Human Consciousness Imaging

“We may for the first time capture a full picture of human consciousness or even the essence of life itself.”

An unnamed physicist involved in China’s project to build the world’s strongest MRI, which has the potential to unlock the secrets behind Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and apparently may reveal the essence of life itself.

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The Imaging Wire

Human Consciousness Imaging
Chinese scientists are working on what they expect will be the world’s most powerful brain scanner, able to generate a 14T magnetic field that’s strong enough to image the structure and activities of every neuron in a living human brain, capturing images as small as one micrometer (vs. 1,000 micrometers in today’s strongest MRIs). The 1 billion-yuan ($144.7m !!!) device will be able to track the chemicals that pass signals through the brain’s neural fiber networks (e.g. sodium, phosphorus, and potassium – not just hydrogen), potentially revolutionizing research on neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. However, as readers may have inferred from this story’s title, the scientists’ goals extend well beyond beating these awful diseases, and into human consciousness. As one scientist put it, the system may allow researchers to “capture a full picture of human consciousness or even the essence of life itself. Then we can define them and explain how they work in precise physical terms – just like Newton and Einstein defined and explained the universe.” There is still a lot this team has to figure out from a technological and biological perspective, but they deserve credit for their vision. Capturing “the essence of human life” is a pretty lofty goal, both scientifically and philosophically.

Why Doctors Hate Their Computers
“Something’s gone terribly wrong. Doctors are among the most technology-avid people in society; computerization has simplified tasks in many industries. Yet somehow we’ve reached a point where people in the medical profession actively, viscerally, volubly hate their computers.” This is from Dr. Atul Gawande’s incredibly deep dive (almost 9k words) into the impact of EHR proliferation in The New Yorker, detailing EHR’s damage done (physician burnout, alienated older doctors, lower patient volumes, less eye contact, signal fatigue, bored admins, and much more), where EHRs went wrong (change management, balancing unique needs of specialties and admins, and more), and the various hacks doctors have come up with to reclaim their time (hiring scribes, printing out cases in advance, switching to emergency medicine roles, and more). Dr. Gawande does balance out his coverage, acknowledging the benefits that EHRs can have on care and ending with a useful reminder that patients are trying to balance human and tech interaction in their own lives, too. This article also produced a lively Reddit debate for those interested in participating.

Nautilus Medical Goes Freemium
Nautilus Medical is now offering its complete portfolio of radiology software tools to all medical professionals and students… for free. Nautilus attributed its business model shift to the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s decision to approve sharing data sets and documentation for reanalysis and reuse, suggesting that making its software free will help providers afford adapting to this change. What’s the catch? Downstream revenue. Nautilus Medical was already experimenting with this model with its MatrixRay Image Exchange software, which is “free” but charges $1 per transfer, and the company has a solid hardware business that would benefit from a surge in new ‘freemium’ customers. We’ve also seen the freemium model adopted by Purview, which offers its DICOM viewer for free, generating its revenue from add-ons.

Prostate mpMRI Recommended in UK
The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) formally recommended using multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging (mpMRI) as a first-line investigation for men with suspected prostate cancer, with the goals of reducing unnecessary biopsies and improving early detection. It didn’t take long for the Royal College of Radiologists to voice concerns about this recommendation, noting that although they support NICE’s recommendation, the UK’s aging MRI fleet (many not mpMRI-capable) and well-publicized radiologist shortage would not be able to handle the influx on prostate cancer scans. Although the UK’s radiologist shortage has arguably been a more prominent storyline, some may have noticed growing momentum around prostate imaging, with a new prostate screening program and a new prostate imaging partnership announced since the start of November.

The Wire

  • MIT researchers developed a ML technique that may allow low-light imaging of transparent tissues and cells, potentially supporting much lower-dose X-ray imaging (reducing harm to patient) and lower-light biological imaging (reducing damage to the specimen). The researchers first captured a very low-light photo of a glass etching, reconstructing it by combining a physics-based algorithm (somewhat effective on its own) with a ML algorithm trained on 10,000 grainy low-light images (also somewhat effective on its own) to create a relatively accurate representation of the original glass etching.

  • Monitor Daily published a profile on GE Healthcare and TIAA’s new leasing partnership, which started as a deal to help GE unload some of GE Capital’s assets ($1.5B in this case), but evolved to include a five-year vendor financing agreement that will allow TIAA to serve GE Healthcare’s US customers through a co-branded approach. The deal will allow GE Healthcare Equipment Finance (HEF) to continue to fund GE Healthcare’s deals after the spinoff from GE Corp. (and GE Capital), while allowing TIAA to expand its relationship with the many public hospitals and academic institutions that it has historically worked with from a retirement perspective.

The Resource Wire

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  • This Medmo video details how its healthcare marketplace platform and network of participating radiologists help underinsured patients pay as little as possible for their imaging procedures.

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