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Less Is More With Next-Generation Medical X-rays

A new X-ray-generating chip will reduce the radiation from medical imaging

3 min read
Less Is More With Next-Generation Medical X-rays
Extremely Tiny X-ray: An electron-emitting chip is at the heart of a new type of X-ray source. It can replace large particle accelerators in phase-contrast imaging.
Photo: Microsystems Technology Laboratories/MIT

The X-ray that imaged your father’s broken leg when he was a kid isn’t fundamentally different from the one at your doctor’s office today—other than that it’s now digital rather than film-based. But the technology is on the verge of a big leap forward that will let doctors see more with less light.

To take an X-ray today of some part of the body other than the bones, a patient needs to ingest a contrast agent like iodine or barium that binds to the tumor or other structure the doctor wants to examine. But contrast agents can be hard on the kidneys, enough to harm or even kill some already weakened patients. And some kinds of X-ray imaging today, like computed tomography (CT) scans, involve such heavy X-ray doses that the patients risk an increased cancer rate just to provide good pictures for their doctors.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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