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Using AI and old reports to understand new medical images

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Getting a quick and accurate reading of an X-ray or some other medical images can be vital to a patient’s health and might even save a life. Obtaining such an assessment depends on the availability of a skilled radiologist and, consequently, a rapid response is not always possible. For that reason, says Ruizhi “Ray” Liao, a postdoc and a recent PhD graduate at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), “we want to train machines that are capable of reproducing what radiologists do every day.” Liao is first author of a new paper, written with other researchers at MIT and Boston-area hospitals, that is being presented this fall at MICCAI 2021, an international conference on medical image computing. Although the idea of utilizing computers to interpret images is not new, the MIT-led group is drawing on an underused resource — the vast body of radiology reports that accompany medical images, written by radiologists in routine clinical practice — to improve

Behind the scenes, brain circuit ensures vision remains reliable

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When it comes to processing vision, the brain is full of noise. Information moves from the eyes through many connections in the brain. Ideally, the same image would be reliably represented the same way each time, but instead different groups of cells in the visual cortex can become stimulated by the same scenes. So how does the brain ultimately ensure fidelity in processing what we see? A team of neuroscientists in the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT found out by watching the brains of mice while they watched movies. What the researchers discovered is that while groups of “excitatory” neurons respond when images appear, thereby representing them in the visual cortex, activity among two types of “inhibitory” neurons combines in a neatly arranged circuit behind the scenes to enforce the needed reliability. The researchers were not only able to see and analyze the patterns of these neurons working, but once they learned how the circuit operated they also took control

Walking is good. But moderate-vigorous exercise boosts fitness three times more

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Exercise is healthy. That is common knowledge. But just how rigorous should that exercise be in order to really impact a person’s fitness level? And, if you sit all day at a desk, but still manage to get out and exercise, does that negate your six, seven, or eight hours of sedentary behavior? These were the sort of questions Matthew Nayor and his team at Boston University School of Medicine set out to answer in the  largest study to date  aimed at understanding the relationship between regular physical activity and a person’s physical fitness. Their findings , which appear in the  European Heart Journal , came from a study of approximately 2,000 participants from the Framingham Heart Study. They found that bouts of moderate to vigorous exercise—working out with more intensity than, say, walking 10,000 steps over the course of a day—drastically improved a person’s fitness, compared to milder forms of exercise. “By establishing the relationship between different forms of habitual phy

Using the microbiome to promote muscle growth in muscle loss conditions such as ageing and cancer

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If further research can identify the substances that the bacteria of the gut are making to help muscles grow following exercise, we might be able to use some of those substances to promote the growth of muscles in people suffering from the loss of muscle as typically seen with aging or cancer. That’s according to new research published today in  The Journal of Physiology. The researchers found that for muscles to grow following exercise, an in-tact microbiome was necessary in mice. The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria (and other microbes) that live inside our digestive systems.  Over the last decade, research has found that these bacteria make substances that are needed for our health. Some of these studies provided intriguing evidence suggesting the gut microbiome may also be important for the health of skeletal muscles. But is a healthy gut microbiome necessary for skeletal muscle to adapt to exercise? To answer this question, the researchers let mice voluntar

Finger tracing enhances learning: Evidence for 100-year-old practice used by Montessori

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Finger tracing has been used by teachers to help students learn for more than a century. In the early 1900s, education pioneer Montessori encouraged young children to trace over letters of the alphabet made from sandpaper with their index fingers, based on the intuition that a multi-sensory approach (i.e., visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic) to learning would be most effective. In 1912, Montessori noticed that children, after mastering the sequence of tracing a letter with their index finger, “took great pleasure” in closing their eyes and trying to recall it. Over 100 years later, her method has received some empirical validation. Two new University of Sydney studies show that not only is tracing an effective learning technique; if it is used in conjunction with imagination, its positive effect could be amplified. Previous  Sydney School of Education & Social Work  research demonstrated a  link between tracing and math performance . Now, tracing in math and science less

Thinning moderates forest fire behavior even without prescribed burns – for a while

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Mechanical thinning alone can calm the intensity of future wildfires for many years, and prescribed burns lengthen thinning’s effectiveness, according to Oregon State University research involving a seasonally dry ponderosa pine forest in northeastern Oregon. Findings of the study, led by OSU research associate James Johnston and published in Forest Ecology and Management, are important because reducing accumulated fuels on federal forestland has been a congressional priority for nearly two decades; research such as this helps determine which techniques work. Johnston’s team looked at years of data for multiple forest parcels – mechanically thinned stands and unthinned control stands – and used computer modeling to predict the behavior of future fires. The collaboration included his Oregon State College of Forestry colleagues Julia Olszewski, Becky Miller and Micah Schmidt, plus Lisa Ellsworth of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Michael Vernon of Blue Mountains Forest Pa

Pretreatment of palladium with steam could improve methane combustion

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The chemical methane, as the largest component in natural gas, is a familiar fuel, but it is also a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping the sun’s warming rays in the atmosphere. Vehicle engines spew lots of methane, and excess methane is burned up in flares that are a common sight above refineries, methane storage facilities and coal mines the world over. Unfortunately, that still leaves quite a large amount of natural gas emitted into the skies. “Flares are supposed to be 99 percent efficient, but in real-world conditions, they are significantly less than that. Car engines aren’t much better,” said  Matteo Cargnello , assistant professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, who may have found a solution to this challenge. Cargnello and a team of researchers from Stanford, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Institutes of Standards and Technologies (NIST) have discovered a relatively simple pretreatment of catalysts base