Consciousness on-off switch found deep in the brain

News4u-Features Desk- Consciousness – the state of being aware of all that is around you – is one of the most profound mysteries of the brain. Most neuroscientists agree that it works as an organizing mechanism that directs all of our sensory information into a coherent experience rather than just of a bunch of random perceptions.

A conductor, of sorts, that for example might take the smell and sight of a cake, the sound of its name and the memory of its flavor and tie it together as a single conscious experience of being presented with a slice of cake.

Our experience of consciousness generally involve being awake, or conscious, and being asleep, when our consciousness it turned off.

For more than a century scientists have been trying to find the secret button to manipulate consciousness by zapping certain parts of the brain with electricity to turn them off, but they have been unable to make someone lose consciousness this way.

However, that’s exactly what happened in Washington, D.C., when neurologist Mohamad Koubeissi at the George Washington University and his colleagues – somewhat by accident – found the golden spot. He and his team were conducting trials on low-frequency deep-brain stimulation to reduce epileptic seizures in patients. They found they could reduce epileptic seizures in patients by 92 percent without impairing memory, which was pretty remarkable enough on its own.

But when they began experimenting with high-frequency electrical impulses, they came across something else entirely. When stimulating a 54-year-old female patient’s claustrum (an area of neurons at the lower part of the central brain) the woman stopped reading and stared dazedly into space. “She didn’t respond to auditory or visual commands and her breathing slowed. As soon as the stimulation stopped, she immediately regained consciousness with no memory of the event. The same thing happened every time the area was stimulated during two days of experiments,” New Scientist explains in a story about the discovery.

The team successfully conducted more experiments to confirm that she was losing consciousness, not just losing the ability to speak or move. They also ensured that the phenomenon wasn’t the effect of a seizure.

Koubeissi says he believes that the claustrum plays a crucial role in igniting conscious experience. “I would liken it to a car,” he says. “A car on the road has many parts that facilitate its movement – the gas, the transmission, the engine – but there’s only one spot where you turn the key and it all switches on and works together. So while consciousness is a complicated process created via many structures and networks, we may have found the key.”

And while at this point it’s just a single-case study, the “key” may be used in the future to help open the door for people who are trapped in minimal consciousness, like comas.

“Perhaps we could try to stimulate this region in an attempt to push them out of this state,” added Koubeissi.Courtesy MNN

Consciousness on-off switch found deep in the brain-mnn

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Its raining down - not bullets but Serials from across the border !

News4u-Features Desk- The monsoon in India, may be feeble this year but as far as the small screen is concerned, the sky is overcast with Pakistani Serials raining down heart warming entertainment one after the other. The viewers are experiencing a touch of fresh air and freedom from heat, the over madeup, bejewlled and unrealistic characters have been generating through our own Hindi serials.

No I am not pro-Pakistan. Yet they have had a history of providing us with wholesome entertainment through serials like Unkahee and Dhoop Kinare, to name a few. The sweet memory still lingers in our hearts.

Now the four Pakistani serials being telecast on our screen are really watchable. Simple straight characters, beautiful language, with very few words beyond our comprehension.

Aunn Zara

Aunn Zara

Actually the post independence generation is wonderstruck to see how our neighbours seem similar to us in character, feelings and emotions and even in circumstances crowding their lives.The direction is crisp and subtle with excellent performances from all the actors. If I loved Kashaf and Zarun in “Zindgi Gulzar Hai”, I also laughed unabashed at the antics of “Aunn Zara”. The other serials are also upto the mark.

So what should the TV viewers in this country do ? Turn away from Utaran, Pavitra Rishta, Balika Vadhu and all such others with their twisted tales and getting merkier with the pasing time. Actually the poor viewer had no alternative and had to watch the camera looming on each and every character’s face as soon as some remark is made or something weired happened. The Balikas turn into Vadhus then go on to become mothers and even grand mothers if given a chance. Who is to check them ? There is no stopping the wayward writer of these serials who keep changing hands and do not know which way the story should go.

There should be a limit to the episodes of a serial as was the custom in the beginning. The Hindi serial lovers still remember with longing, serials like Khandaan, Idhar Udhar, Udaan and many more. I think the time has come for some soul searching on the part of serial makers and remove their products from the small screen before they are edged out by the Pakistani serials.

By- Veera Chaturvedi

Goalkeeper Sergio Romero pulled off two stunning saves

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Broadcast frequency change underway for DD, AIR: Javadekar

News4u-News Desk- An ambitious project to switch Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) broadcasts from medium wave frequency to ‘FM’ will soon be completed to enhance the audio quality, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said in Pune on Saturday.

