University of Washington-Targeted Treatment of Essential Tremor Disorder

Any of us who know a friend or family with a movement or other neurological disorder, understand how difficult life can be.

The simplest tasks such as writing, drinking your morning coffee, or brushing your teeth are fraught with difficulty and frustration, or  the inability to complete the task.

Thankfully, there is hope on the horizon, if the initial success of University of Washington’s interdisciplinary researchers continues through additional clinical trials.

The treatment, a form of targeted brain stimulation, created by an interdisciplinary team of electrical engineers, medical researchers and ethicists, have created an innovation based on deep brain stimulation.

Essentially, deep brain stimulation is always “on” which reduces battery life and can create  the need for additional surgery. However, with this targeted treatment, the electrical stimulation can be delivered only when necessary.

Hopefully, this important research will continue to be successful and deliver additional relief to the over 7 million Americans who suffer with Essential Tremor Disorder.

Check out Jennifer Langston’s article for a more comprehensive look.

Teachers in any science class would find sharing this with their students a valuable endeavor to help create real-world connections to their content.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How does traditional deep-brain stimulation work?
  2. What does this treatment do differently?
  3. When are individuals with Essential Tremor least likely to be affected?
  4. How long does a battery last in the current treatment? How much longer will it last with this innovation?
  5. How are the neural signals decoded?
  6. What role did ethicists play in this research do you think?
  7. What additional uses will there likely be if this is successful?
  8.  How will this device be likely turned on and off in the future?

Your Brain Never Rests-Wayne State University Research

Your Brain Never Rests (1)

Anyone interested in understanding more about that most fascinating topic-the human brain, should check out the new research by Detroit’s Wayne State University researcher Vaibhav Diwadkar, which suggests that the brain never really is at rest.

Using an fMRI, subjects were asked to perform a simple behavior-tapping their finger when they saw a visual cue. So, the researcher was able to distinguish brain activity while tapping, versus while the subject was not tapping.

The team then modeled the network signals between parts of the brain that execute motor functions and one that provided control.

In an interesting twist, when the subject’s brain was at rest- the network activity actually increased!

According to professor Diwadkar, this has long been suspected, that the brain is never truly at rest. Why? Because it always might have to be ready to act.

This is important because it highlights normal brain function, but also suggests how brain networks might function in individuals that experience severe episodes of brain activity such as those individuals suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is a an fMRI?
  2. How does it actually work?
  3. How did Dr. Diwadker conduct the study?
  4. How did Dr. Diwadker and his team create the models to understand brain behavior?
  5. Why do we sometimes perceive that our brain is “at rest” even when it might not be?
  6. How could Dr. Diwadker and the research team use this information to help individuals suffering from schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder?
  7. What limitations are there with this study?

For more information, please see the article by Julie O’Connor

And a link to the PLOSone primary source material.


Saving Money With 3-D Printing-Michigan Tech University Research

Does your school have a 3-d printer? If not, why not?

Not only does the 3-d printer have many great educational uses, new research from Michigan Tech University professor Joshua Pearce reveals they can save money too.

According to the research,most households, by making simple household products once per week can make their money back within 6 months and have a 1,000% return on their investment within 5 years.

But aren’t they hard to use and require lots of training and set-up costs?

Not so much. One of the best aspects of the research was that the products were all created by a novice. The subject, engineering student Emily Petersen had never used a personal 3-d printer before. Within a mere sixty minutes of activating the printer, she was off and running, well printing.

She ultimately printed 26 household objects to exemplify how using the printer could have tremendous utility for any personal household, being able to print anything from shower heads, drinking cups, cabinet pulls, to toys for the kids. I definitely want to check one out to see if it as easy to use as they say, because to be honest, technology and I do not always see eye to eye! (Thank goodness I have wonderful teenageers at home to help me!)

What amazing creations would your students come up with? As you know, one of the primary mindsets we are encouraging with our blog, Wide Open Research, is to encourage students to be actively engaged learners-learning both the academic foundation, but also creating, making, doing, experimenting. In short, making the learning come alive. This article provides great “data” for a teacher to advocate to their principal or administrative folks to seek ways to get a 3-D printer and other technology available for their students. 

Definitely check out MTU writer Stefanie Sidortsova’s piece  on professor Pearce’s research as it features a brief video of the 3-D printer in action. I definitely want the little green octopus!

Questions for Discussion

  1. What would you make?
  2. How does it work?
  3. What are the potential societal implications of this? What happens if the new knob you printed ruins your washing machine- is the warranty void? Who is liable if a product you print hurts someone?
  4. How could this impact the economy?
  5. What are some more benefits besides, the economic ones?
  6. What will be the next step, after 3-d printing?

What else does this inspire you to “learn, dream, do?”

To read more from Wide Open Research about 3-d Printing, please click here.

Your Brain on Protein-Research from Bowling Green State University

Dr. Huber at Bowling Green State University has published research showing the impact of protein on the experience of the “food coma”- the state of lethargy one often has after a meal.

In this article by Bonnie Blankinship, Dr. Huber explains his research in fruit flies that helped to identify this and a possible explanation as to why this might be- perhaps sleep helps to process the ingested protein. Perhaps too, as protein is an “expensive” protein, that it is it requires a greater expenditure of energy to obtain, then  perhaps the fly is simply depleted.

Interestingly, time of day is also correlated to the fruit fly experiencing lethargy.

I love how this article talks about the details of how Dr. Huber conducted this research. He uses computer sensors and video tracking to record the details of the fly’s movement and activity level to note when it eats and sleeps.

