Despite the lockdowns, quarantines, and shelter-in-place orders, work still has to be done. This is especially true for physical products that have a limited window of opportunity to get out the door. That’s harder to do when you very secretive company like Apple that is known for keeping things under tight wraps, or at least as much as they can. The global pandemic has forced Apple to yield some ground and, in doing so, may have also yielded some clues to its upcoming products.
A lot of jobs in the past weeks have proven to actually be doable at home despite employers’ past claims. Admittedly, that’s easy enough when that work only involves digital files or paper at most. When work involves testing hardware or even software on such hardware, however, things are a tad more complicated.
Apple has long been notorious for its secrecy, though leaks have been coming in greater frequency and accuracy in the past years. With many restrictions on travel and businesses around the world, however, the company has had no choice but to let some employees take their work home with them, including some devices.
Bloomberg reports that some of those include Apple’s line up for the later part of the year. We already expect new MacBooks and new iPhones as part of the company’s lineup but those are hardly the only ones in store for Apple fans. There are also cheaper non-Pro iPads as well as a new iMac.
The biggest news might be a new HomePod, Apple’s more or less silent smart speaker. Late and more expensive than its rivals, the Apple speaker was off to a rough start but had its fair share of faithful fans. There definitely has been little talk about a successor until now. Whether these new devices come this year largely depends on how quickly Apple and the rest of the world can recover once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.
Chances are good, few habits need more of an overhaul right now than your sleep routine. You probably picked up a few bad sleep habits during the cold, dark winter and any additional stress you’re facing is helping the situation, says Brown University associate professor and medical doctor Katherine Sharkey.
Don’t panic: Sharkey, who has been researching sleep–and its connection with productivity, medicine, and mental health–for nearly 30 years, says it merely indicates that some spring cleaning is in order. “Just like how, at some point in January, you have to stop eating Christmas cookies,” she notes.
Sharkey believes spring is a particularly good time to reset your sleep hygiene–especially as the weather warms up and the days lengthen, increasing your exposure to natural light. Here are her top five tips for doing so:
1. Compress your sleep.
The reason most experts recommend six to eight hours of sleep per night, Sharkey says, is because your brain is only capable of producing that much quality sleep on any given night. Sleep for 10 hours and that quality gets diluted. So, set yourself some relatively rigid bedtimes and wake-up times to ensure that you’re experiencing the highest quality sleep you can.
2. Get outdoors.
Your body’s natural circadian rhythm is actually slightly longer than 24 hours, which means your sleep clock naturally shifts a few minutes each day–making it a challenge to consistently wake up at the same time each morning. Exposing yourself to natural light–not indoor light–each morning will help you reset that clock daily. “Doing things in brighter light does improve alertness and performance,” Sharkey says, adding that you don’t even have to do it in one fell swoop: As long as you’re accumulating between 15 and 60 total minutes of outdoor time daily by lunchtime, you’ll be in better mental shape.
3. Don’t sleep in.
If you’re short on sleep, Sharkey says, trying to catch up by sleeping in is “the last thing we would want them to do.” Rather, you should adhere to your normal routine whenever possible, even on weekends. “Irregular schedules do bad things to thinking, cognition, mood, hormone secretion, and waking–and are risk factors for all sorts of untoward health outcomes,” she warns.
4. Avoid long naps.
There’s plenty of evidence proving the value of short, 10-minute naps. Longer naps, however, can be problematic–especially if you’re already getting six to eight hours of sleep per night. “It’s like eating Doritos when your mom is making dinner,” Sharkey says. “And the sleep that you get in the middle of the day isn’t the sleep you get at night, because it’s not part of a 90- to 120-minute sleep cycle.” So, either limit your naps to 10 minutes or power through your midday slump until your predesignated bedtime.
5. Watch your caffeine intake.
Sharkey doesn’t necessarily recommend cutting caffeine from your diet. Rather, she warns against amping up your intake when you’re tired, because it can lead to fragmented sleep later that night–and that’s harmful to your cognition and productivity.
Most problematic caffeine consumption occurs in the afternoons and evenings, and Sharkey says that even people who think caffeine “doesn’t affect them” often experience lesser-quality sleep after consuming too much. So, consider the aforementioned 10-minute nap as a late-day replacement, as long as it too doesn’t disrupt your sleep later that night.
