Brainiacs on the brain

UW team publishes first power-efficient brain stimulators preventing tremors

Six researchers, engineers, and medical professionals have proved there’s a way to save battery power for patients using Deep Brain Stimulators (DBS), which use a pulse generator in someone’s chest that sends electricity up through a cord to specific parts of the brain.

DBS are primarily used by patients with essential tremor (ET), or involuntary shaking. This shaking happens only during deliberate tasks, however, like writing, eating, and drinking. But current DBS implants are always on, draining battery even while people are sleeping. This means more surgeries for replacement batteries, and researchers wanted to change this.

Howard Chizeck, one of the co-authors of the research, had been working on neural engineering to restore motor functions since 1981. His work expands more than just ETs, including things like Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and paralysis.

“In this project, my motivation was to see what can be done with existing, off-the-shelf technology,” Chizeck said. “A key issue is that if this works, it can get to clinical use quickly.”

A team of four creates and maintains app for sexual assault issues

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Photo courtesy of Billy Sadik-Khan

It’s sexual assault awareness month, and a phone app that helps college students navigate issues around sexual assault is coming out of the woodworks.

“Reach Out,” created by Capptivation, lets anonymous users pick from one in 2,500 schools in the app’s data frame to delve into step-by-step guides, community and campus resources, and legalities and policies surrounding sexual assault.

“All the information’s out there but it’s spread all over the place,” said Reach Out data maintenance worker Billy Sadik-Khan.

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UW researchers spearhead landmark study on the elder LGBT community

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Professor Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen is a faculty member at the School of Social Work and director of the Healthy Generations Hartford Center of Excellence at the UW. Photo by Niva Ashkenazi

“Those people were growing up and coming of age at a time when same-sex behavior and identities were highly stigmatized and criminalized,” Fredriksen-Goldsen said. “But also providers don’t know how to address their needs in a culturally competent and sensitive way. That combination has just led to invisibility.”

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Gut bacteria studies could combat associated imbalances like diabetes

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Elhanan Borenstein (courtesy photo)

UW associate professor Elhanan Borenstein recently published a research paper alongside Ohad Manor, a post-doctoral fellow in the Borenstein lab, focusing on a computational technique called “FishTaco,” an acronym for Functional Shifts’ Taxonomic Contributors. There are no fish or tacos otherwise involved.

The crux of the FishTaco is that it combines two datasets about the gut microbiome: the composition and abundance of species, and the different types of genes encoded for activities like vitamin synthesis and breaking down carbs.

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Music to oceanographers’ ears

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Photo courtesy of Kate Stafford

When it comes to the ocean, its depths are oftentimes less explored than outer space.

“There’s a tremendous amount we don’t know,” UW oceanographer Kate Stafford said. “I mean, it’s just staggering.”

In an effort to bridge the gap, Stafford and others have been using what are called haruphones or hydrophones—single underwater microphones. These hydrophones are weighted down by an anchor and placed on the ocean floor.

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