“Work is underway and will be completed soon,” he said, talking to reporters here.

The ministry undertook this project as the use of cell-phones is affecting the medium wave broadcasts, he said.

The minister also said that new recruitment will made at the Prasar Bharati without undermining its autonomy.

Javadekar was on Saturday felicitated by the city-headquartered Bank of Maharashtra, where he had once worked for a decade.


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Delhi Diaries: Crime rising in capital; over 70k cases till June 30

News4u-News Desk- Registering a phenomenal surge, Delhi police recorded over 70,000 cases under IPC laws in the national capital till June 30 this year, up from the 80,000 cases reported in the entire last year.

The rise has been attributed to various factors like rapid urbanisation, socio-economic imbalances and especially increased awareness among the public.

According to Delhi police, the special measures taken by them and the government asking people to come forward and lodge their complaints freely has yielded significant results.

As per the statistics prepared by Delhi Police, the total number of IPC cases reported in Delhi till June 30 this year is 71,523.

In 2013, a total of 80,184 cases were reported in the national capital under various sections of the IPC in the entire span of 12 months.

The number stood at 54,287 in 2012 while in 2011 it was 53,353, and in 2010, 51,292.

The major sections in which rise has been seen is in dacoity, robbery, motor vehicle theft, snatching and other theft.

Forty four cases of dacoity were reported till June 30 this year as against 33 incidents in 2013.

More than double the cases of robbery have been reported in the first six months of 2014 i.e. 2,678, as against 1,245 in the entire span of 12 months in 2013.

According to police, rapid urbanisation, very large floating population, socio-economic imbalances and easily accessible escape routes to neighbouring states for criminal elements has been the factors contributing to the rise of crime in the national capital.

The number of rape cases reported have also increased from 1,636 in entire 2013 to 984 in the first six months this year in the national capital which has been under increased spotlight over crimes against women after the December 16, 2012, bus gangrape of a student.

As many as 1,980 cases of molestation have been reported till June 30 this year as against a total of 3,515 such cases in 2013.

Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi had recently said that “truthful” recording of cases of crime against women has caused a 500 per cent rise in such cases.

Crime in Delhi is High

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Managing of PM Relief Fund to be modelled on Gujarat scheme

News4u-News Desk- Major changes are in the offing in the way the PM’s National Relief Fund is managed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday directed that the Gujarat model should be emulated in selection of beneficiaries, giving priority to the poor and children.

Modi reviewed the functioning of the Relief Fund (PMNRF) and suggested several qualitative changes in the way the fund is managed, a PMO statement said.

Referring to the Gujarat model, he directed that the selection of beneficiaries should be done in a more comprehensive, scientific and humanitarian basis, giving priority to children, poor and cases from government hospitals, the statement said.

Cases involving life-threatening diseases should be accorded priority and applications should be decided on need and merit, the Prime Minister added.

He also directed that pendency in appeals for help should be minimised and the draw to select the cases should be conducted in a manner that does not leave out any genuine case.

It was decided that a letter from the Prime Minister should be sent to all beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries whose appeals have been approved for grant of relief will be informed through an SMS alert, it said.

The PM National Relief Fund was established in 1948 with public contributions to assist displaced persons from Pakistan.

The resources of the PMNRF are now utilised primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes and to the victims of major accidents and riots.

Assistance from PMNRF is also rendered for medical treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment etc.

The PMNRF fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support.

The corpus of the fund is invested with banks in fixed deposits. Disbursements are made with the approval of the Prime Minister.

Modi also reviewed the functioning of the other Prime Minister’s funds — the PM’s discretionary fund, the PM’s National Defence Fund, the PM’s fund for student’s aid, and the PM’s fund for folk art.

The review meeting was attended by Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, and P K Mishra, Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and other senior officials.

PM Modi

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Ukraine claims Russian crew shot down Malaysian plane

News4u-News Desk- Ukraine claimed it has “compelling evidence” that Russian crew operated the missile system that downed a Malaysian jet with 298 people on board and accused Moscow of helping rebels in trying to destroy evidence.

As the blame game continued with Russia accusing the US and the West of pointing fingers at it to push their Ukraine agenda, a team of Malaysian investigators touched down in Kiev to try and get to the bottom of what happened to the Malaysia Airlines aircraft that was shot down Thursday, killing all those on board.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the US administration sought to pin the blame on separatists and Russia without waiting for the results of an investigation.

The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur as it was downed between Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighbouring region of Donetsk.

It is believed that flight MH17 crashed after being hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from the rebel-held area.