“The domains that I would say are important for sleep are high-quality, adequate duration, and well-timed,” Sharkey says, adding that shifts in those variables can lead to decreased reaction times, poor memory, and mood swings. So, take her advice. Your colleagues and clients will thank you–and so will your company’s bottom line.
General cognitive ability and white matter connectivity may go hand in hand.
Posted Apr 02, 2020
Intelligence involves gray matter and white matter connectivity throughout the entire brain, according to a new meta-analysis. The findings (Holleran et al., 2020) of this international collaboration, which involved over three-dozen scientists from around the globe, were published on March 26 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
This meta-analysis project was led by Laurena Holleran of the NUI Galway in Ireland. Holleran is a professor in the School of Psychology and Centre for Neuroimaging Cognition and Genomics as well as a lecturer in clinical neuroscience.
In total, the international collaborative analyzed brain scans and cognitive function measurements from 1,717 participants. Some study participants were patients with schizophrenia (n = 760); others were part of a control group (n = 957) of healthy participants.
What Is the Relationship Between White Matter Microstructure and General Cognitive Ability in Patients With Schizophrenia and Healthy Participants?
“Schizophrenia has recently been associated with widespread white matter microstructural abnormalities, but the functional effects of these abnormalities remain unclear,” the authors write.
A relatively new, state-of-the-art brain imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) provides fresh insights into the relationship between white matter microstructures that connect different brain regions and general cognitive ability.
“Previous literature suggested that general intelligence relies on specific gray matter areas of the brain, including temporal, parietal and frontal regions. However, the results from this study indicate that efficient connection pathways across the entire brain provide a neural network that supports general cognitive function,” Holleran said in a news release.
In the NUI news release, Professor Gary Donohoe, who is the senior author of this paper, highlights three ways that this meta-analysis advances our knowledge:
[This research] demonstrates that the relationship between brain structure and intelligence involves not only gray matter but also white matter—the brain’s wiring system.
It’s not just one part of this [white matter] wiring system that is important for intelligence, but rather the wiring system as a whole.
The relationship between intelligence and the brain’s [white matter microstructure] wiring system is basically the same in patients with schizophrenia and healthy people; the lack of pattern explains their cognitive abilities. This suggests that cognitive function in patients is the same as the general population, at least as far as white matter is concerned.
“To date, this is the largest meta-analysis study of brain structure and cognitive function in schizophrenia,” Holleran noted.
Until now, there hasn’t been a clear consensus on the link between white matter functional connectivity and general cognitive ability. The authors conclude that their meta-analysis “provides robust evidence that cognitive ability is associated with global structural connectivity, with higher fractional anisotropy associated with higher IQ.”
Notably, the relationship between white matter microstructure and general cognitive ability appears to be independent of a schizophrenia diagnosis. According to the authors, “the comparable size of effect in each group suggested a more general, rather than disease-specific, pattern of association.”
“Understanding the neural basis of cognitive function is essential so that effective therapies [can be developed] that address difficulties associated with disorders like schizophrenia,” Holleran said. “This is important because cognitive deficits associated with the disorder strongly predict social and functional outcomes, such as employment or social relationships.”
Laurena Holleran, Sinead Kelly, Clara Alloza, Ingrid Agartz, Ole A. Andreassen, Celso Arango, Nerisa Banaj, Vince Calhoun, Dara Cannon, Vaughan Carr, Aiden Corvin, David C. Glahn, Ruben Gur, Elliot Hong, Cyril Hoschl, Fleur M. Howells, Anthony James, Joost Janssen, Peter Kochunov, Stephen M. Lawrie, Jingyu Liu, Covadonga Martinez, Colm McDonald, Derek Morris, David Mothersill, Christos Pantelis, Fabrizio Piras, Steven Potkin, Paul E. Rasser, David Roalf, Laura Rowland, Theodore Satterthwaite, Ulrich Schall, Gianfranco Spalletta, Filip Spaniel, Dan J. Stein, Anne Uhlmann, Aristotle Voineskos, Andrew Zalesky, Theo G.M. van Erp, Jessica A. Turner, Ian J. Deary, Paul M. Thompson, Neda Jahanshad, Gary Donohoe. “The Relationship Between White Matter Microstructure and General Cognitive Ability in Patients With Schizophrenia and Healthy Participants in the ENIGMA Consortium.” TheAmerican Journal of Psychiatry (First published online: March 26, 2020) DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.19030225
Canadians hunkered down in their homes should expect the strict public health measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus to last until the summer, according to federal and provincial health officials.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to give a specific timeline on when the lockdowns and quarantines might be lifted but said Wednesday the measures could last for “weeks or even months.”
