Tofu with Butternut Squash Noodles, Kale, Black Beans & Peanut Sauce

It’s taken a long time to really enjoy tofu, but finally, we’re converts. Tofu should never be thought of as a meat or poultry substitute. It stands on its own. If cooked correctly and creatively it’s really delicious. And, like anything else, a good sauce enhances. I’ve been experimenting for a long time, and finally have created two tofu recipes that can be shared. This is the first. ©Joyce Hays


Tofu & Veggie Ingredients

1 red onion, chopped

10 garlic cloves, sliced

2 packs of firm silken tofu, cut into small (3/4“) bite-size squares. Put tofu in the freezer the night before and thaw the next day before cooking.


Cutting the tofu after it thaws. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


1 box cremini or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned with damp cloth, then sliced

1 handful of Kale or baby spinach (wash spinach 3 times), washed well, drained, dried, chopped

Sesame oil for cooking tofu

2 eggs, beaten, for cooking tofu

2 Tablespoons Panko small size, for cooking tofu

1 box of butternut squash noodles or make your own spirals

1/2 to 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained


Easy to find ingredients. Use either kale or spinach. We’ve tried both and each is good. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


Directions For Tofu and Veggies


Dip each small piece of tofu into egg, then panko and cook in sesame oil on each side for 2 minutes in a wok or skillet, Cook each side of tofu ONLY ONCE.


Dip each piece of tofu in beaten egg, then in Panko (smallest size) ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


Then with tongs, (and a very narrow spatula) turn each nugget of tofu to another side and cook for 2 minutes. Do this turning two more times until each nugget is cooked on all four sides. Do not go back and re-cook any side, or the crispy outside will start to crumble away. You want to try to get each piece of tofu nice and brown and crisp on the outside. When done, drain on paper towel on a plate and set aside.


Cooking the tofu in sesame oil. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


In the same skillet, saute over medium flame, the onion and garlic, until both turn golden. Next add the squash noodles, black beans and kale and mix all the veggies together. When the kale has wilted down, the veggies are done. Set aside and concentrate on the peanut sauce.


Veggies have been cooked, put into baking/serving dish and tossed with peanut sauce. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


Directions For Peanut Sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a small bowl add 1 or 2 Tablespoons sesame oil, and let 10 fresh garlic cloves, sit in the oil for 10 to 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and put on a baking sheet. Roast in oven until soft; then remove and allow to cool down.

Save the sesame oil for cooking the tofu cubes.


First, when I used a food processor, it was harder to judge the quality of the sauce, which was way too thick, like lumpy. I had to add 5 Tablespoons of rice vinegar and pulsed; still too thick, so I added, slowly, 1/2 cup of cold water. The photo above is after adding the extra liquid, while pulsing. Eventually, I got it right, but whisking this sauce in a bowl the second time, was easier. Scroll down for the peanut sauce recipe. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


Final Serving Veggie Combo Directions

Put the veggie combo of: squash noodles, kale, beans into a large serving (baking dish). Add half of the peanut sauce and toss the veggies with the sauce until everything is well mixed.

Add the cooked tofu on top of the mixed noodles and black beans.

Using a small spatula, scrape the other half, of the sauce out of your bowl or the food processor, and over the tofu.

Warm in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your oven. Keep your eye on this recipe after 5 minutes, and remove it when you feel it’s nice and warm to serve.

Consider serving with rice, pasta, polenta


Homemade Peanut Sauce (easy)


Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon curry

1 pinch chili flakes

1/2 cup water

1 Tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled, grated, or very well minced

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon garlic, very well minced

1 teaspoon rice vinegar (don’t substitute white vinegar; it’s too strong; whereas the rice vinegar has a more delicate flavor that blends will with the other ingredients.



In a medium serving bowl, combine all of the above ingredients: peanut butter, water, soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar, minced garlic, and vinegar in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

If you feel that the sauce is too thick, slowly add more of either rice vinegar, or plain water, whisking as you add, until you get the consistency you want.

I suppose you could put everything into a food processor, but then you have to wash that out. I’ve done both, and the hand whisk was easier and less work. Your choice.


The end result was delicious, healthy and relatively easy. I’m working on another tofu recipe next week. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


Our custom seems to be, when we find a new wine we both like, we drink it endlessly, until we run into some other wine adventure. We’ve gone through two cases of The Vice, but we’re still enjoying it, so will order two more. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


We went with our house guests to the B’way show, The Band’s Visit. The dialogue was in English, Hebrew and Arabic and so was the music. For us, this alone, was reason enough to go. The plot sounds simple (An Egyptian Band with a concert date in Israel, gets lost and ends up in the wrong Israeli town), however, it’s as simple as life itself, not.


This show opened last year, at one of the theater clubs we sponsor, The Atlantic Theater Company in Chelsea. After it overwhelmed audiences there in 2017, it moved uptown to the Barrymore in 2018, to rave reviews. We urge you to go. You might be interested in reading the reviews of the New York Times.


Have a great week everyone!

From Our Table to Yours


Salk scientists discover how maternal behavior changes brain cells in mice

March 22, 2018

Salk Institute

In the perennial question of nature versus nurture, a new study suggests an intriguing connection between the two. Scientists report that the type of mothering a female mouse provides her pups actually changes their DNA. The work lends support to studies about how childhood environments affect brain development in humans and could provide insights into neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.


Mothering style influences the degree to which DNA is mobilized in offspring’s brains, with offspring of more attentive mothers experiencing less gene movement, and offspring of less attentive mothers experiencing more gene movement. Pictured are cells in the mouse hippocampus (whose nuclei are stained blue) that underwent mobilization of the L1 gene (green).
Credit: Salk Institute



In the perennial question of nature versus nurture, a new study suggests an intriguing connection between the two. Salk Institute scientists report in the journal Science that the type of mothering a female mouse provides her pups actually changes their DNA. The work lends support to studies about how childhood environments affect brain development in humans and could provide insights into neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

“We are taught that our DNA is something stable and unchanging which makes us who we are, but in reality it’s much more dynamic,” says Rusty Gage, a professor in Salk’s Laboratory of Genetics. “It turns out there are genes in your cells that are capable of copying themselves and moving around, which means that, in some ways, your DNA does change.”

