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KAIST Research Team Breaks Down Musical Instincts with AI
Music, often referred to as the universal language, is known to be a common component in all cultures. Then, could ‘musical instinct’ be something that is shared to some degree despite the extensive environmental differences amongst cultures? On January 16, a KAIST research team led by Professor Hawoong Jung from the Department of Physics announced to have identified the principle by which musical instincts emerge from the human brain without special learning using an artificial neural network model. Previously, many researchers have attempted to identify the similarities and differences between the music that exist in various different cultures, and tried to understand the origin of the universality. A paper published in Science in 2019 had revealed that music is produced in all ethnographically distinct cultures, and that similar forms of beats and tunes are used. Neuroscientist have also previously found out that a specific part of the human brain, namely the auditory cortex, is responsible for processing musical information. Professor Jung’s team used an artificial neural network model to show that cognitive functions for music forms spontaneously as a result of processing auditory information received from nature, without being taught music. The research team utilized AudioSet, a large-scale collection of sound data provided by Google, and taught the artificial neural network to learn the various sounds. Interestingly, the research team discovered that certain neurons within the network model would respond selectively to music. In other words, they observed the spontaneous generation of neurons that reacted minimally to various other sounds like those of animals, nature, or machines, but showed high levels of response to various forms of music including both instrumental and vocal. The neurons in the artificial neural network model showed similar reactive behaviours to those in the auditory cortex of a real brain. For example, artificial neurons responded less to the sound of music that was cropped into short intervals and were rearranged. This indicates that the spontaneously-generated music-selective neurons encode the temporal structure of music. This property was not limited to a specific genre of music, but emerged across 25 different genres including classic, pop, rock, jazz, and electronic. < Figure 1. Illustration of the musicality of the brain and artificial neural network (created with DALL·E3 AI based on the paper content) > Furthermore, suppressing the activity of the music-selective neurons was found to greatly impede the cognitive accuracy for other natural sounds. That is to say, the neural function that processes musical information helps process other sounds, and that ‘musical ability’ may be an instinct formed as a result of an evolutionary adaptation acquired to better process sounds from nature. Professor Hawoong Jung, who advised the research, said, “The results of our study imply that evolutionary pressure has contributed to forming the universal basis for processing musical information in various cultures.” As for the significance of the research, he explained, “We look forward for this artificially built model with human-like musicality to become an original model for various applications including AI music generation, musical therapy, and for research in musical cognition.” He also commented on its limitations, adding, “This research however does not take into consideration the developmental process that follows the learning of music, and it must be noted that this is a study on the foundation of processing musical information in early development.” < Figure 2. The artificial neural network that learned to recognize non-musical natural sounds in the cyber space distinguishes between music and non-music. > This research, conducted by first author Dr. Gwangsu Kim of the KAIST Department of Physics (current affiliation: MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences) and Dr. Dong-Kyum Kim (current affiliation: IBS) was published in Nature Communications under the title, “Spontaneous emergence of rudimentary music detectors in deep neural networks”. This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea.
A KAIST Research Team Observes the Processes of Memory and Cognition in Real Time
The human brain contains approximately 86 billion neurons and 600 trillion synapses that exchange signals between the neurons to help us control the various functions of the brain including cognition, emotion, and memory. Interestingly, the number of synapses decrease with age or as a result of diseases like Alzheimer’s, and research on synapses thus attracts a lot of attention. However, limitations have existed in observing the dynamics of synapse structures in real time. On January 9, a joint research team led by Professor Won Do Heo from the KAIST Department of Biological Sciences, Professor Hyung-Bae Kwon from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Professor Sangkyu Lee from the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) revealed that they have developed the world’s first technique to allow a real-time observation of synapse formation, extinction, and alterations. Professor Heo’s team conjugated dimerization-dependent fluorescent proteins (ddFP) to synapses in order to observe the process in which synapses create connections between neurons in real time. The team named this technique SynapShot, by combining the words ‘synapse’ and snapshot’, and successfully tracked and observed the live formation and extinction processes of synapses as well as their dynamic changes. < Figure 1. To observe dynamically changing synapses, dimerization-dependent fluorescent protein (ddFP) was expressed to observe flourescent signals upon synapse formation as ddFP enables fluorescence detection through reversible binding to pre- and postsynaptic terminals. > Through a joint research project, the teams led by Professor Heo and Professor Sangkyu Lee at IBS together designed a SynapShot with green and red fluorescence, and were able to easily distinguish the synapse connecting