Terry Blumenthal is not a medical device designer, but he has an important message for engineers who design defibrillators. The Wake Forest University psychologist is working with cardiologist Charles Swerdlow to find ways of reducing the painful electric shock administered by defibrillators when they activate. "We considered using weaker electric shocks, but that didn't work," says Swerdlow. "Then we tried changing the shape of the waveform, but that has not yet been successful," he explains. They eventually found that when a painless electric "pre-pulse" precedes a painful electric shock, the pre-pulse seems to reduce the body's startle response and minimize pain. "The pre-pulse interrupts everything, including the subsequent processing of pain," says Blumenthal. "It diminishes the neural circuits' ability to respond to subsequent painful stimulus," he says. Testing the hypothesis involved delivering 150V shocks to volunteers, who then rated the shock's painfulness with and without pre-pulses. Although volunteers received the same shock, the painfulness was rated lower with the pre-pulse. "There may be a variety of ways to integrate these finding into other applications using sound, sight, and other modalities," says Blumenthal. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The amount of plastic clogging the ocean continues to grow. Some startling, not-so-good news has come out recently about the roles plastic is playing in the ocean, as well as more heartening news about efforts to collect and reuse it.
Some of our culture's most enduring robots appeared in the 80s. The Aliens series produced another evil android, and we saw light robot fare in the form of Short Circuit. Two of the great robots of all time also showed up: The Terminator and RoboCop.
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