For at least a decade, scientists have known that most cells in the mammalian brain undergo changes to their DNA that make each neuron, for example, slightly different from its neighbor. Some of these changes are caused by “jumping” genes — officially known as long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs) — that move from one spot in the genome to another. In 2005, the Gage lab discovered that a jumping gene called L1, which was already known to copy and paste itself into new places in the genome, could jump in developing neuronal brain cells.

The team had hypothesized that such changes create potentially helpful diversity among brain cells, fine-tuning function, but might also contribute to neuropsychiatric conditions.

“While we’ve known for a while that cells can acquire changes to their DNA, it’s been speculated that maybe it’s not a random process,” says Tracy Bedrosian, a former Salk research associate and first author of the study. “Maybe there are factors in the brain or in the environment that cause changes to happen more or less frequently.”

To find out, Gage, Bedrosian and colleagues began by observing natural variations in maternal care between mice and their offspring. They then looked at DNA from the offspring’s hippocampus, which is involved in emotion, memory and some involuntary functions. The team discovered a correlation between maternal care and L1 copy number: mice with attentive mothers had fewer copies of the jumping gene L1, and those with neglectful mothers had more L1 copies, and thus more genetic diversity in their brains.

To make sure the difference wasn’t a coincidence, the team conducted a number of control experiments, including checking the DNA of both parents of each litter to make sure the offspring didn’t just inherit their numbers of L1s from a parent, as well as verifying that the extra DNA was actually genomic DNA and not stray genetic material from outside the cell nucleus. Lastly, they cross-fostered offspring, so that mice born to neglectful mothers were raised by attentive ones, and vice versa. Initial results of the correlation between L1 numbers and mothering style held: mice born to neglectful mothers but raised by attentive ones had fewer copies of L1 than mice born to attentive mothers but raised by neglectful ones.

The researchers hypothesized that offspring whose mothers were neglectful were more stressed and that somehow this was causing genes to copy and move around more frequently. Interestingly, there was no similar correlation between maternal care and the numbers of other known jumping genes, which suggested a unique role for L1. So, next, the team looked at methylation — the pattern of chemical marks on DNA that signals whether genes should or should not be copied and that can be influenced by environmental factors. In this case, methylation of the other known jumping genes was consistent for all offspring. But it was a different story with L1: mice with neglectful mothers had noticeably fewer methylated L1 genes than those with attentive mothers, suggesting that methylation is the mechanism responsible for the mobility of the L1 gene.

“This finding agrees with studies of childhood neglect that also show altered patterns of DNA methylation for other genes,” says Gage, who holds the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases. “That’s a hopeful thing, because once you understand a mechanism, you can begin to develop strategies for intervention”

The researchers emphasize that at this point it’s unclear whether there are functional consequences of increased L1 elements. Future work will examine whether the mice’s performance on cognitive tests, such as remembering which path in a maze leads to a treat, can be correlated with the number of L1 genes.

Other authors included Carolina Quayle and Nicole Novaresi of Salk.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health (R01 MH095741, U01 MH106882 and F32 MH102983), the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust grant #2012-PG-MED00, the Engman Foundation, the JPB Foundation, Annette C. Merle-Smith, and a NARSAD Young Investigator Award.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Salk InstituteNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Tracy A. Bedrosian, Carolina Quayle, Nicole Novaresi, Fred. H. Gage. Early life experience drives structural variation of neural genomes in miceScience, 2018; 359 (6382): 1395 DOI: 10.1126/science.aah3378


Source: Salk Institute. “Early life experiences influence DNA in the adult brain: Salk scientists discover how maternal behavior changes brain cells in mice.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 March 2018. <>.

A researcher suggests a radical solution to prevent catastrophic glacial melting.

March 19, 2018

Princeton University

Targeted geoengineering to preserve continental ice sheets deserves serious research and investment, argues an international team of researchers. Without intervention, by 2100 most large coastal cities will face sea levels that are more than three feet higher than they are currently.


Princeton climate researcher Michael Wolovick argues in a Nature Comment that targeted approaches could prevent glaciers from melting, thereby forestalling some of the most expensive effects of global climate change. Ice sheets that spread from continental shelves to the ocean are highly vulnerable to melting near the grounding line, which is the point at which they lift off of the bedrock and start floating on the ocean (purple). Wolovick proposes building an artificial sill — an underwater wall 3 miles long and 350 feet high — to block warm water (red) from reaching the glacier.
Credit: Michael Wolovick, Princeton University



Targeted geoengineering to preserve continental ice sheets deserves serious research and investment, argues an international team of researchers in a Comment published March 14 in the journal Nature. Without intervention, by 2100 most large coastal cities will face sea levels that are more than three feet higher than they are currently.

Previous discussions of geoengineering have looked at global projects, like seeding the atmosphere with particles to reflect more sunlight. That’s what makes this focused approach more feasible, says Michael Wolovick, a postdoctoral research associate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Princeton University and a co-author on the Comment. (Nature editors commission Comments, short articles by one or more experts that call for action and lay out detailed solutions for current problems.)

“Geoengineering interventions can be targeted at specific negative consequences of climate change, rather than at the entire planet,” Wolovick said.

The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica will contribute more to sea-level rise this century than any other source, so stalling the fastest flows of ice into the oceans would buy us a few centuries to deal with climate change and protect coasts, say the authors.

