Schizophrenia patients often experience an altered sense of self, for example, as if someone else is controlling their actions. This impairment is described as a deficit in the “sense of agency”, and while it has been well established and linked to problems with sensorimotor brain signals, another category has been left unexplored: the “sense of body ownership” by which we feel that our bodies belong to ourselves. Using a full-body illusion experiment, EPFL scientists have now determined that body ownership is not affected in schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia patients often experience an altered sense of self, e.g. as if someone else is controlling their actions. This impairment is described as a deficit in the “sense of agency,” and while it has been well established and linked to problems with sensorimotor brain signals, another category has been left unexplored: the “sense of body ownership” by which we feel that our bodies belong to ourselves. Using a full-body illusion experiment, EPFL scientists have now determined that body ownership is not affected in schizophrenia. The study is published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin.
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Researchers demonstrate how some genes evolved from an immune function to an olfactory role in some mammals.
Mammals possess several lines of defense against microbes. One of them is activated when receptors called Fprs, which are present on immune cells, bind to specific molecules that are linked to pathogens. Researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, showed in 2009 that these same receptors were also present in the nose of mice, probably to detect contaminated food or to avoid sick conspecifics. The biologists now describe in the journal PNAS how Fprs have acquired this olfactory role during rodent evolution, moving from the immune system to a neuronal system. This innovation results from two genomic ‘accidents’ that occurred several millions years apart during the evolution of rodents.
Figure legend : Mammals express Fprs in their immune cells (yellow). A first genomic accident led to the expression of an Fpr in olfactory neurons of a rodents’ ancestor (dark blue). This was followed by a second accident that occurred in the mouse lineage (light blue).
A team of researchers from the Swiss Blue Brain Project — a group focusing on supercomputer-powered reconstruction of the human brain — have used a classic branch of maths in a completely new way to better understand the structure of our brains.
The brain is a complicated organ, and little is still known about its inner workings, so this new study, which found that the brain is full of multi-dimensional geometrical structures operating in as many as 11 dimensions, is fascinating, to say the least. The neuroscientists behind the study used algebraic topology, which is a branch of mathematics that describes the properties of objects and spaces without the confinements of how they change shape, to conclude that groups of neurons connect into “cliques.” Their work also revealed that the number of neurons in a clique leads to its size as a high-dimensional geometric object.
In a collaboration led by EPFL’s Blue Brain, scientists discover patterns of brain activity – never before observed – with the help of mathematics, providing insight into how neurons collectively process information.
Brains of healthy rats that are the same age share many features, such as similar numbers and types of neurons present in the six layers of the cortex. But how do neurons exchange information? Which neurons are activated? How does this change with time?
To answer these questions, a team of scientists led by EPFL’s Blue Brain Project used the mathematical language of algebraic topology to describe just how rat neurons connect to each other – and respond to stimuli – providing the first geometrical insight into how information is processed in a rodent brain. The results are published 12 June 2017 in the open-access journal Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience.
“Our previous mathematical approaches struggled to make sense of the activity generated by neurons,” says EPFL neuroscientist Henry Markram who leads the Blue Brain Project. “When we map the activity into high dimensional geometries the activity starts to make sense – this exciting collaboration has opened a completely new door to understanding the brain. ”
EPFL scientists have developed a mathematical “face-recognition” method for identifying and discovering nanoporous materials based on their pore size.
Materials classified as “nanoporous” have structures (or “frameworks”) with pores up to 100 nm in diameter. These include diverse materials used in different fields from gas separation, catalysis, and even medicine (e.g. activated charcoal). The performance of nanoporous materials depends on both their chemical composition and the shape of their pores, but the latter is very difficult to quantify. So far, chemists rely on visual inspection to see whether two materials have similar pores. EPFL scientists, in the framework of NCCR-MARVEL, have now developed an innovative mathematical method that allows a computer to quantify similarity of pore structures. The method makes it possible to search databases with hundreds of thousands of nanoporous materials to discover new materials with the right pore structure.
The work is published in Nature Communications.
Full article on EPFL News >
Prof. Andrea Volterra and his team from the Department of Fundamental Neuroscience (UNIL) have pioneered a new approach allowing correct study of astrocyte-synapse-blood vessel interactions: 3D volumetric two-photon imaging. This method enables an unprecedented, comprehensive view of the multiform astrocyte activity.
Human brain activity can now be studied at a macroscopic level using techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Separate zones of our brain activated during specific tasks can thus be visualized. Additional microscopic studies using cell imaging techniques help to understand the functioning of the brain at a more fundamental level in animal models such as mice.
IMVERSE, an EPFL spinoff, has developed a software that lets users convert 360-degree images from 2D into 3D and both manipulate and create virtual-reality content in real time with the help of virtual-reality glasses. The system will be unveiled at the World VR Forum in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, from 11 to 14 May.
It’s now easier than ever to create a 3D environment and then add and manipulate virtual-reality content in real time, thanks to the software created by EPFL startup Imverse. What’s required? A 360-degree 2D photo taken with any commercial camera, and a pair of off-the-shelf virtual-reality glasses. The software is similar to photo editing software allowing the users to freely explore and modify the environment created from the picture in real time.
Full article on EPFL-News >