Ukraine’s counter intelligence chief Vitaly Nada told a news conference: “We have compelling evidence that this terrorist act was committed with the help of the Russian Federation. We know clearly that the crew of this system were Russian citizens.”

He also asked Russia to give Ukraine the names and surnames of the crew so that Kiev could question them.

As calls for an independent investigation into the downing of the jet grew louder, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed for an international probe.

The two leaders, who spoke on the telephone, “agreed that an international, independent commission under the direction of ICAO (UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization) should quickly have access to the site of the accident… to shed light on the circumstances of the crash and move the victims,” a German government statement said. Kiev also accused Russia of helping pro-Moscow rebels of trying to destroy evidence in the downing of the aircraft.

“The Ukrainian government officially announces: terrorists with the support of Russia are trying to destroy proof of this international crime,” Ukraine’s government said in a statement.

It complained that “the terrorists” had taken 38 bodies to a morgue in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

It said the rebels were also trying to transport the plane’s wreckage to Russia. Latest figures released by Malaysia Airlines show the plane was carrying 192 Dutch nationals (including one with dual US citizenship), 44 Malaysians (including 15 crew), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians and 10 Britons (including one with dual South African citizenship, four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines, and one each from Canada and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Malaysia said its jet never strayed into restricted airspace and its flight path was considered a safe route.

“MH17′s flight path was a busy major airway, like a highway in the sky. It followed a route which was set out by the international aviation authorities, approved by Eurocontrol, and used by hundreds of other aircraft,” Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said.

Liow said officials from Eurocontrol stated that two days before the incident, 75 different airlines had flown the same route.

“MH17 flew at an altitude that was set and deemed safe by local air traffic control, and it never strayed into restricted airspace,” the minister said, adding that “the flight and its operators followed the rules.”

But on the ground, the rules of war were broken, he asserted. “In an unacceptable act of aggression, it appears that MH17 was shot down; its passengers and crew killed by a missile,” he said.

The Transport Minister also confirmed reports that MH17 initially requested to fly at 35,000 feet but was ordered to fly at 33,000 feet by air traffic control operators due to “other traffic”and that the altitude was deemed safe.

Liow issued an impassioned plea for the MH17 disaster site in Ukraine to be protected from tampering, saying evidence was being compromised in what it called a “betrayal of the lives that were lost.”

“Malaysia is deeply concerned that the crash site has not been properly secured,” Liow said.

“The integrity of the site has been compromised, and there are indications that vital evidence has not been preserved in place,” he said.

Liow’s assertions came as the Ukrainian government and separatist groups agreed to create a safety zone around the site where Malaysia Airlines jet crashed. Ukraine Ambassador to Malaysia Ihor V Humenyyi told the Malaysian Bernama news agency that the Ukrainian authorities and the rebels — currently in control of the territory — had agreed that no combat action would be carried out in the area of 400 square kilometeres to enable investigations.

Prime Minister Najib Razak today said that Malaysia, as the owner of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, will ensure that the plane’s black boxes will not be under the control of any irrelevant quarters.

According to the international law, the owner of the plane has every right for the black boxes, he said.

“We must follow the international law and those who have no rights whatsoever cannot claim or take over control of the black boxes,” he told reporters after meeting with families of victims of the MH17 tragedy in Kuala Lumpur.

Najib also said the government was committed to doing its level best to bring home the remains of Malaysian nationals who perished in the crash.

“Right now, our team has arrived in Kiev and we are in the midst of making arrangements to enter the area of the scene in Eastern Ukraine. It is about 400 kilometres away (from Kiev), so there are several procedures that must be adhered to before they can get into the area,” Najib said.

He said the authorities were taking every step to ensure the safety of the international team moving into the area, especially the investigation team from Malaysia. “I am sure everything has been done to ensure the safety of the team,” he said.

Najib said he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone late Friday to stress the need for an objective probe into the crash, amid concerns the site was vulnerable to tampering.

“I also told Putin that the site should not be tampered (with) before the team begins its investigation,” he was quoted as saying.

Najib’s step-grandmother was on board the ill-fated jet, the country’s defence minister confirmed.

Hishammuddin Hussein, a minister, said his step- grandmother was also among those killed.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai was to arrive in Kiev soon, the Star daily said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine said, the world community, must put pressure on Russia to pull back its terrorists and allow Ukrainian and international experts to carry out their inquiry.

Ukraine’s government has the authority to investigate the crash, under international conventions, even though the incident took place in rebel territory.

On Thursday, the day the plane tore apart in the sky over Torez, the rebels granted passage to a smaller international team of 21 people from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

But when the OSCE team arrived among the rubble, armed local militiamen greeted them with hostility and throttled their access to the site.