“There is going to be some sea-level rise in the 21st century, but most models say that the ice sheets won’t begin collapsing in earnest until the 22nd or 23rd centuries,” said Wolovick. “I believe that what happens in the 22nd or 23rd centuries matters. I want our species and our civilization to last as long as possible, and that means that we need to make plans for the long term.”

Wolovick started investigating geoengineering approaches when he realized how disproportionate the scale was between the origin of the problem at the poles and its global impact: “For example, many of the most important outlet glaciers in Greenland are about 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide, and there are bridges that are longer than [that]. The important ice streams in Antarctica are wider, tens of kilometers up to 100 kilometers, but their societal consequences are larger as well, because they could potentially trigger a runaway marine ice sheet collapse. The fast-flowing parts of the ice sheets — the outlet glaciers and ice streams — might be the highest-leverage points in the whole climate system.”

The glaciers could be slowed in three ways: warm ocean waters could be prevented from reaching their bases and accelerating melting; the ice shelves where they start to float could be buttressed by building artificial islands in the sea; and the glacier beds could be dried by draining or freezing the thin film of water they slide on.

The engineering costs and scales of these projects are comparable with today’s large civil engineering projects, but with extra challenges due to the remote and harsh polar environment. Engineers have already constructed artificial islands and drained water beneath a glacier in Norway to feed a hydropower plant. Raising a berm in front of the fastest-flowing glacier in Greenland — constructing an underwater wall 3 miles long and 350 feet high in arctic waters — would be a comparable challenge.

Such a project would easily run into the billions of dollars, but the scientists note that without coastal protection, the global cost of damages could reach $50 trillion a year. In the absence of geoengineering, the sea walls and flood defenses necessary to prevent those damages would cost tens of billions of dollars a year to build and maintain.

The researchers note that potential risks, especially to local ecosystems, need careful fieldwork and computer modeling, and the glaciers and their outflow channels need to be more precisely mapped and modeled.

Most importantly, this approach would address a symptom, not the cause. “Glacial geoengineering is not a substitute for emissions reductions,” Wolovick said. His approaches could forestall one of the bigger causes of global sea-level rise, but they will not mitigate global warming from greenhouse gases.

The fate of the ice sheets will depend ultimately on how quickly the world brings down fossil fuel emissions.

“Glacial geoengineering will not be able to save the ice sheets in the long run if the climate continues to warm,” Wolovick said. “In the long run, there are two possible routes that glacial geoengineering could take: on the one hand, it could be a stopgap solution meant to preserve the ice sheets until the climate cools enough that they are once again viable on their own; on the other hand, it could be a managed collapse meant to keep the rate of sea-level rise down while slowly letting the ice sheet waste away. If we emit too much carbon into the atmosphere, then the only viable long-term usage of glacial geoengineering would be to orchestrate a managed collapse.”

Wolovick argues against defeatist attitudes. “Climate change is not an inevitable apocalypse, climate change is a set of solvable problems,” he said. “Climate change is a challenge that our species can and will rise to meet.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Princeton UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. John C. Moore, Rupert Gladstone, Thomas Zwinger, Michael Wolovick. Geoengineer polar glaciers to slow sea-level riseNature, 2018; 555 (7696): 303 DOI: 10.1038/d41586-018-03036-4


Source: Princeton University. “Geoengineering polar glaciers to slow sea-level rise: A researcher suggests a radical solution to prevent catastrophic glacial melting..” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 March 2018. <>.

March 20, 2018

Michigan Technological University

Clever, fundamental engineering could go a long way toward preventing waterborne illness and exposure to carcinogenic substances in water.


The PVC piping system developed by Brian Barkdoll, left, and Mohammad Alizadeh Fard, offers a low-tech, affordable internal piping method for drinking water supply managers to circulate water within large municipal water supply tanks to prevent against waterborne illness following large drawdowns of the tanks.
Credit: Sarah Bird/Michigan Tech



Most of us are used to turning on a tap and water coming out. We rarely question whether this will happen or whether the water is clean enough to bathe in or drink. Though the process of maintaining water quality is practically invisible to most of us, removing bacteria and contaminants from water requires a lot of effort from both humans and treatment systems alike.

Mohammad Alizadeh Fard, a doctoral student in Michigan Tech’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and Brian Barkdoll, professor of civil and environmental engineering, are developing low-tech, affordable solutions to improve water quality in municipal water tanks, and to remove micropollutants from water using renewable materials.

Their research has been published in three journals — Journal of Hydraulic EngineeringJournal of Molecular Liquids, and Colloids and Surfaces A — with a fourth paper pending review. Their work proves that solutions to vexing problems can be elegant in their simplicity.

An Elegant, Low-Tech Solution

In communities around the nation, there are large water-storage tanks for municipal drinking use. Many such tanks have a line in to supply the tank with water, and a line out. However, these lines in and out are frequently at the tank bottom. Though the tanks are refilled daily, the water at the top of the tank is never used and becomes stagnant. Even though many municipal water supplies are treated with chlorine, the top water layer can become a breeding ground for bacteria, algae or waterborne illness, such as giardia and E. coli.

“If the water is not moving, (bacteria and algae) can start growing,” Barkdoll says. “It may not be originally from the water source; it could be from the air. Or the chlorine in the stagnant water could be used up after some time. You want the water to keep moving, especially in hot regions of the country.”

But if there’s a large fire in the community or surrounding countryside, the water tank is drawn down significantly, and people then drink the stagnant water.

“So, when you have a fire, all the stagnant water goes out to everybody’s house,” Barkdoll says. “After a fire, people get sick, that’s a known thing. That’s the problem that we’re trying to fix.”

To remedy the problem, Alizadeh Fard and Barkdoll created shower head-like attachments that can be added to new or existing water tanks for minimal cost. Adding a PVC-pipe sprinkler at the top of the tank, and a reverse sprinkler at the bottom of the tank, injects water into the system and keeps all the water circulating. Alizadeh Fard and Barkdoll published their article on this simple but effective system in the Journal of Hydraulic Engineering March 15. They hope it will be a low-tech solution easy for water quality managers to adopt.

