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A device that enables ‘seeing’ with ears 

The American Psychological Association has demonstrated a device that enables “seeing” with one’s ears rather than eyes, at the organization’s 119th Annual Convention this week.

 The device known as the vOICe, which helps determine where and what an object is without using eyesight, was selected as best demonstration, with a prize of 3,000 dollars.

“Imagine losing your sense of sight and being able to ‘see’ instead with your ears,” said Michael Proulx, PhD, of Queen Mary University in London and presenter of the vOICe demonstration.

Proulx will show how the vOICe maps visual images to sound and provides blindfolded users with a sense of what an object is and where it is located. This reveals that although we think we see with our eyes, sight actually takes place in the brain. 

Through “sensory substitution,” a person deprived of one sense, such as sight, is capable of receiving the missing input through another sense, such as hearing, Proulx explained.

The vOICe maps visual images to sound via three primary dimensions: pitch, loudness and timed-stereo panning, which is much like panning with a video camera to keep an object within a picture while giving a panoramic view.

Long-term users of the vOICe who experience visual imagery via the device “can actually see with sound,” Proulx said.

Protein sheds light on sensitivity to bitter tastes

A study has thrown up interesting insights on why some people are especially sensitive to bitter tastes.

Scientists from the Monell Center and Givaudan Flavors have identified a protein inside of taste cells that acts to shorten bitter taste signals.

They further report that mice lacking the gene for this taste terminator protein are more sensitive to bitter taste and also find it more aversive, possibly because they experience the taste for a longer period of time.

“Individual differences in the genes that are responsible for taste termination may explain why some people are supersensitive to certain tastes,” said Liquan Huang, Ph.D., a molecular biologist at Monell.

“Our findings also suggest that medicines that cause patients to report unpleasant taste distortions or phantom tastes may be interfering with taste termination proteins.

Soon, a breast cancer gel that will shrink tumours

In a breakthrough that could revolutionise the treatment of cancer, a new gel treatment for breast cancer is being developed and tested in the U S to shrink tumours.

The treatment is rubbed on to the skin daily and has far fewer unpleasant side effects than the tablet tamoxifen—the most commonly used drug in Britain. But it contains the same active ingredient, and concentrates it in the breast rather than dispersing it around the entire body like pills do.

“We think it may be a very good solution for women who are reluctant to take tamoxifen,” the Daily Mail quoted researcher Professor Seema Khan, of Northwestern University near Chicago who is testing the gel, as saying.

“It is a way to minimise exposure to the rest of the body and concentrate the drug where it is needed,” she stated.

If the trials are successful then the treatment—called afimoxifene—could be available to patients in the next three to four years.

Vegetables lose Vitamin C during cold soup preparation

 Dishes like gazpacho – a cold Spanish soup containing raw vegetables, bread, olive oil and vinegar – lose ingredients’ vitamin C content as well as other organic acids during preparation, according to a new study.

The study examined gazpacho, one of the most popular Spanish summer dishes, comparing the levels of vitamin C (ascorbic and dehydroascorbic acid) and other organic acids (citric, oxalic, fumaric, malic and glutamic) found in each of the ingredients separately before preparation and in the resulting gazpacho.

“We found that the gazpacho showed a lower ascorbic/dehydroascorbic acid ratio than the vegetables used to prepare it,” explained Elena María Rodríguez, co-author of the study conducted by the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of La Laguna.

“This suggests that some of the vegetables’ antioxidant capacity is lost,” she added.

The authors therefore recommend eating gazpacho as soon as it has been prepared, or “preserving it correctly so that the vegetables maintain their antioxidant characteristics.” 

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