Brain Food — February 19, 2017

This week’s selection of stories on brains, bias, and wearable technology

Eye Speak, You Speak

Microsoft researchers have been working on a new app aimed at helping ALS patients communicate using their eyes. ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, results in motor neuron degeneration of the motor cells that control the ability to speak, among other things. But the eye muscles are often some of the last to be affected by the disease, leaving ALS patients to communicate with eye movement.

Interpreters have previously been able to help ALS patients by tracking patient eye movement on boards with groups of letters, but the process is slow and tedious. The new Microsoft app uses a smartphone camera and AI to predict the word being spelled out (using similar letter groupings) at a much faster speed.

The app is set to debut later this spring and will initially be available on iOS only. However, Microsoft plans to openly release the app’s source code so that others can help improve it.

Full story here.

We Are What We Eat

In the last several years, science’s understanding of the role that our gut bacteria play on how we feel. But new research from Lund University just uncovered a new finding on gut bacteria that may be ground-breaking for the future of Alzheimer’s treatment.

In a study of both healthy and diseased mice, researchers discovered that mice with a particular type of intestinal bacteria developed significantly more plaque in the brain than the other mice. And when they transplanted the bacteria from the diseased mice into the healthy mice, the healthy mice began developing more plaque.

This is a massive finding in the field of Alzheimer’s research, “as it shows a direct causal link between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease.” This discovery may lead to strategies to combat the disease through diet and new types of probiotics rather than pharmaceuticals alone.

Full story here.

Put On Your Thinking Cap

As many of you may have heard, this April 22, Earth Day 2017, there will be a March for Science in Washington, D.C. If you’re planning to attend, or if you’re just looking for something neat to keep your head warm, check out these brainy knitted hats. They’re not officially associated with the march, but we think they’re still pretty cool. If you’re looking to support the march directly, you can do that here.

A New Kind Of Aptitude Test

Our vision has long been one where neuroscience and big data can be used to make the world a better and more interesting place. Like designing cities that are proven to improve the mental health of its inhabitants. Or curating custom art exhibits based on the brain’s response.

One company is now using neuroscience-based games to match employees and employers based on cognitive abilities and demands. You can find out more about the company and read the full Forbes interview with their CEO here.