Unseen Menace: Micropollutants

But organic contaminants are not the only source of contaminated water. Few municipal systems are equipped to handle micropollutants — such as pharmaceuticals, hormones, microplastics, nanoparticles in socks and synthetic fleece, and antifungal compounds — even types of industrial waste that are present in very low concentrations. Despite the small amounts — mere micrograms — of these pollutants in water, they still have carcinogenic effects on humans and aquatic creatures. Retrofitting treatment plants to filter for micropollutants is expensive, leading Barkdoll and Alizadeh Fard to explore potential solutions.

“These contaminants have long-term effects on health,” Alizadeh Fard says. “Most of our treatment plants have not been designed to remove them from water, so it’s important to find a reliable solution to address the problem.”

The researchers struck on the idea of adsorbing pollutants from water. Adsorption occurs when molecules essentially stick to a surface. The first method Alizadeh Fard and Barkdoll tested was to use polymer-coated magnetic nanoparticles to adsorb Tonalide (used to mask odors and often found in detergents), Bisphenol-A (better known as BPA, used to make plastics clear and tough), Triclosan (an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent used in cleaning products that is now banned), Metolachlor (an herbicide), Ketoprofen (an anti-inflammatory) and Estriol (an estrogen supplement).

The polymer-coated magnetic nanoparticles were most effective at adsorbing Ketoprofen and BPA, removing the pollutants in 15 minutes with 98 and 95 percent effectiveness, respectively, with only 0.1 milligram of the adsorbent.

But what happens once the nanoparticles have done their work? Because the adsorbent is magnetic, the researchers can use magnets to remove the nanoparticles from the water.

Barkdoll and Alizadeh Fard say that one of the key components of their work is that the adsorbents are reusable once rinsed with a restorative methanol solution. In the lab, the polymer-coated nanoparticles were restored and used again five times before seeing decreased effectiveness.

The researchers have also used magnetic carbon nanotubes and activated carbon as absorbents. During the lab trials, the polymer-coated nanoparticles have so far proven to be the most efficient.

Next Steps: Validating the Research Empirically

The researchers say the next phase is to scale-up for use in water treatment plants. Removing micropollutants from water using technology that is sustainable and affordable offers the potential to protect human and aquatic health without expensively retrofitting treatment plants.

Unfortunately, some of humanity’s greatest problems are those of their own making. But pioneering and validating technologies to solve human-created problems has long providence and will no doubt continue.

“Civil and environmental engineers will have to handle whatever society hands to us,” Alizadeh Fard says. “We will have to remove nanoparticles, and other things such as opioids. It’s a topic we have to discuss politically and socially as well.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Michigan Technological UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal References:

  1. Mohammad Alizadeh Fard, Brian D. Barkdoll. Stagnation Reduction in Drinking Water Storage Tanks through Internal Piping with Implications for Water Quality ImprovementJournal of Hydraulic Engineering, 2018; 144 (5): 05018004 DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)HY.1943-7900.0001459
  2. Mohammad Alizadeh Fard, Brian Barkdoll. Using recyclable magnetic carbon nanotube to remove micropollutants from aqueous solutionsJournal of Molecular Liquids, 2018; 249: 193 DOI: 10.1016/j.molliq.2017.11.039
  3. Mohammad Alizadeh Fard, Ali Vosoogh, Brian Barkdoll, Behnoush Aminzadeh. Using polymer coated nanoparticles for adsorption of micropollutants from waterColloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects, 2017; 531: 189 DOI: 10.1016/j.colsurfa.2017.08.008


Source: Michigan Technological University. “Low-tech, affordable solutions to improve water quality.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2018. <>.

March 16, 2018

U.S. Army Research Laboratory

Researchers have discovered a process for engineering next-generation soft materials with embedded chemical networks that mimic the behavior of neural tissue. The breakthrough material may lead to autonomous soft robotics, dual sensors and actuators for soft exoskeletons, or artificial skins.


Borrowing From the Eel: New breakthrough material could lead to future autonomous soft robotics, dual sensors and actuators for soft exoskeletons, or artificial skins.
Credit: Image courtesy of U.S. Army Research Laboratory



U.S. Army-funded researchers at Brandeis University have discovered a process for engineering next-generation soft materials with embedded chemical networks that mimic the behavior of neural tissue. The breakthrough material may lead to autonomous soft robotics, dual sensors and actuators for soft exoskeletons, or artificial skins.

The research lays the foundations for futuristic soft active matter with highly distributed and tightly integrated sensing, actuation, computation and control, said Dr. Samuel Stanton, manager of the Complex and Dynamics Systems Program within the Engineering Sciences Directorate at the Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, located at Research Triangle Park in Durham, North Carolina.

ARO funds research to initiate scientific and far-reaching technological discoveries in extramural organizations, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and private industry that may make future American Soldiers stronger and safer.

The research team, led by Professor of Physics Dr. Seth Fraden of Brandeis University, drew inspiration from the mesmerizing sinuous motion of a swimming blue eel and puzzlingly large gap between how natural systems move and the lack of such coordinated and smooth movement in artificial systems.

Our research interests lie squarely in the intersection of physics, chemistry, biology and materials science,” Fraden said. “Our lab is interdisciplinary, but we are also involved in several multi-investigator projects.”

Fraden’s work sought to answer key questions, such as why is there such a void between the animate and inanimate that we never confuse the two, and if engineers could create materials with similar attributes to living organisms, but constructed from inanimate objects, can we do so using only chemicals and eschew use of motors and electronics?

Looking deeper, Fraden studied how a type of neural network present in the eel, named the Central Pattern Generator, produces waves of chemical pulses that propagate down the eel’s spine to rhythmically drive swimming muscles.