two different neurons. Additionally, by combining an optogenetic technique that can control the function of a molecule using light, the team was able to observe the changes in the synapses while simultaneously inducing certain functions of the neurons using light. Through more joint research with the team led by Professor Hyung-Bae Kwon at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Professor Heo’s team induced several situations on live mice, including visual discrimination training, exercise, and anaesthesia, and used SynapShot to observe the changes in the synapses during each situation in real time. The observations revealed that each synapse could change fairly quickly and dynamically. This was the first-ever case in which the changes in synapses were observed in a live mammal. < Figure 2. Microscopic photos observed through changes of the flourescence of the synapse sensor (SynapShot) by cultivating the neurons of an experimental rat and expressing the SynapShot. The changes in the synapse that is created when the pre- and post-synaptic terminals come into contact and the synapse that disappears after a certain period of time are measured by the fluorescence of the SynapShot. > Professor Heo said, “Our group developed SynapShot through a collaboration with domestic and international research teams, and have opened up the possibility for first-hand live observations of the quick and dynamic changes of synapses, which was previously difficult to do. We expect this technique to revolutionize research methodology in the neurological field, and play an important role in brightening the future of brain science.” This research, conducted by co-first authors Seungkyu Son (Ph.D. candidate), Jinsu Lee (Ph.D. candidate) and Dr. Kanghoon Jung from Johns Hopkins, was published in the online edition of Nature Methods on January 8 under the title “Real-time visualization of structural dynamics of synapses in live cells in vivo”, and will be printed in the February volume. < Figure 3. Simultaneous use of green-SynapShot and red-SynapShot to distinguish and observe synapses with one post-terminal and different pre-terminals. > < Figure 4. Dimer-dependent fluorescent protein (ddFP) exists as a green fluorescent protein as well as a red fluorescent protein, and can be applied together with blue light-activated optogenetic technology. After activating Tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) by blue light using optogenetic technology, the strengthening of synaptic connections through signals of brain-derived neurotrophic factor is observed using red-SynapShot. > < Figure 5. Micrographs showing real-time changing synapses in the visual cortex of mice trained through visual training using in vivo imaging techniques such as two-photon microscopy as well as at the cellular level. > This research was supported by Mid-Sized Research Funds and the Singularity Project from KAIST, and by IBS.
KAIST introduces eco-friendly technologies for plastic production and biodegradation
- A research team under Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering published a paper in Nature Microbiology on the overview and trends of plastic production and degradation technology using microorganisms. - Eco-friendly and sustainable plastic production and degradation technology using microorganisms as a core technology to achieve a plastic circular economy was presented. Plastic is one of the important materials in modern society, with approximately 460 million tons produced annually and with expected production reaching approximately 1.23 billion tons in 2060. However, since 1950, plastic waste totaling more than 6.3 billion tons has been generated, and it is believed that more than 140 million tons of plastic waste has accumulated in the aquatic environment. Recently, the seriousness of microplastic pollution has emerged, not only posing a risk to the marine ecosystem and human health, but also worsening global warming by inhibiting the activity of marine plankton, which play an important role in lowering the Earth's carbon dioxide concentration. KAIST President Kwang-Hyung Lee announced on December 11 that a research team under Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering had published a paper titled 'Sustainable production and degradation of plastics using microbes', which covers the latest technologies for producing plastics and processing waste plastics in an eco-friendly manner using microorganisms. As the international community moves to solve this plastic problem, various efforts are being made, including 175 countries participating to conclude a legally binding agreement with the goal of ending plastic pollution by 2024. Various technologies are being developed for sustainable plastic production and processing, and among them, biotechnology using microorganisms is attracting attention. Microorganisms have the ability to naturally produce or decompose certain compounds, and this ability is maximized through biotechnologies such as metabolic engineering and enzyme engineering to produce plastics from renewable biomass resources instead of fossil raw materials and to decompose waste plastics. Accordingly, the research team comprehensively analyzed the latest microorganism-based technologies for the sustainable production and decomposition of plastics and presented how they actually contribute to solving the plastic problem. Based on this, they presented limitations, prospects, and research directions of the technologies for achieving a circular economy for plastics. Microorganism-based technologies for various plastics range from widely used synthetic plastics such as polyethylene (PE) to promising bioplastics such as natural polymers derived from microorganisms (polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA)) that are completely biodegradable in the natural environment and do not pose a risk of microplastic generation. Commercialization statuses and latest technologies were also discussed. In addition, the technology to decompose these plastics using microorganisms and their enzymes and the upcycling technology to convert them into other useful compounds after decomposition were