“We know [these measures] are going to be in place a number of more weeks, perhaps even months. But everything depends on how Canadians behave,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday. “The choices you make to stay at home, to self-isolate, not to go to six different grocery stores… these sorts of things are what will arrest the spread and the increase of this virus.”
“As I have often said, we look at all kinds of different scenarios,” Trudeau said. “It might last longer, it might last less time.”
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau asked if Canada expects death projections similar to the U.S.
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau asked if Canada expects death projections similar to the U.S.
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says COVID-19 response is Canada’s biggest since WWII
Coronavirus outbreak: Scheer criticizes Trudeau’s ‘confusion and delays’ in handling the COVID-19 pandemic
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says Crown Corporations will abide by ‘best medical advice’ on pipeline construction projects
Coronavirus outbreak: Canadian companies now manufacturing ventilators, surgical masks
Sources within the federal government and the City of Ottawa tell Global News the current pandemic-related restrictions are expected to be in place until at least June in a “best-case scenario.”
A report from the National Post citing a document from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on March 30 projects that “current measures” will continue until at least July.
“Current GoC [Government Operations Centre] modelling suggests as a best-case scenario that current measures continue until at least July,” the document said. Global News reached out to the IRCC for comment but did not receive a response.
However, the IRCC document did not specify whether all or some measures — like social distancing, mandatory self-isolation for recent travellers and the closure of the Canadian border to most foreigners — would remain in place.
There were over 9,000 confirmed and presumptive cases of the new coronavirus in Canada, with 108 deaths, as of 11 a.m. ET Wednesday.
Provinces across the country have declared states of emergency, banning public gatherings and closing non-essential businesses and schools.
The measures, while necessary to halt the spread of the deadly virus, have crippled Canada’s economy.
A projection from the parliamentary budget watchdog suggests the unemployment rate could skyrocket to 15 per cent by the end of the year, and federal agencies are preparing for an influx of four million people filing for a new emergency fund that will pay $2,000 a month to workers who have lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provincial and local health officials have also warned that the country might be in this for the long haul.
Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said the measures imposed by the city, including limiting outings for groceries and supplies to just once a week, could be in place for up to 12 weeks.
“How long these measures need to be in place, how successful we are in terms of controlling virus spread is entirely in our hands,” de Villa said at a news conference on Wednesday morning.
“The more we are able to put these measures into place, the more we are able as a community to adhere to these measures, to adhere to the recommendations, the shorter will be the duration of these measures and the more effective we will be, most importantly, at reducing the loss of lives in our community.”
B.C. health officials say COVID-19 restrictions will last until ‘at least the summer’
B.C. health officials say COVID-19 restrictions will last until ‘at least the summer’
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that the current COVID-19 restrictions will likely remain in place until at least the summer.
“It’s more and more [unlikely] that we’re going to be able to get back to full normal life — which I miss a lot — before at least the summer,” Henry told reporters. “And then we need to start preparing ourselves for the potential of a second wave in the fall.”
Dawn Bowdish, Canada Research Chair in aging and immunity at McMaster University, said that based on the models of other countries, like South Korea or Taiwan, Canadians should be prepared for at least three more months of staying at home and limiting public gatherings.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we may be able to start some back to work or some very limited lifts on social distancing [until July],”
Bowdish told Global News. “But honestly, it all depends on how proactive we are today.”
She said the virus will continue to be a public health risk until a vaccine is developed or there is broad herd immunity. Experts have estimated a vaccine is still 18 months away.
“If everyone could stay at home today, that will shorten that prediction,” Bowdish said. “But I think July is about right.”
Raspberry Pi: Turn the popular single-board computer into a smart doorbell and intercom
A new project transforms the Raspberry Pi a doorbell with video functionality. The doorbell can be used as an intercom too. You can then use your phone to communicate with whoever is at your door.
The Smart Doorbell / Video Intercom system, as its name suggests, transforms a Raspberry Pi into a smart doorbell. Posted by Hacker Shack on Hackster.io, the project recommends a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, but you should be able to use or Raspberry Pi models too. We would recommend using a Raspberry Pi 4, for instance, as it has considerably more processing power than its predecessor does. Hacker Shack notes that the code has not been validated for the Pi 4, so there could be some bugs.