Fraden’s lab approached the challenge of engineering a material mimicking the generator by first constructing a control device that produces the same neural activation patterns biologists have observed. There, they created a control system that runs on chemical power, as is done in biology, without resorting to any computer or electromechanical devices, which are the hallmarks of artificial, hard robotic technology.

A breakthrough was made when Fraden and his team realized that the same CPG dynamics could be captured on a non-biological platform if they used a well-known oscillating chemical process known as the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction. The lab developed state-of-the-art fabrication techniques for soft materials engineering artificial chemical networks at the nanoscale that, altogether, would be capable of producing a wide variety of patterns. Their resulting robust chemical networks produced distributed dynamic patterns identical to the eel’s Central Pattern Generator.

Fraden noted that “the engineering principles they identified are general and can be applied to design a whole range of other Central Pattern Generators, such as those responsible for other autonomous functions, such as the gait of a horse, for example, walk, canter, trot and gallop.”

The research appear as the cover article of the March 7 issue of a U.K. journal, Lab on a Chip, which is a peer-reviewed scientific journal publishing primary research and review articles on any aspect of miniaturization at the micro and nano scale. The work earned distinction as one of the journal’s “hot articles” due to its particularly high scores earned in the scientific review process.

“Enabling a breakthrough in robotic augmentation of high-tempo military maneuver and operations requires disrupting the notion of an intelligent system as a rigid multi-body platform optimized for slow, carefully planned movement in uncluttered terrain,” Stanton said. “Fundamental research is needed to transpose smart materials from the current paradigm of fixed properties and mechanics with extrinsic and centralized control to a new paradigm of soft active composites with unprecedented dynamic functionality realized through maximal substrate embedding of tightly integrated, decentralized, and highly distributed intrinsic (materials-based) sensing, actuation, and control.”

As a next step, Fraden’s lab will take on the challenge of transferring the information coded in the dynamic patterns from the chemical networks to create a targeted mechanical response within a novel chemo-mechanical gel. This could transition the research from artificial material mimicking neural tissue to artificial tissue now mimicking neuromuscular tissue.

Story Source:

Materials provided by U.S. Army Research LaboratoryNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas Litschel, Michael M. Norton, Vardges Tserunyan, Seth Fraden. Engineering reaction–diffusion networks with properties of neural tissueLab on a Chip, 2018; 18 (5): 714 DOI: 10.1039/C7LC01187C


Source: U.S. Army Research Laboratory. “Scientists mimic neural tissue in new research.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2018. <>.

Water Running Down Glacial Rocks in New York’s Central Park

Water Running Down Glacial Rocks in Central Park in New York City, Target Health Inc.


Last week, the snow had melted after a March storm. As we were returning from dinner along Central Park West, we noticed water running down these gorgeous glacial rocks behind a park bench. We quickly took this picture with our iPhone and wanted to share this almost surreal view of a modern-day park bench juxtaposed with wet ancient rocks.


For more information about Target Health contact Warren Pearlson (212-681-2100 ext. 165). For additional information about software tools for paperless clinical trials, please also feel free to contact Dr. Jules T. Mitchel. The Target Health software tools are designed to partner with both CROs and Sponsors. Please visit the Target Health Website.


Joyce Hays, Founder and Editor in Chief of On Target

Jules Mitchel, Editor



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Doctors Find Air Pocket Hidden in Man’s Brain

Pneumocephalus and comminuted fracture of the frontal sinus

Photo credit: CT scan by James Heilman, MD – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Doctors treating a patient who had complained of repeatedly losing his balance made an unexpected discovery: The 84-year-old man had a 3.5 inch pocket of air in his brain. A CT scan of the man’s head revealed a large air cavity compressing his right frontal 1) ___. The condition is known as pneumocephalus (PNC). Treatment for PNC depends on may factors, including symptoms. Condition commonly compresses the frontal lobe, can affect voluntary muscle movement. The man had been referred to the emergency room by his primary physician in Northern Ireland. He told his doctor about weeks of recurrent falls and three days of left-side arm and leg weakness, according to the report, published in the journal BMJ Case Reports, March 2018. The patient did not have any visual or speech impairments and did not seem confused or have facial weakness, according to the authors. The physicians performed scans of the brain to identify any signs of bleeding or brain damage caused by blocked blood vessels, but what they found was much more unusual, a small benign tumor. A computed tomography scan of the patient’s 2) ___ showed a large pocket of air — also called a pneumatocele — in the patient’s right frontal lobe. When pneumatoceles are present in the brain, the condition is often referred to as PNC. They most commonly compress the frontal lobe, which plays a large role in voluntary muscle movement. The air pocket was right behind the frontal sinus and above the cribriform plate, which separates the nasal cavity from the cranial cavity. This was a rare presentation with a lot of 3) ___ in his brain. An MRI of the man’s brain also showed a small benign bone tumor, or osteoma, that had formed in the man’s paranasal sinuses and was eroding through the base of the skull, causing air to leak into the cranial cavity. Sometimes, there can be a one-way valve, and air comes in and can’t get 4) ___. The pressure from the air cavity may have also caused a small stroke in the patient’s frontal lobe, resulting in the left-side weakness and gait instability that prompted his hospital visit.


According to a 2015 study in the journal Surgical Neurology International, trauma is responsible for approximately 75% of pneumocephalus cases. The remaining cases are often complications of neurosurgery; ear, nose, and throat surgery; sinus infections; or, as in this case, bone tumors. Treatment for pneumocephalus depends on several factors, particularly the symptoms involved. Many cases of pneumocephalus have no symptoms and eventually become absorbed by the body without treatment. In more serious cases, such as those that cause high 5) ___ pressure in the brain or impaired consciousness, decompression surgery to alleviate pressure on the brain may be required. In this case, the patient was offered surgical treatment from a team of neurosurgeons and ENT surgeons. The procedure would have involved temporary surgical removal of part of the frontal bone of the skull and excision of the bone tumor to close the leak that was sending air into the brain. However, due to his age and other health factors, the patient declined surgery and instead chose conservative treatment involving medication to prevent a secondary 6)___. When the patient returned for a 12-week follow up visit, he felt better and no longer complained of left-side muscle weakness.


