered many of the fundamental particles of matter, analyzed the cosmic microwaves left over from the earliest epoch of the universe, developed carbon-14 dating of ancient artifacts, decoded the genetics of viruses, and created an entirely new state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate.

NSF also funds equipment that is needed by scientists and engineers but is often too expensive for any one group or researcher to afford. Examples of such major research equipment include giant optical and radio telescopes, Antarctic research sites, high-end computer facilities and ultra-high-speed connections, ships for ocean research, sensitive detectors of very subtle physical phenomena and gravitational wave observatories.

Another essential element in NSF’s mission is support for science and engineering education, from pre-K through graduate school and beyond. The research we fund is thoroughly integrated with education to help ensure that there will always be plenty of skilled people available to work in new and emerging scientific, engineering and technological fields, and plenty of capable teachers to educate the next generation.

As described in our strategic plan, NSF is the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences. NSF is tasked with keeping the United States at the leading edge of discovery in a wide range of scientific areas, from astronomy to geology to zoology. So, in addition to funding research in the traditional academic areas, the agency also supports “high risk, high pay off” ideas, novel collaborations and numerous projects that may seem like science fiction today, but which the public will take for granted tomorrow. And in every case, we ensure that research is fully integrated with education so that today’s revolutionary work will also be training tomorrow’s top scientists and engineers.

Unlike many other federal agencies, NSF does not hire researchers or directly operate our own laboratories or similar facilities. Instead, we support scientists, engineers and educators directly through their own home institutions (typically universities and colleges). Similarly, we fund facilities and equipment such as telescopes, through cooperative agreements with research consortia that have competed successfully for limited-term management contracts.

*  The above story is adapted from materials provided by National Science Foundation (NSF)

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Medicinezine.com National Science Foundation (NSF)

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