“There didn’t seem to be anyone really in control,” OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said. Armed men, apparently pro-Russia militants, loosely guarded the area but could not answer the monitors’ questions, he said.

Ukraine claims Russian crew shot down Malaysian plane

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Gene key to developing stem cells found

News4u-Features Desk- Researchers have found a gene that could be key to the development of stem cells - cells that can potentially save millions of lives by morphing into practically any cell in the body.

The gene, known as ASF1A, is at least one of the genes responsible for the mechanism of cellular reprogramming, a phenomenon that can turn one cell type into another, which is key to the making of stem cells.

Researchers at the Michigan State University analysed more than 5,000 genes from a human egg, or oocyte, before determining that the ASF1A, along with another gene known as OCT4 and a helper soluble molecule, were the ones responsible for the reprogramming.

“This has the potential to be a major breakthrough in the way we look at how stem cells are developed,” said Elena Gonzalez-Munoz, a former MSU post-doctoral researcher and first author of the paper.

“Researchers are just now figuring out how adult somatic cells such as skin cells can be turned into embryonic stem cells. Hopefully this will be the way to understand more about how that mechanism works,” said Gonzalez-Munoz.

In 2006, an MSU team identified the thousands of genes that reside in the oocyte. It was from those, they concluded, that they could identify the genes responsible for cellular reprogramming.

In 2007, a team of Japanese researchers found that by introducing four other genes into cells, stem cells could be created without the use of a human egg.

These cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs. “This is important because the iPSCs are derived directly from adult tissue and can be a perfect genetic match for a patient,” said Jose Cibelli, an MSU professor of animal science and a member of the team.

The researchers say that the genes ASF1A and OCT4 work in tandem with a ligand, a hormone-like substance that also is produced in the oocyte called GDF9, to facilitate the reprogramming process.

“We believe that ASF1A and GDF9 are two players among many others that remain to be discovered which are part of the cellular-reprogramming process,” Cibelli said. The finding was published in the journal Science.

Gene key to developing stem cells found

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Philippine typhoon toll nears 100, new storm brings rains

News4u-News Desk- The death toll from Typhoon Rammasun in the Philippines rose to 94 with six missing as another storm brought rains to the ravaged areas, authorities said on Sunday.

The reports of fatalities came in as repairmen struggled to restore electricity to hundreds of thousands of households who have been without power since the storm hit last week.

“The majority of the fatalities are from falling debris and trees while many of the missing are from boats that went out to sea,” despite the storm, said Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The typhoon has since blown to southern China but a new storm, named Matmo, was packing gusts of 150 kilometres (93 miles) and worsening rainfall in places affected by Rammasun, she told AFP.

Manila Electric Co, the country’s largest power distributor, said more than 400,000 homes in the Manila area were still experiencing outages since the first typhoon of the year hit on Wednesday.

The Philippines is struck by about 20 major storms annually, many of them deadly.

The Southeast Asian archipelago is often the first major landmass to be struck after storm build above the warm Pacific Ocean waters.

In November Super Typhoon Haiyan unleashed giant seven-metre (23-foot) high storm surges that devastated the coasts of the eastern islands of Samar and Leyte, killing up to 7,300 people in one of the nation’s worst ever natural disasters.

There were no immediate reports of damage from Typhoon Matmo which is expected to pass over the northern end of the main Philippine island of Luzon about Tuesday, the government weather station said.

Typhoon Rammasun kills 14 in China

Super typhoon Rammasun, the strongest storm to hit southern China in over four decades, killed 14 people and wreaked havoc after leaving a trail of destruction in neighbouring Philippines.

More than 1.3 million people were affected by Rammasun — a Thai word for Thunder God — which swept dozens of southern coastal cities in Guangdong and Hainan provinces, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The typhoon, which caused huge damages earlier in the week in Philippines, is believed to be the strongest storm to hit the region in 41 years. Wind speeds reached 216 kilometres per hour.

The deaths include five persons from Hainan Province since its first landfall at Wenchang City yesterday, according to a report by state-run news agency Xinhua.

In the province, the typhoon destroyed about 51,000 houses and 40,600 hectares of crops, causing losses worth over 4.7 billion yuan (USD 752.58 mn), the report said.

In Wengtian Town of Wenchang City more than 90 per cent of residential buildings have collapsed.

Over 1,000 people were trapped in a farm where sea water rose to one-man high.

The typhoon also damaged power and water facilities, telecommunications networks, ports and roads, making rescue work more difficult, according to local authorities.

Rammasun made its third landfall in Fangchenggang City of Guangxi this morning.