introduced, highlighting the competitiveness and potential of technology using microorganisms. First author So Young Choi, a research assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST, said, “In the future, we will be able to easily find eco-friendly plastics made using microorganisms all around us,” and corresponding author Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee said, “Plastic can be made more sustainable. It is important to use plastics responsibly to protect the environment and simultaneously achieve economic and social development through the new plastics industry, and we look forward to the improved performance of microbial metabolic engineering technology.” This paper was published on November 30th in the online edition of Nature Microbiology. ※ Paper Title : Sustainable production and degradation of plastics using microbes Authors: So Young Choi, Youngjoon Lee, Hye Eun Yu, In Jin Cho, Minju Kang & Sang Yup Lee
North Korea and Beyond: AI-Powered Satellite Analysis Reveals the Unseen Economic Landscape of Underdeveloped Nations
- A joint research team in computer science, economics, and geography has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) technology to measure grid-level economic development within six-square-kilometer regions. - This AI technology is applicable in regions with limited statistical data (e.g., North Korea), supporting international efforts to propose policies for economic growth and poverty reduction in underdeveloped countries. - The research team plans to make this technology freely available for use to contribute to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations reports that more than 700 million people are in extreme poverty, earning less than two dollars a day. However, an accurate assessment of poverty remains a global challenge. For example, 53 countries have not conducted agricultural surveys in the past 15 years, and 17 countries have not published a population census. To fill this data gap, new technologies are being explored to estimate poverty using alternative sources such as street views, aerial photos, and satellite images. The paper published in Nature Communications demonstrates how artificial intelligence (AI) can help analyze economic conditions from daytime satellite imagery. This new technology can even apply to the least developed countries - such as North Korea - that do not have reliable statistical data for typical machine learning training. The researchers used Sentinel-2 satellite images from the European Space Agency (ESA) that are publicly available. They split these images into small six-square-kilometer grids. At this zoom level, visual information such as buildings, roads, and greenery can be used to quantify economic indicators. As a result, the team obtained the first ever fine-grained economic map of regions like North Korea. The same algorithm was applied to other underdeveloped countries in Asia: North Korea, Nepal, Laos, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Cambodia (see Image 1). The key feature of their research model is the "human-machine collaborative approach," which lets researchers combine human input with AI predictions for areas with scarce data. In this research, ten human experts compared satellite images and judged the economic conditions in the area, with the AI learning from this human data and giving economic scores to each image. The results showed that the Human-AI collaborative approach outperformed machine-only learning algorithms. < Image 1. Nightlight satellite images of North Korea (Top-left: Background photo provided by NASA's Earth Observatory). South Korea appears brightly lit compared to North Korea, which is mostly dark except for Pyongyang. In contrast, the model developed by the research team uses daytime satellite imagery to predict more detailed economic predictions for North Korea (top-right) and five Asian countries (Bottom: Background photo from Google Earth). > The research was led by an interdisciplinary team of computer scientists, economists, and a geographer from KAIST & IBS (Donghyun Ahn, Meeyoung Cha, Jihee Kim), Sogang University (Hyunjoo Yang), HKUST (Sangyoon Park), and NUS (Jeasurk Yang). Dr Charles Axelsson, Associate Editor at Nature Communications, handled this paper during the peer review process at the journal. The research team found that the scores showed a strong correlation with traditional socio-economic metrics such as population density, employment, and number of businesses. This demonstrates the wide applicability and scalability of the approach, particularly in data-scarce countries. Furthermore, the model's strength lies in its ability to detect annual changes in economic conditions at a more detailed geospatial level without using any survey data (see Image 2). < Image 2. Differences in satellite imagery and economic scores in North Korea between 2016 and 2019. Significant development was found in the Wonsan Kalma area (top), one of the tourist development zones, but no changes were observed in the Wiwon Industrial Development Zone (bottom). (Background photo: Sentinel-2 satellite imagery provided by the European Space Agency (ESA)). > This model would be especially valuable for rapidly monitoring the progress of Sustainable Development Goals such as reducing poverty and promoting more equitable and sustainable growth on an international scale. The model can also be adapted to measure various social and environmental indicators. For example, it can be trained to identify regions with high vulnerability to climate change and disasters to provide timely guidance on disaster relief efforts. As an example, the researchers explored how North Korea changed before and after the United Nations sanctions against the country. By applying the model to satellite images of North Korea both in 2016 and in 2019, the researchers discovered three key trends in the country's economic development between 2016 and 2019. First, economic growth in North Korea became more concentrated in Pyongyang and major cities, exacerbating the urban-rural divide. Second, satellite imagery revealed significant changes in areas designated for tourism and economic development, such