Background: Pneumocephalus (PNC) is the presence of air in the intracranial cavity. The most frequent cause is trauma, but there are many other etiological factors, such as surgical procedures. PNC with compression of frontal lobes and the widening of the interhemispheric space between the tips of the frontal lobes is a characteristic radiological finding of the “Mount Fuji sign.“


Case Description: A 74-year-old male was diagnosed with meningioma of olfactory groove. After no improvement, surgery of the left frontal craniotomy keyhole type was conducted. A CT (computed 7) ___tomography) scan of the skull performed 24 hours later showed a neuroimaging that it is described as the silhouette of Mount Fuji. The treatment was conservative and used continuous oxygen for 5 days. Control CT scan demonstrated reduction of the intracranial air with normal brain parenchyma.

Conclusion: In a review of the literature, there was no finding of any cases of tension PNC documented previously through a supraorbital keyhole approach. There are a few cases reported of patients with Mount Fuji signs that do not require surgical procedures. The conservative treatment in our report leads to clinical and radiological improvement as well as a reduction in hospitalization time.


PNC and TP: The terms pneumocephalus (PNC) and tension pneumocephalus (TP) were created by research scientists, Wolff and Ectors, respectively, even though TP has been described in the early literature. PNC is the presence of air within the intracranial cavity. When this circumstance causes increased intracranial pressure that leads to neurological deterioration, it is known as TP. Ishiwata et al. described the image produced by PNC in subdural collections that separated both frontal lobes as similar in appearance to the silhouette of the famous Fuji Volcano in 8) ___. CT is a golden standard for PNC or TP diagnostics and it only requires 0.55 mL of air to be detected, whereas a simple skull radiograph requires at least 2 mL. Air between the frontal tips is a characteristic finding of the “Mount Fuji sign,“ which means there is the greater pressure of air than the surface tension of cerebral fluid between the frontal lobes. In anterior cranial fossa, the dura mater is thin and closely applied to bone and the arachnoids adherent to frontal lobes; therefore, the air is trapped in the subdural space of the anterior cranial fossa. When there is a bilateral compression of the frontal lobes without separation of the frontal tips, it is called “peaking sign,“ which was previously linked to TP. An MRI axial view of fluid-attenuated inversion recovery revealed the Mount Fuji sign with collapsed frontal lobes and widening of the interhemispheric space between the bilateral tips of the frontal lobes. The Mount Fuji sign indicates more severe PNC than the peaking sign and the necessity of emergent decompression, although in some cases, a patient with Mount Fuji sign sometimes does not need a surgical procedure.


PNC usually gets absorbed without any clinical manifestations. The conservative treatment involves placing the patient in the Fowler position of 30o, avoiding Valsalva maneuver (coughing and sneezing), administering pain and antipyretic medications to prevent hyperthermia, and osmotic diuretics. With these measures, reabsorption was observed in 85% of cases after 2-3 weeks. In other cases, different procedures have been used, like hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO2) therapy sessions, where normobaric oxygenation is administered continuously at 5 L/min for 5 days, resulting in the reabsorption of nitrogen into the blood stream and a reduction in the volume of the intracranial air. In a clinical trial, clinical improvement was seen in all patients; however, the treated group experienced a lower rate of meningitis compared to the control group, and the length of the hospital stay was significantly higher in the control group compared to the treated group. The use of an oxygen mask increases the reabsorption of PNC compared to a nasal catheter. When clinical signs appear, such as intracranial hypertension or impaired consciousness that endangers the life of the patient, treatment consists of emergent decompression to alleviate pressure on the brain parenchyma. Also, air is toxic to neurons, causing further damage to the already compromised parenchyma, and that leads to cerebral edema surrounding the air that evolves into encephalomalacia. Treatment options for TP include the drilling of burr holes, needle aspiration, and closure of the dural defect. If the frontal sinus is open during surgery, it is aggressively managed with exenteration of the mucosa, sinus packing with abdominal fat or a piece of temporal muscle and covered with frontal fascia. There are a few cases reported of asymptomatic massive PNC or patients with Mount Fuji signs that do not require surgical procedures. Traveling by plane is considered high 9) ___ because as the height increases, atmospheric pressure decreases, and the gasses expand. Therefore, a pneumothorax could become hypertensive, a bulla could expand or break, and PNC could enlarge and produce more intracranial hypertension. However, it has been observed that military patients with posttraumatic and/or post craniotomy PNC, who underwent long-range air evacuation from a combat theater in military aircraft, did not sustain a temporary or permanent neurologic decline as a result of air transportation. Therefore, PNC in patients with head injuries and craniotomies was not likely by itself to be an absolute contraindication to air evacuation. Finally, the medical guideline recommends waiting at least 7 days to fly after a transcranial or spinal surgery that could introduce gas into the skull.


TP must be treated by surgical revision when it causes intracranial hypertension and/or deterioration of consciousness. There are a few cases reported of patients with Mount Fuji signs that do not require surgical procedures. The conservative treatment in these patients is with HBO2 therapy sessions in a monoplace hyperbaric chamber with 100% 10) ___ concentration or normobaric oxygenation administered continuously at 5 L/min at least for 5 days. This treatment should lead to clinical and radiological improvement as well as a reduction in hospitalization time.


