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Biomask to heal in­jured face

UT Ar­ling­ton engineers work­ing with Army sur­geons are de­vel­op­ing a pli­able poly­mer mask em­bed­ded with elec­tri­cal, me­chan­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal com­po­nents to speed up heal­ing from dis­fig­ur­ing fa­cial burns and help re­build the faces of in­jured sol­diers.

To help burn vic­tims, Army physi­cians use poly­eth­yl­ene foam on the dam­aged tis­sue, which ap­plies a vac­uum to pro­mote heal­ing in the wounds. How­ever, it could not be used on face be­cause of the com­plex to­pog­ra­phy. The biomask is lay­ered with sen­sors, ac­tu­a­tors and medicine de­liv­ery tools. The pa­tients are re­quired to wear the mask for sev­eral months while their face re­gen­er­ates.

The com­po­nents al­low lo­calised mon­i­tor­ing and ac­ti­va­tion of treat­ment that can be ap­plied to dif­fer­ent parts of the wound as needed. The sen­sors pro­vide feed­back about the heal­ing process, help­ing physi­cians di­rect ap­pro­pri­ate ther­apy to dif­fer­ent tis­sues.

The Biomask project is led by Eileen Moss—an elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer and re­search sci­en­tist based at the UT Ar­ling­ton Au­to­ma­tion & Robotics Re­search In­sti­tute. Project part­ners in­clude the US Army In­sti­tute of Sur­gi­cal Re­search at the Brooke Army Med­i­cal Cen­ter in San An­to­nio and North­west­ern Univer­sity in Chicago.

Be­ware, com­put­ers can de­code your thoughts!

Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia re­searchers have de­coded elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­ity in the brain’s tem­po­ral lobe—the seat of the au­di­tory sys­tem—as a per­son lis­tens to nor­mal con­ver­sa­tion. Based on the cor­re­la­tion be­tween sound and brain ac­tiv­ity, they were able to pre­dict the words the per­son heard.

Re­searchers de­ter­mined the lo­ca­tion of in­tractable seizures in fif­teen peo­ple un­der­go­ing brain surgery so that the area could be re­moved in a sec­ond surgery. Neu­ro­sur­geons cut a hole in the skull and placed elec­trodes on the brain sur­face or cor­tex—in this case, up to 256 elec­trodes cov­er­ing the tem­po­ral lobe—to record the ac­tiv­ity over a pe­riod of a week to pin­point the seizures. The brain ac­tiv­ity de­tected by the elec­trodes as pa­tients heard five­ten min­utes of con­ver­sa­tion was recorded. The data was used to re­con­struct and play back the sounds the pa­tients heard.

Two dif­fer­ent com­pu­ta­tional mod­els were tested to match spo­ken sounds to the pat­tern of ac­tiv­ity in the elec­trodes. The pa­tients then heard a sin­gle word, and the mod­els were used to pre­dict the word based on elec­trode record­ings.

Ro­botic arm con­trolled with mon­key’s thoughts

As a mon­key ma­nip­u­lates ob­jects with his hands, not far away a ro­bot hand mir­rors his fin­gers’ moves as it re­ceives in­struc­tions from the chips im­planted in his brain.

Zheng Xiaox­i­ang of the Brain­Com­puter In­ter­face Re­search Team at Zhejiang Univer­sity in Zi­jin­gang, China, and col­leagues have suc­cess­fully cap­tured and de­ci­phered the sig­nals from the mon­key’s brain and in­ter­preted them into the real-time ro­botic fin­ger move­ments.

The two sen­sors im­planted in the mon­key’s brain mon­i­tor just 200 neu­rons in his mo­tor cor­tex. How­ever, this was enough to ac­cu­rately in­ter­pret the mon­key’s move­ments and con­trol the ro­botic hand.

Hu­mans have used elec­trodes to con­trol pros­thetic arms, but Zheng claims this re­search looks at the finer move­ments of the fin­gers.

“Hand moves are as­so­ci­ated with at least sev­eral hun­dreds of thou­sands of neu­rons. We now de­ci­pher the moves based on the sig­nals of about 200 neu­rons. Of course, the or­ders we pro­duced are still dis­tant from the truly flex­i­ble fin­ger moves in com­plex­ity and fine­ness,” she said.

Pa­per ro­bots

Pa­per struc­tures built us­ing the prin­ci­ples of origami could lead to cheap, easyto-make ro­bots that could be used to pro­vide ex­tra hands for sur­geons or han­dle del­i­cate ob­jects such as eggs or fruit.

Ge­orge White­sides and col­leagues at Har­vard Univer­sity had pre­vi­ously built squid-in­spired ro­bots with ar­ti­fi­cial mus­cles made from soft plas­tic and pow­ered by pneu­matic air pumps. Now they have com­bined this tech­nique with pa­per to cre­ate a se­ries of light­weight struc­tures ca­pa­ble of bend­ing and twist­ing, and even lift­ing heavy weights.

Pa­per is flex­i­ble, but un­like plas­tic it does not stretch, mak­ing it use­ful for form­ing rigid struc­tures when a pa­per bal­loon is filled with air. These sim­ple designs could be im­proved upon to cre­ate ‘soft’ ro­bots able to work closely with hu­mans, un­like some ro­bots cur­rently used on fac­tory assem­bly lines.

An X-ray CT scan of the head of one of the vol­un­teers show­ing elec­trodes dis­trib­uted over the brain’s tem­po­ral lobe, where sounds are pro­cessed

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