A “bionic pancreas” for diabetes management


The bionic pancreas consists of three pieces of hardware. There’s an iPhone with an app that contains the system’s control software and algorithm and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

The CGM’s sensor/transmitter, worn under the skin, streams glucose (blood sugar) data to two connected infusion pumps. One delivers insulin to lower blood sugar and one delivers glucagon to raise it. Based on glucose levels transmitted every five minutes from the CGM, the app determines and dispatches how much insulin or glucagon should be delivered to maintain ideal blood sugar levels.

70% of doctors have self-tracking patients; better outcomes reported


7 in 10 doctors report at least one patient sharing some form of health measurement data with them, according to Manhattan Research’s annual “Taking the Pulse” survey of 2,950 physicians.  Nearly three-quarters agreed that self-tracking leads to better outcomes.

Self-tracking patient impacts include:

  • 40% lead them to ask their doctors new questions
  • 46% changed their overall approach to their health
  • 34% affected decisions about how to best treat their conditions

Multi-use, wireless, wearable sensors


The Bio-patch, developed by researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, measures bioelectrical signals through the skin, gathering data on different parts of the body depending on where it is placed.

“On the chest it provides electrocardiography (ECG), on the skull it measures brainwaves (EEG), and on the forearm it can measure muscle response to stimulation from the nervous system (EMG),” says KTH researcher Geng Yang.  It also has a built-in sensor that constantly monitors body temperature.

Pass-thoughts as the new passwords


Pass-thoughts are thoughts that a headset records through brainwaves. The computer learns what your individual brainwaves are like and then identifies you. Traditionally, these brainwaves, called electroencephalograms (EEGs), are collected through expensive and sometimes invasive devices, so the pass-thought growth has been severely stunted.

Berkeley’s John Chuang and his team conducted a series of experiments to determine whether a single, less expensive, non-invasive EEG channel provided high enough signal quality for accurate authentication. For authentication, the computer needs to be able to accurately and consistently distinguish your brainwave patterns from someone else’s.

By selecting customized tasks for each user and then customizing each user’s authentication thresholds, the team was able to reduce error rates to below 1%, comparable to the accuracy of more invasive multi-channel EEG signals.

A hard look at neuroscience research from The Economist


Sample sizes in neurological research are often too small to draw general conclusions.

Marcus Munafo, from the University of Bristol, and his colleagues analyzed hundreds of neuroscience studies to determine their “statistical power”.  If the researchers’ figures are accurate—and if the 12-month period they looked at is representative of neuroscience research in general—then the implications are alarming. Bluntly, much of the published neuroscientific research is likely to be reporting effects, correlations and “facts” that are simply not real. At the same time, real phenomena are going unnoticed.

Understanding the brain is the most important opportunity of our lifetime.  It’s afflictions and treatments can no longer be based on hypothesis, trial and error.  Let’s not miss it.

Brain-machine interface allows control of limbs through thoughts


By placing a small sensor in the brain’s motor cortex, interfaces can pick up on electrical activity, and translate it into commands that control a robotic arm. Now scientists have gone a step further. Instead of a wired brain-arm link, they have now developed a wireless connection powerful enough to work at a distance of three feet.

“Clinical applications may include thought-controlled prostheses for severely neurologically impaired patients, wireless access to motorized wheelchairs or other assistive technologies, and diagnostic monitoring such as in epilepsy, where patients currently are tethered to the bedside during assessment,” says David Borton, at Brown University.

Eldercare monitoring system based on social connections


Lively is an in-home sensor network for connecting elderly loved ones to their families.  The system combines a series of wireless sensors, a data-collection hub and biweekly printed mailers that serve as kind of an analog social network. The basic setup measures medication compliance, food and drink intake and general activity outside the home.

Lively is crowdfunding on Kickstarter, with a goal of $100,000.

Bronx VA doctor helps paraplegics walk with Israeli exoskeleton device


ReWalk is a commercial bionic walking assistance system, utilising powered leg attachments to enable paraplegics to stand upright, walk, and climb stairs. The system is powered by a backpack battery, and is controlled by a simple wrist-mounted remote which detects and enhances the user’s movements.