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  1. A study again exemplifying the mind-body connection: https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/news/baby-teeth-reveal-genetic-and-environmental-causes-of-autism-289276
  2. Has anyone been working with microbiologists to really dig into the mechanisms underlying the links between the brain and the microbiome? I attended several presentations at the annual meeting that found relationships between the gut microbiome and the brain, but not many went beyond just presenting correlations between either diversity or abundance of single genera. I would love to learn more about the specific roles of the microbes that are affected by treatments/manipulations, or are found to predict neural and/or behavioral states, particularly during development.
  3. This evening All Things Considered reported on National Public Radio a unique example of data sharing involving a pregnant monkey infected with the Zika virus. Researchers, Dave O’Connor and Thomas Friedrich at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) are exploring how the virus can affect the development of the brain of a monkey fetus. NPR reported that O’Connor feels “a moral need to do this kind of animal research.” He was motivated to do this work while on a recent visit to Brazil where he saw pregnant women potentially at risk for Zika’s devastating neurological birth defects. “I’ve come to the conclusion that there is an ethical and a moral imperative to study the most relevant animal model to get the most impactful and valuable data,” NPR quoted O’Connor as saying. Significantly, O’Connor and Friedrich are releasing their data immediately to get advice and input from fellow researchers around the world. This is a unique example of “open source” research warranted by the public health emergency that Zika represents, and may be model for research in the future.
  4. JAMA Ophthalmology reports that infants born with microcephaly resulting from infection with the ZIKA virus also have a number of serious ocular abnormalities which include the retina and the optic nerve. The pilot study involved infants with an abnormally small cephalic circumference (32)cm or less). The study concludes, “These data suggest that clinicians should consider ophthalmologic evaluations of newborns from regions in the Americas where Zika virus transmission has spread rapidly to identify lesions associated with this presumed Zika virus congenital infection.” It seems the more we learn about the tragic impact of the ZIKA virus the worse it gets.
  5. I recently wrote a blog entry on the topic of Artificial Intelligence after seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron with my family. I enjoyed the movie, but felt a little let down by how the AI villain was portrayed. However, it stimulated thinking about whether a real superintelligent AI would harm us, how it might actually go about subduing humanity, and whether we could do anything about it. In almost every portrayal of AI it springs into being as a fully integrated personality. This seems to fly in the face of what we know about intelligent systems and learning. My hypothesis is that more work (a new field?) at the interface of Developmental Neuroscience and AI could lead to enormous insights on brain development and advanced AI architectures that in the end could be more protective to humanity than Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics.
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