Taking direct electrical measurements from a living brain and even from a single neuron cell requires an invasive connection between the localized electrochemical environment in the cell and a sharp, prickly, prodding metal stake of death.

An electrode might sound harmless, but it can take the form of a gigantic (in the reference frame of a tiny neuron) metallic (or other electrical conducting material) needle that could either damage living tissue, or be rejected by the hosting biological system and quickly bombarded in tissue to effectively disengage the pointy invader.

image courtesy PhysOrg.com

Recently, a collaboration lead by Edward Keefer from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, has discovered that coating these harmful–but, necessarily formed–electrical recording devices with the ever popular carbon nanotube is the neuron’s newest fuzzy best friend. The nanotubues act to not only enhance the transmitted signals received from directly implanted electrodes, but they have been shown to be bio-compatible, so that they might even minimize the damage caused to the specimen. In fact, Keefer claims the efficiency of the cell-electrode interface is improved by at least one-thousand times.

The development of neurotechnological devices–hardware that interconnects directly with nervous tissue and even individual neurons–is absolutely dependent on not only the production of electrical connections that will result in highly sensitive signal transmission, but the cells will must also like to have these needles sticking around. The carbon nanotube coating approach could be a critical step in advancing neurotechnology to a future level of high-res recording devices as well as localized, highly-controllable stimulus systems.

“Carbon Nanotube-Coated Electrodes Improve Brain Readouts” :: PhysOrg.com :: August 12, 2008 :: [ READ ]


During the Summer of 2009, NASA will torpedo a big barrel of metal into a forever dark spot on the Moon producing an explosion on the order of 2,000 pounds of dynamite. The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) is designed to target a location that is permanently located in a shadow of the Sun where there is a possibility of having water ice stored at the constant estimated temperature of 40 degrees above absolute zero.

We won’t actually be able to see the crash on the surface, but the plume is what is of interest … if water ice existed in the dark spot, then it might be thrown up into the hyper-thin atmosphere and water molecules vaporized into constituent H and OH, which can then be detected by their characteristic wavelengths.

Let alone that this mission is the first critical experimental step to returning human beings to the Moon — for permanent residence — but, the greatest part of this lunar research program is that NASA will be scheduling the event so that amateur astronomers in Hawaii and the western United States will be able to monitor the action from their backyard telescopes (as well as professional astronomers with their multi-million dollar telescopes).

Learn more about the LCROSS mission by following the links below and find out how you can take part in the experiment. Mission scientists believe that the impact plume will be visible from amateur-class telescopes with apertures as small as 10 to 12 inches. NASA will be activity soliciting images from the public and will be posting additional information on this outstanding opportunity on their website.

DPRI AmSci Journal will keep a watch on the developments, so stay tuned! (And, be sure to register with DPRI to receive free email updates!)

“A Flash of Insight: LCROSS Mission Update” :: Science@NASA :: August 11, 2008 :: [ READ ]

NASA LCROSS Mission to the Moon [ VIEW ]

“NASA LCROSS Strategy & Astronomer Observation Campaign” :: [ LEARN MORE ]


A new citizen science survey of migratory birds in South Africa is being launched this week by the Ndlovu Node of the SA Environmental Observation Network. Locals will record observations of the arrival of specific species to help track the migratory behavior, which might be related to potential issues in regional climate change. In particular, as habitats change, birds will migrate to alternate areas that might better match their climate preferences.

View Larger Map of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

This study is expanding on results earlier this year from the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which found significant decreases in migrations of certain bird species from Africa into Europe.

“Migrating on a wing and a prayer” :: IOL: News for South Africa and the World :: August 9, 2008 :: [ READ ]

Get involved in the South Africa Environmental Observation Network [ VIEW ]


This is an update to a previous Neuron News posting reviewing a new whole brain imaging technique–called Diffusion Spectrum Imaging–that tracks the flow of water molecules through axons to map neural interconnectivity. The research group has completed the imaging on a marmoset monkey, and the full three-dimensional animation of the result is now presented online.

The map was produced from a 24-hour scan of a dissected brain with a spatial resolution of 400 microns. View the animation and look closely at all of the intricate fiber pathways and interesting network patterns that are present. The level of complexity is not close to that of a human, but the system is certainly complex enough to begin the work on detailing the network to further understand brain function.

To be clear, each visualized pathway in the map does not represent a single axonal strand. However, it corresponds to hundreds of thousands of fibers that are all networked in approximately the same direction. So, this imaging technique does not resolve the network down to each individual connection, but an averaged view of large groups of connections.

“The Brain Unmasked” :: Technology Review by MIT :: August 6, 2008 :: [ READ ]

Slide show of Monkey Brain Scanned with DSI [ VIEW ]
Video Animation of 3D Results [ VIEW ]


This is an update to a previously-published journal entry here in DPRI AmSci Journal on the exciting discovery of a new galactic “something-er-other” seen for the very first time by none other than a school teacher from the Netherlands.

Hanny van Arkel has been getting quite a bit of attention lately (just check out her Google search!) with her interesting observation while reviewing and classifying images of galaxies on Galaxy Zoo. The Hubble Space Telescope is also scheduled to focus in on the odd object next year.

Read the following feature from CNN, which does a nice job presenting the growing contributions of citizen scientists.

Watch Out World, now, the serious amateur researcher is making some waves!

“Armchair astronomer discovers unique ‘cosmic ghost'” :: CNN.com :: August 7, 2008 :: [ READ ]

“Teacher discovers ‘cosmic ghost'” :: University of Oxford Press Release :: August 6, 2008 :: [ READ ]

“Dutch Teacher Stumbles Upon A Space ‘Ghost'” :: NPR News Weekend Edition :: August 9, 2008 :: [ READ ]


The citizen science volunteers of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy of Purcellville, VA recently completed their annual butterfly count. Covering 7 1/2 miles, the program records the number of butterflies found as well as the variety of species.

A few of the more rare species found this year include the Giant Swallowtail, the American Snout, and the Juniper hairstreak. The full results will be submitted to the North American Butterfly Association, which then merges it with other groups’ results from across North America to produce broader butterfly species habitat and population trend maps.

Check out the NABA website for a listing of upcoming butterfly counts as well as “Butterflies I’ve Seen,” which is a great online database for submitting your own butterfly observations.

“Winging It for the Sake of Science” :: Washington Post :: August 7, 2008 :: [ READ ARTICLE ]

Read the full report directly from LWC’s website…


Last updated January 15, 2020