“In one second we can get a thousand data points,” according to the article.

Wouldn’t your students benefit from such a lab?

I really also look forward to Dr. Huber’s future collaboration on creating a “fruit fly soundscape” with composer Reiko Yamada. I think it really shows the power of an inquisitive mind and the importance of collaboration.

Sharing this article with any student to help highlight not only this fascinating research but also to demonstrate some of the essential elements of research literacy- curiosity, interdisciplinary collaboration, and critical thinking.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is a “food coma?”
  2. Why does Dr. Huber study the fruit fly?
  3. What is a drosophila?
  4. Describe how Dr. Huber conducted this research?
  5. What sparked his interest in this subject?
  6. What does he say about behavior?
  7. What other implications are there for this research?
  8. What important traits of research literacy does this article highlight?
  9. How else could you use this article to inspire your students?


We are Montana in the Classroom-University of Montana Outreach

Congratulations to the University of Montana for sharing their faculty with K-12 students. through the We are Montana in the Classroom program in which  faculty connect with K-12 teachers and students, through distance learning.

Recent events included discussion on Native American Studies:Human Rights by Dr. Shanley and Iva Coff, What is it Like to be  a Chemist? by Dr. Thomas, Moses Leavens, and Ranaldo Tsosie.

What I love about these interactions is that they include faculty and graduate student not only sharing their research, but sharing their story on how they chose to pursue higher education.

For so many of our students higher education seems out of reach or simply an abstract concept as they may not have people in their social networks with extensive higher education or backgrounds in higher education. Simply having the opportunity to interact with the faculty and graduate students about the fascinating research they may be engaged in, but also just about what higher education is all really like can help dispel the many misconceptions that a student may have.

I love these resources that they shared as well. Please check them out and share them with your fellow educators!

Your Brain On Learning-University of Alabama Research

What if everything we “know” as educators is wrong?

Thanks to advances in neuroscience, we are likely to be exposed to revolutionary new ideas about how the brain actually learns that will fundamentally alter the way we do our jobs each day.


And I was just getting used to the new curriculum….

The good news is in University of Alabama writer David Miller’s article on neuroscience research on learning. According to researchers at the University of Alabama is that it will probably take ten years for the research to make its way to the classroom level, according to assistant professor, Dr. Firat Soylu- so don’t delete those slide shows just yet!

The even better news, is that much of this research will hopefully take the guess work out of how we think students learn and make differentiated instruction seem quaint, as we hopefully will be able to truly individualize instruction, so each student can learn the way they learn best.

In an ideal world, this will allow computers to handle the basic knowledge acquisition of memorization, solving basic formulas, understanding vocabulary and allow teachers to focus on developing research literacy through critical thinking, project based learning, labs, and other more cognitively complex classroom activities.

Now is a great time to introduce your students to the basics of neuroscience and the fMRI gear that are the tools of the trade.

Who knows, maybe your principal will get you that EEG machine after all?

For additional information on Dr. Soylu’s work, which includes an insightful review of educational neuroscience research and discusses several lesson designs which can likely enhance student learning, please see the article The Thinking Hand:Embodiment of Tool Use, Social Cognition, and Metaphorical Thinking and Implications for Learning Design.  The learning design method of perspective taking as exemplified in the section “Being the Sensor” as great utility for a wide variety of classroom settings.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does fMRI stand for?
  2. How does it work?
  3. How is it different than a traditional MRI?
  4. How much does it cost?
  5. What is tDCS?
  6. Are you a skeptic- does this seem like just another research “fad?” What evidence do you base your skepticism on?
  7. What teaching practices are you doing now, that are likely a bit behind the times?
  8. What do you want to know about neuroscience to help you be a better educator?
  9. How can you use this information to inspire your students?

Feeding the World from the University of Minnesota

For an inspiring source of information on efforts to feed the world check out the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities website.

In these dark days of midwest winter, when the cold earth seems barren of life, this series of articles and videos on kernza, a new higher protein wheat, that will stay in production for five years, reducing the need for tilling the soil is truly inspiring. As is the feature on the graduate student, Caroline Jones, who is going into accounting to help reduce poverty by working in non-profits dedicated to this mission.


I enjoyed the wonderful feature on professor James Bradeen, who is researching ways to reduce chemical use in food production. The post features a great series of info graphics and brief videos highlighting the importance of the potato in food security. Did you know the potato has over 39,000 genes and that over 1 million people died during the potato famine?

I really love how the University of Minnesota web and news team integrated these inspiring and informational stories in a thematic way.

As an educator concerned with helping students think of non-traditional careers (plant research is non-traditional in suburban Detroit, as is accounting for non-profits!!), I really love how the team wove the personalities into the science.

I think educators who are interested in helping students find ways to solve-pressing real world problems would find this series of features from the University of Minnesota to be a great resource.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is food security such an important issue?
  2. How many potato genes are involved in detecting pathogens?
  3. Why is reducing chemical use in food production important?
  4. What are the benefits of kernza? Can you think of any negative consequences?
  5. Why is the potato such an important element of food security?
  6. How has genetic research changed in the past ten years? How has this change been helpful?
  7. Where did Caroline Jones work as a field accountant? What does she see is her true passion?
  8. What other crops do you think are essential to food security?
  9. What crops are important in your state?
  10. Why is an interdisciplinary approach essential to solving the issue of food insecurity and hunger?
  11. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, and do?”