A tower crane fell, killing one person on the site and injuring two others. Roads are strewn with garbage and trees. Gas stations are temporarily closed.

In Beihai, another city in Guangxi, rain-whipped trees and snapped transmission lines blocked major roads, hampering connectivity.

Dai Yanhui, a Beihai resident, told Xinhua that he felt his house shaking in the ferocious winds.

Rammasun also grounded planes in Nanning, the regional capital, stranding some 1,300 passengers.

High-speed train services between Nanning and coastal cities have been suspended.

In Guangdong, where the typhoon made a second landfall at Zhanjiang City last night, more than 14,800 people have been relocated. Losses are estimated at 247 million yuan.

The provincial government of Hainan has scrambled six relief teams. More than 100,000 villagers in Wenchang have been relocated.

Rescue teams have been formed to clear blocked roads, and living necessities have reached the worst-hit villages, according to the municipal government of Wenchang. Rammasun is expected to continue moving northwest at a speed of 20 kilometers per hour bringing heavy rains, according to meteorological authorities.

Philippine typhoon toll nears 100

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Begin Again (Movie-Review)

News4u-Entertainment Desk- Gretta (Knightley) and Dave (Levine) are a couple but are also song-writing partners. When Dave gets his big break, will their love and artistic integrity be sacrificed at the altar of his musical success?

Struggling record label exec Dan (Ruffalo) and Gretta are both a bit worn at the seams after being dealt a few bad cards by the hand of fate. Dan is no longer on talking terms with his wife Miriam (Keener) while Gretta is heartbroken and angry, for hell hath no fury like a woman cheated on. And in this case, the cheat is her longtime beau, fellow musician and apparent babe-magnet Dave, who took matters beyond music and into the boudoir with a female producer in Los Angeles.

Gretta might be heartbroken with this betrayal and the proverbial ship set adrift in a lonely sea, but she is very talented and fiercely independent to boot. And if there’s one thing she knows, it’s how to pen a soulful song.

Dan and Gretta’s paths cross in a bar one night, when Dan hears her sing. He is impressed enough to know that it’s not just the alcohol veil that makes her music sound so stirring to him. This, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t signed any good talent in a while, leads him to do his damnedest to convince her to allow him as producer to help cut an album.

Gretta is hesitant for various reasons but ultimately has one of those ‘Oh, what the heck’ moments and goes with Dan’s intuition.

Despite some hiccups, they manage to scrape together an album. Meanwhile, Gretta’s heart still harbours hope for Dave and when she sees him perform a song one day, it stirs old, bittersweet memories. Dave tries to make amends but is the cut of betrayal too deep for a superficial apology to heal?

Gretta’s also now suspect of Dave’s balance between passion and commercialization. Decidedly different from super-budget, superhero fare, this one is sometimes sappy but mostly engaging and definitely driven by music. Courtesy toi…

Begin Again

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Hate Story 2 (Movie-Review)

News4u-Entertainment Desk-Two photography students fall in love. But is a blissful life together just an illusion for them?

Hate Story 2 is a revenge drama on the lines of Rakesh Roshan’s Khoon Bhari Maang and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies. What it lacks is an A-grade star cast. Also, this one is slightly more predictable in pattern. However, the doses of erotica added to the screenplay just to give it that gleeful taste work well.

Sonika (Surveen Chawla) with an hourglass figure is the mistress of a powerful politician, Mandar Mhatre (Sushant Singh). But at heart, she is a simple girl who wants a chance to taste real love. A fellow-photography student Akshay (Jay Bhanushali) and she fall head over heels in love. And though she warns him of her ‘tainted’ image, his intentions stay honourable.

The two elope and set up their paradise away from the prying eyes of the power-drunk politician. They hum Arijit Singh’s truly melodious Aaaj phir tumse pyaar, lock lips passionately and make steamy love. And, just when you’re feasting your eyes on Surveen’s dusky bare skin, the bad guys find them. What follows from here is the real suspense tale.

The lead pair Jay and Surveen, both of whom have an ardent following on the small screen, pass muster in their movie outing as well. However, the scene-stealer is the antagonist, Sushant Singh, who delivers a powerful performance.

On the flip side, the proceedings on screen lack tempo that is needed for an erotic thriller. However, to stop you from fidgeting, the makers have cleverly roped in adult-star Sunny Leone (Indian cinema’s best import in recent times) to shimmy. She beckons you to look at her pink lips in an item number.

So, even if the plot points in this vendetta drama seem asinine, with Surveen, Sunny and sex thrown in, the less pretentious will go home satiated. Courtesy toi…

Hate Story 2

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