Sources:;; Wikipedia;; Mark Lieber CNN; Copyright: © 2015 Surgical Neurology International This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License, which allows others to remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as the author is credited and the new creations are licensed under the identical terms.How to cite this URL: Dabdoub CB, Salas G, N. Silveira Ed, Dabdoub CF. Review of the management of pneumocephalus. Surg Neurol Int 29-Sep-2015;6:155. Available from:


ANSWERS: 1) lobe; 2) brain; 3) air; 4) out; 5) blood; 6) stroke; 7) tomography; 8) Japan; 9) risk; 10) oxygen


Most Mysterious Human Organ

Hieroglyphic for the word “brain” (c.1700 BCE)

Source: The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus (17th century BCE), Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons


From the ancient Egyptian mummifications to 18th century scientific research on “globules“ and neurons, there is evidence of neuroscience practice throughout the early periods of history. The early civilizations lacked adequate means to obtain knowledge about the human brain. Their assumptions about the inner workings of the mind, therefore, were not accurate. Early views on the function of the brain regarded it to be a form of “cranial stuffing“ of sorts. In ancient Egypt, from the late Middle Kingdom onwards, in preparation for mummification, the brain was regularly removed, for it was the heart that was assumed to be the seat of intelligence.


According to Herodotus, during the first step of mummification: “The most perfect practice is to extract as much of the brain as possible with an iron hook, and what the hook cannot reach is mixed with drugs.“ Over the next five thousand years, this view came to be reversed; the brain is now known to be the seat of intelligence, although colloquial variations of the former remain as in “memorizing something by heart“.


The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, written in the 17th century BCE, contains the earliest recorded reference to the brain. The hieroglyph for brain, occurring eight times in this papyrus, describes the symptoms, diagnosis, and prognosis of two patients, wounded in the head, who had compound fractures of the skull. The assessments of the author (a battlefield surgeon) of the papyrus allude to ancient Egyptians having a vague recognition of the effects of head trauma. While the symptoms are well written and detailed, the absence of a medical precedent is apparent. The author of the passage notes “the pulsations of the exposed brain“ and compared the surface of the brain to the rippling surface of copper slag (which indeed has a gyral-sulcal pattern). The laterality of injury was related to the laterality of symptom, and both aphasia (“he speaks not to thee“) and seizures (“he shutters exceedingly“) after head injury were described. Observations by ancient civilizations of the human brain suggest only a relative understanding of the basic mechanics and the importance of cranial security. Furthermore, considering the general consensus of medical practice pertaining to human anatomy was based on myths and superstition, the thoughts of the battlefield surgeon appear to be empirical and based on logical deduction and simple observation.


During the second half of the first millennium BCE, the Ancient Greeks developed differing views on the function of the brain. However, due to the fact that Hippocratic doctors did not practice dissection, because the human body was considered sacred, Greek views of brain function were generally uninformed by anatomical study. It is said that it was the Pythagorean Alcmaeon of Croton (6th and 5th centuries BCE) who first considered the brain to be the place where the mind was located. According to ancient authorities, “he believed the seat of sensations is in the brain. This contains the governing faculty. All the senses are connected in some way with the brain; consequently they are incapable of action if the brain is disturbed, the power of the brain to synthesize sensations makes it also the seat of thought: The storing up of perceptions gives memory and belief and when these are stabilized you get knowledge.“ In the 4th century BCE Hippocrates, believed the brain to be the seat of intelligence (based, among others before him, on Alcmaeon’s work). During the 4th century BCE Aristotle thought that, while the heart was the seat of intelligence, the brain was a cooling mechanism for the blood. He reasoned that humans are more rational than the beasts because, among other reasons, they have a larger brain to cool their hot-bloodedness.


In contrast to Greek thought regarding the sanctity of the human body, the Egyptians had been embalming their dead for centuries, and went about the systematic study of the human body. During the Hellenistic period, Herophilus of Chalcedon (c.335/330 – 280/250 BCE) and Erasistratus of Ceos (c. 300 – 240 BCE) made fundamental contributions not only to brain and nervous systems’ anatomy and physiology, but to many other fields of the bio-sciences. Herophilus not only distinguished the cerebrum and the cerebellum, but provided the first clear description of the ventricles. Erasistratus used practical application by experimenting on the living brain. Their works are now mostly lost, and we know about their achievements due mostly to secondary sources. Some of their discoveries had to be re-discovered a millennium after their death.


During the Roman Empire, the Greek anatomist Galen dissected the brains of sheep, monkeys, dogs, swine, among other non-human mammals. He concluded that, as the cerebellum was denser than the brain, it must control the muscles, while as the cerebrum was soft, it must be where the senses were processed. Galen further theorized that the brain functioned by movement of animal spirits through the ventricles. “Further, his studies of the cranial nerves and spinal cord were outstanding. He noted that specific spinal nerves controlled specific muscles, and had the idea of the reciprocal action of muscles. For the next advance in understanding spinal function we must await Bell and Magendie in the 19th Century.“ Circa 1000, Al-Zahrawi, living in Islamic Iberia, evaluated neurological patients and performed surgical treatments of head injuries, skull fractures, spinal injuries, hydrocephalus, subdural effusions and headache. Concurrently in Persia, Avicenna also presented detailed knowledge about skull fractures and their surgical treatments. Between the 13th and 14th centuries, the first anatomy textbooks in Europe, which included a description of the brain, were written by Mondino de Luzzi and Guido da Vigevano.


Andreas Vesalius noted many structural characteristics of both the brain and general nervous system during his dissections of human cadavers. In addition to recording many anatomical features such as the putamen and corpus collusum, Vesalius proposed that the brain was made up of seven pairs of ‘brain nerves’, each with a specialized function. Other scholars furthered Vesalius’ work by adding their own detailed sketches of the human brain. Ren? Descartes also studied the physiology of the brain, proposing the theory of dualism to tackle the issue of the brain’s relation to the mind. He suggested that the pineal gland was where the mind interacted with the body after recording the brain mechanisms responsible for circulating cerebrospinal fluid. Thomas Willis studied the brain, nerves, and behavior to develop neurologic treatments. He described in great detail the structure of the brainstem, the cerebellum, the ventricles, and the cerebral hemispheres.


