Wednesday April 25, 2018

Decoded: Why Mosquitoes Bite You

For the study, published in the journal Current Biology, the team placed mosquitoes in an insect flight simulator and exposing the mosquitoes to various smells, including human body odors, and observed how the insects, trained or not, reacted

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The study dopamine -- a brain chemical involved in reward learning -- is a key mediator of aversive learning in mosquitoes. Pixabay
The study dopamine -- a brain chemical involved in reward learning -- is a key mediator of aversive learning in mosquitoes. Pixabay
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  • People who swat at mosquitoes or perform other defensive behavior may be abandoned, no matter how sweet
  • The team placed mosquitoes in an insect flight simulator and exposing the mosquitoes to various smells for the study
  • The study was published in the journal Current Biology

Wonder why you receive more bug bites than others around you? It is because, mosquitoes can rapidly learn and remember the smells, researchers have found.

The study dopamine — a brain chemical involved in reward learning — is a key mediator of aversive learning in mosquitoes.

However, people who swat at mosquitoes or perform other defensive behavior may be abandoned, no matter how sweet.

Dopamine modulates the neural activity in the brain region where the information on smell in such a way that odors were easier to discriminate, and potentially learn, by the mosquitoes, the researchers said. Pixabay
Dopamine modulates the neural activity in the brain region where the information on smell in such a way that odors were easier to discriminate, and potentially learn, by the mosquitoes, the researchers said. Pixabay

ALSO READ: $18 Million Donation to Target Mosquito-borne Diseases like Zika in Colombia and Brazil

Mosquitoes exhibit a trait known as aversive learning by training female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to associate odors (including human body odors) with unpleasant shocks and vibrations, said Clement Vinauger, Assistant Professor in Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University or Virginia Tech.

For the study, published in the journal Current Biology, the team placed mosquitoes in an insect flight simulator and exposing the mosquitoes to various smells, including human body odors, and observed how the insects, trained or not, reacted.

“Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing exactly what attracts a mosquito to a particular human — individuals are made up of unique molecular cocktails that include combinations of more than 400 chemicals,” said Chloe Lahondere, Assistant Professor at the varsity.

“However, we now know that mosquitoes are able to learn odors emitted by their host and avoid those that were more defensive,” Lahondere added.

ALSO READ: Dengue stings Delhi as govt sleeps under an opaque mosquito net

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are vectors for Zika fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses, and can be found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. Pixabay
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are vectors for Zika fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses, and can be found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. Pixabay

 

“Understanding these mechanisms of mosquito learning and preferences may provide new tools for mosquito control,” Vinauger said.

“For example, we could target mosquitoes’ ability to learn and either impair it or exploit it to our advantage,” he noted. (IANS)

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Google AI can focus on individual speakers in a crowd

The visual signal not only improves the speech separation quality significantly in cases of mixed speech, but, importantly, it also associates the separated, clean speech tracks

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Google india launches 'Tz' to help people pay their utility bills. Wikimedia Commons
Google AI to identify speakers from crowd. Wikimedia Commons

Just as most smartphone cameras now allow users to focus on a single object among many, it may soon be possible to pick out individual voices in a crowd by suppressing all other sounds, thanks to a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) system developed by Google researchers.

This is an important development as computers as not as good as humans at focusing their attention on a particular person in a noisy environment. Known as the cocktail party effect, the capability to mentally “mute” all other voices and sounds comes natural to us humans.

Google has collaborated with getty images. Wikimedia Commons
Google AI will identify individual speakers now. Wikimedia Commons

However, automatic speech separation — separating an audio signal into its individual speech sources — remains a significant challenge for computers, Inbar Mosseri and Oran Lang, software engineers at Google Research, wrote in a blog post this week. In a new paper, the researchers presented a deep learning audio-visual model for isolating a single speech signal from a mixture of sounds such as other voices and background noise.

“In this work, we are able to computationally produce videos in which speech of specific people is enhanced while all other sounds are suppressed,” Mosseri and Lang said. The method works on ordinary videos with a single audio track, and all that is required from the user is to select the face of the person in the video they want to hear, or to have such a person be selected algorithmically based on context.

Also Read: Want To Know What Facebook, Google Know About You?

The researchers believe this capability can have a wide range of applications, from speech enhancement and recognition in videos, through video conferencing, to improved hearing aids, especially in situations where there are multiple people speaking. “A unique aspect of our technique is in combining both the auditory and visual signals of an input video to separate the speech,” the researchers said.

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This will also help in speech enhancement . VOA

“Intuitively, movements of a person’s mouth, for example, should correlate with the sounds produced as that person is speaking, which in turn can help identify which parts of the audio correspond to that person,” they explained.

The visual signal not only improves the speech separation quality significantly in cases of mixed speech, but, importantly, it also associates the separated, clean speech tracks with the visible speakers in the video, the researchers said. IANS