You will also need access to a 3D printer for the case and a soldering iron for attaching the push button and connecting its LED ring. The latter will also be needed when connecting the unit’s speaker. The project lists all the parts that you will need, though. Likewise, Hacker Shack has posted a detailed guide to assembling the doorbell.
Hacker Shack has used Jitsi Meet to run the unit, in which you will need to configure the camera, display and microphone. Hacker Shack notes that the design leaves the USB port exposed, which poses a security flaw if someone wanted to gain access to your network. Hacker Shack recommends some workarounds this, but another possible one would be to rework the case design slightly to make the USB port harder to access.
Using a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sensor, MIT neuroscientists have discovered how dopamine released deep within the brain influences both nearby and distant brain regions.
Dopamine plays many roles in the brain, most notably related to movement, motivation, and reinforcement of behavior. However, until now it has been difficult to study precisely how a flood of dopamine affects neural activity throughout the brain. Using their new technique, the MIT team found that dopamine appears to exert significant effects in two regions of the brain’s cortex, including the motor cortex.
“There has been a lot of work on the immediate cellular consequences of dopamine release, but here what we’re looking at are the consequences of what dopamine is doing on a more brain-wide level,” says Alan Jasanoff, an MIT professor of biological engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, and nuclear science and engineering. Jasanoff is also an associate member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the senior author of the study.
The MIT team found that in addition to the motor cortex, the remote brain area most affected by dopamine is the insular cortex. This region is critical for many cognitive functions related to perception of the body’s internal states, including physical and emotional states.
MIT postdoc Nan Li is the lead author of the study, which appears today in Nature.
Like other neurotransmitters, dopamine helps neurons to communicate with each other over short distances. Dopamine holds particular interest for neuroscientists because of its role in motivation, addiction, and several neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. Most of the brain’s dopamine is produced in the midbrain by neurons that connect to the striatum, where the dopamine is released.
For many years, Jasanoff’s lab has been developing tools to study how molecular phenomena such as neurotransmitter release affect brain-wide functions. At the molecular scale, existing techniques can reveal how dopamine affects individual cells, and at the scale of the entire brain, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can reveal how active a particular brain region is. However, it has been difficult for neuroscientists to determine how single-cell activity and brain-wide function are linked.
“There have been very few brain-wide studies of dopaminergic function or really any neurochemical function, in large part because the tools aren’t there,” Jasanoff says. “We’re trying to fill in the gaps.”
About 10 years ago, his lab developed MRI sensors that consist of magnetic proteins that can bind to dopamine. When this binding occurs, the sensors’ magnetic interactions with surrounding tissue weaken, dimming the tissue’s MRI signal. This allows researchers to continuously monitor dopamine levels in a specific part of the brain.
In their new study, Li and Jasanoff set out to analyze how dopamine released in the striatum of rats influences neural function both locally and in other brain regions. First, they injected their dopamine sensors into the striatum, which is located deep within the brain and plays an important role in controlling movement. Then they electrically stimulated a part of the brain called the lateral hypothalamus, which is a common experimental technique for rewarding behavior and inducing the brain to produce dopamine.
Then, the researchers used their dopamine sensor to measure dopamine levels throughout the striatum. They also performed traditional fMRI to measure neural activity in each part of the striatum. To their surprise, they found that high dopamine concentrations did not make neurons more active. However, higher dopamine levels did make the neurons remain active for a longer period of time.
“When dopamine was released, there was a longer duration of activity, suggesting a longer response to the reward,” Jasanoff says. “That may have something to do with how dopamine promotes learning, which is one of its key functions.”
After analyzing dopamine release in the striatum, the researchers set out to determine this dopamine might affect more distant locations in the brain. To do that, they performed traditional fMRI imaging on the brain while also mapping dopamine release in the striatum. “By combining these techniques we could probe these phenomena in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Jasanoff says.
The regions that showed the biggest surges in activity in response to dopamine were the motor cortex and the insular cortex. If confirmed in additional studies, the findings could help researchers understand the effects of dopamine in the human brain, including its roles in addiction and learning.
“Our results could lead to biomarkers that could be seen in fMRI data, and these correlates of dopaminergic function could be useful for analyzing animal and human fMRI,” Jasanoff says.