Thursday, March 4, 2021

Artificial Pheromones and Biomimetic Mind Control

Breathing may change your mind about free will
Feb 2020,

This reminds us how interconnected the olfactory system is with our body. "Osmetic Ontogenesis" by Hosek and Freeman in 2001 is a great dive into this subject, with a title that's hard to forget.
Scientists at EPFL in Switzerland have shown that you are more likely to initiate a voluntary decision as you exhale. 
via by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne: Hyeong-Dong Park et al. Breathing is coupled with voluntary action and the cortical readiness potential, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13967-9

Gut bacteria may modify behavior in worms, influencing eating habits
Jun 2020,
Specific gut bacteria in the worm may modify the animal's behavior, directing its dining decisions.

"In this way, the bacteria can take control over the host animal's sensory decision-making process, which affects their responses to odors and may influence food choices" said Dr. Sengupta.
via the National Institutes of Health: MP O'Donnell et al. Modulation of olfactory behavior by a gut bacteria-produced neurotransmitter. Nature, 2020. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2395-5

Non-invasive nerve stimulation boosts learning of foreign language sounds
Aug 2020,

Can this be used for olfactory nerves as well?
Researchers significantly improved the ability of native English speakers to distinguish between Mandarin tones by using precisely timed, non-invasive stimulation of the vagus nerve.
via University of Pittsburg: Non-invasive peripheral nerve stimulation selectively enhances speech category learning in adults. Fernando Llanos et al. npj [Nature Partner Journal] Science of Learning volume 5, Article number: 12 (2020).

A lab that reads—and writes—our dreams
Apr 2020,

Well-known olfactory researcher Judith Amoore dispenses odors as subjects slip into sleep. In follow-up interviews, subjects report memories associated with the smells.

The device is supposed to trigger scents with positive associations during nightmares to help trauma and PTSD sufferers without them even being awake.

via MIT and the Dormio device

Augmented Reality, EPFL École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

Pregnancy test for water' delivers fast, easy results on water quality
Jul 2020,

Frankenstein as f***
In cell-free synthetic biology, researchers take the molecular machinery—including DNA, RNA and proteins—out of cells, and then reprogram that machinery to perform new tasks. The idea is akin to opening the hood of the car and removing the engine, which allows researchers to use the engine for different purposes, free from the constraints of the car. In this case, Lucks' team used molecular machinery from bacterial cells.

"We found out how bacteria naturally taste things in their water," Lucks added. "They do so with little molecular-level 'taste buds'. Cell-free synthetic biology allows us to take those little molecular taste buds out and put them into a test tube. We can then 're-wire' them up to produce a visual signal. It glows to let the user quickly and easily see if there's a contaminant in their water."

These reprogramed "taste buds" are freeze-dried to become shelf-stable and put into test tubes. Adding a drop of water to the tube—and then flicking it—sets off a chemical reaction that causes the freeze-dried pellet to glow in the presence of a contaminant.

In Paradise, California, after the recent wildfire disaster there, ... their teams tested ROSALIND alongside gold-standard water tests and discovered that ROSALIND was able to identify the presence of elevated toxic metals in the water supply. It also provided much faster and less expensive results.
via Northwestern University: Cell-free biosensors for rapid detection of water contaminants, Nature Biotechnology (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41587-020-0571-7

Exhaled biomarkers can reveal lung disease
Jul 2020,

Inhalable nanosensors:
"We envision that this technology would allow you to inhale a sensor and then breathe out a volatile gas in about 10 minutes that reports on the status of your lungs and whether the medicines you are taking are working," says Sangeeta Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.
via Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Chan, L.W., Anahtar, M.N., Ong, T. et al. Engineering synthetic breath biomarkers for respiratory disease, Nature Nanotechnology (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41565-020-0723-4

Researchers develop sensors that detect human biomarkers and toxic gas
Nov 2020,

VOCs are going to be the new big data treasure chest.

via Penn State: Ning Yi et al. Stretchable gas sensors for detecting biomarkers from humans and exposed environments, TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.trac.2020.116085

AI-powered 'electronic nose' to sniff out meat freshness
Nov 2020,

Go figure it has to see it to smell it...
The e-nose developed by NTU scientists and their collaborators comprises two elements: a colored barcode that reacts with gasses produced by decaying meat; and a barcode reader that uses AI to interpret the combination of colors on the barcode. To make the e-nose portable, the scientists integrated it into a smartphone app that can yield results in 30 seconds.
via Nanyang Technological University: Lingling Guo et al. Portable Food‐Freshness Prediction Platform Based on Colorimetric Barcode Combinatorics and Deep Convolutional Neural Networks, Advanced Materials (2020). DOI: 10.1002/adma.202004805

The Cat Copter, for real.

A system for swarm robotics applications inspired by pheromone communication in insects
Jul 2020,

Biomimetic artificial pheromone signaling in robotic swarms:
One of the most promising systems developed so far is COSΦ, a system that uses light to emulate pheromone release in humans and animals.

So far, the researchers evaluated their artificial pheromone system in a series of experiments in which a swarm of small mobile robots moved around and adapted to different environmental factors. Their results were highly promising, as their system enabled effective communication and prompted the desired group behaviors among members of the swarm.
via the University of Manchester: Seongin Na et al. Bio-inspired artificial pheromone system for swarm robotics applications, Adaptive Behavior (2020). DOI: 10.1177/1059712320918936

Researchers find a chemical that makes locusts swarm
Aug 2020, Ars Technica

Distant future, we will also have pheromone programming or engineering, so that we don't "swarm" and so we can be more easily controlled

via the Chinese Academy of Sciences: 4-Vinylanisole is an aggregation pheromone in locusts
Xiaojiao Guo. Nature volume 584, pages584–588(2020). 12 Aug 2020. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2610-4

Researchers one step closer to bomb-sniffing cyborg locusts
Aug 2020,

An irresistible scent makes locusts swarm, study finds
Aug 2020,

'The Smellicopter,' an obstacle-avoiding drone that uses a live moth antenna to seek out smells
Dec 2020,

Awesome. Made me think of the catcopter though. Ah, old times.
"Nature really blows our human-made odor sensors out of the water," said lead author Melanie Anderson, a UW doctoral student in mechanical engineering. "By using an actual moth antenna ...
via the University of Washington: Melanie Joyce Anderson et al. A bio-hybrid odor-guided autonomous palm-sized air vehicle, Bioinspiration & Biomimetics (2020). DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/abbd81