The role of electricity in nerves was first observed in dissected frogs by Luigi Galvani in the second half of the 18th century. In the 1820s, Jean Pierre Flourens pioneered the experimental method of carrying out localized lesions of the brain in animals describing their effects on motricity, sensibility and behavior. Richard Caton presented his findings in 1875 about electrical phenomena of the cerebral hemispheres of rabbits and monkeys. Studies of the brain became more sophisticated after the invention of the microscope and the development of a staining procedure by Camillo Golgi during the late 1890s that used a silver chromate salt to reveal the intricate structures of single neurons. His technique was used by Santiago Ramon y Cajal and led to the formation of the neuron doctrine, the hypothesis that the functional unit of the brain is the neuron. Golgi and Cajal shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1906 for their extensive observations, descriptions and categorizations of neurons throughout the brain. The hypotheses of the neuron doctrine were supported by experiments following Galvani’s pioneering work in the electrical excitability of muscles and neurons. In the late 19th century, Emil du Bois-Reymond, Johannes Peter Muller, and Hermann von Helmholtz showed neurons were electrically excitable and that their activity predictably affected the electrical state of adjacent neurons. In parallel with this research, work with brain-damaged patients by Paul Broca suggested that certain regions of the brain were responsible for certain functions.


Tell me where is fancie bred,

In the heart or in the head?


William Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)


CRISPR Helps Find New Genetic Suspects Behind ALS/FTD


Disease-causing mutations in C9orf72, insert extra sequences of DNA into the gene, called hexanucleotide repeats, account for nearly 40% of inherited cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and 25% of inherited frontotemporal dementia (FTD) cases. These repeats produce potentially toxic RNA and protein molecules that kill neurons resulting in problems with movement and eventually paralysis for ALS patients and language and decision-making problems for FTD patients.


According to an article published in Nature Genetics (5 March 2018), a new study provides a roadmap for using CRISPR to investigate neurological disorders. For the study, the authors used the gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to rapidly identify genes in the human genome that might modify the severity of ALS and FTD caused by mutations in a gene called C9orf72. The results of the search uncovered a new set of genes that may hasten neuron death during the disease.


For the study, the authors used CRISPR to disable each gene, one-by-one, in a line of human leukemia cells and then tested whether the cells would survive exposure to toxic proteins derived from the hexanucleotide repeats, called DPRs. Any disabled genes that caused cells to live longer or die faster than normal were considered suspects in DPR toxicity. The authors confirmed that genes that control the movement of molecules in and out of a cell’s nucleus may be partners. They also identified several new players, including genes that modify chromosomes and that help cells assemble proteins passing through a maze-like structure called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). A second CRISPR search conducted on mouse brain cells confirmed the initial results. Disabling the top 200 genes identified in the leukemia cells helped neurons survive DPR exposure. Finally, further experiments highlighted the importance of the ER genes, especially one called TMX2. For example, the authors could cause neurons derived from the skin cells of ALS patients with C9orf72 to live longer than normal when they silenced the TMX2 gene, suggesting it could be exploited in designing novel therapies for ALS. Decreasing TMX2 in cells caused an increase in the production of “survival proteins” that the authors hypothesized protected the cells against DPR toxicity.


Previously such studies needed a few months to find candidate genes and could only be performed on yeast, worm, and fly genomes. With CRISPR, the authors needed just about two weeks to conduct a complete search of the human genome. The results suggest that this faster and more comprehensive approach may be used to rapidly identify genes that may be involved in other neurological disorders.


Biological Clock and Aging Brain Disorders


Preclinical studies suggest that Cdk5 is a gene that is important for the normal wiring of the brain during early development and may be involved in some neurodegenerative disorders, including ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.


According to an article published online in Disease Models & Mechanisms (8 March 2018), a study of flies suggests neurodegenerative disorders may speed up aging process. To better understand the link between aging and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, the various genetic clocks that tick during the lives of normal and mutant flies were compared. Results showed that altering the activity of a gene called Cdk5 appeared to make the clocks run faster than normal, and that the affected flies presented older than their chronological age, including problems walking or flying later in life, showing signs of neurodegeneration, and shortened life expectancy.


On average, the normal flies in the study lived for 47 days. To create a genetic clock, the authors measured the levels of every gene encoded in messenger RNA molecules from cells from the heads and bodies of flies at 3, 10, 30, and 45 days after birth. This allowed the authors to use advanced analysis techniques to search for the genes that seemed to be sensitive to aging, and create a standard curve, or timeline, that described the way they changed. When the same experiments were performed on 10-day-old mutant flies and the results were compared with the standard curve, it was found that the flies were “older“ than their chronological age. Altering Cdk5 activity made the brains of the flies appear genetically to be about 15 days old and their bodies to be about 20 days old. The study found that eliminating or increasing Cdk5 activity beyond normal levels shortened the lives of the flies to about 30 days. After 10 days of age, the manipulations reduced the distance flies could climb up tubes and the alterations caused older flies to have signs of neurodegeneration, including higher than normal levels of brain cell death and degradation. More analysis showed that altering Cdk5 activity changed the level of several groups of genes that were also affected by aging, including those that control immunity, energy, and antioxidant activity.


To explore this idea further, the authors tested the strength of the flies’ antioxidant defenses against toxic versions of several chemicals found in cells called oxygen free radicals. Initial experiments showed that aging reduced these defenses in normal flies. Three-day-old healthy flies lived for about 100 hours after exposure to free radicals, and that time decreased with age. In contrast, the defenses of Cdk5 mutant flies were even weaker as they died sooner than the control flies at all ages.


According to the authors, the results suggest that aging may not just predispose an individual to degeneration, but that acceleration of aging may actually be part of the mechanism by which degenerative disease disrupts the structure and function of the brain.


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