as new building construction and other meaningful alterations. Third, traditional industrial and export development zones showed relatively minor changes. Meeyoung Cha, a data scientist in the team explained, "This is an important interdisciplinary effort to address global challenges like poverty. We plan to apply our AI algorithm to other international issues, such as monitoring carbon emissions, disaster damage detection, and the impact of climate change." An economist on the research team, Jihee Kim, commented that this approach would enable detailed examinations of economic conditions in the developing world at a low cost, reducing data disparities between developed and developing nations. She further emphasized that this is most essential because many public policies require economic measurements to achieve their goals, whether they are for growth, equality, or sustainability. The research team has made the source code publicly available via GitHub and plans to continue improving the technology, applying it to new satellite images updated annually. The results of this study, with Ph.D. candidate Donghyun Ahn at KAIST and Ph.D. candidate Jeasurk Yang at NUS as joint first authors, were published in Nature Communications under the title "A human-machine collaborative approach measures economic development using satellite imagery." < Photos of the main authors. 1. Donghyun Ahn, PhD candidate at KAIST School of Computing 2. Jeasurk Yang, PhD candidate at the Department of Geography of National University of Singapore 3. Meeyoung Cha, Professor of KAIST School of Computing and CI at IBS 4. Jihee Kim, Professor of KAIST School of Business and Technology Management 5. Sangyoon Park, Professor of the Division of Social Science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 6. Hyunjoo Yang, Professor of the Department of Economics at Sogang University >
KAIST builds a high-resolution 3D holographic sensor using a single mask
Holographic cameras can provide more realistic images than ordinary cameras thanks to their ability to acquire 3D information about objects. However, existing holographic cameras use interferometers that measure the wavelength and refraction of light through the interference of light waves, which makes them complex and sensitive to their surrounding environment. On August 23, a KAIST research team led by Professor YongKeun Park from the Department of Physics announced a new leap forward in 3D holographic imaging sensor technology. The team proposed an innovative holographic camera technology that does not use complex interferometry. Instead, it uses a mask to precisely measure the phase information of light and reconstruct the 3D information of an object with higher accuracy. < Figure 1. Structure and principle of the proposed holographic camera. The amplitude and phase information of light scattered from a holographic camera can be measured. > The team used a mask that fulfills certain mathematical conditions and incorporated it into an ordinary camera, and the light scattered from a laser is measured through the mask and analyzed using a computer. This does not require a complex interferometer and allows the phase information of light to be collected through a simplified optical system. With this technique, the mask that is placed between the two lenses and behind an object plays an important role. The mask selectively filters specific parts of light,, and the intensity of the light passing through the lens can be measured using an ordinary commercial camera. This technique combines the image data received from the camera with the unique pattern received from the mask and reconstructs an object’s precise 3D information using an algorithm. This method allows a high-resolution 3D image of an object to be captured in any position. In practical situations, one can construct a laser-based holographic 3D image sensor by adding a mask with a simple design to a general image sensor. This makes the design and construction of the optical system much easier. In particular, this novel technology can capture high-resolution holographic images of objects moving at high speeds, which widens its potential field of application. < Figure 2. A moving doll captured by a conventional camera and the proposed holographic camera. When taking a picture without focusing on the object, only a blurred image of the doll can be obtained from a general camera, but the proposed holographic camera can restore the blurred image of the doll into a clear image. > The results of this study, conducted by Dr. Jeonghun Oh from the KAIST Department of Physics as the first author, were published in Nature Communications on August 12 under the title, "Non-interferometric stand-alone single-shot holographic camera using reciprocal diffractive imaging". Dr. Oh said, “The holographic camera module we are suggesting can be built by adding a filter to an ordinary camera, which would allow even non-experts to handle it easily in everyday life if it were to be commercialized.” He added, “In particular, it is a promising candidate with the potential to replace existing remote sensing technologies.” This research was supported by the National Research Foundation’s Leader Research Project, the Korean Ministry of Science and ICT’s Core Hologram Technology Support Project, and the Nano and Material Technology Development Project.
KAIST presents a microbial cell factory as a source of eco-friendly food and cosmetic coloring
Despite decades of global population growth, global food crisis seems to be at hand yet again because the food productivity is cut severely due to prolonged presence of abnormal weather from intensifying climate change and global food supply chain is deteriorated due to international conflicts such as wars exacerbating food shortages and nutritional inequality around the globe. At the same time, however, as awareness of the environment and sustainability rises, an increase in demand for more eco-friendly and high-quality food and beauty products is being observed not without a sense of irony. At a time like this, microorganisms are attracting attention as a key that can handle this couple of seemingly distant problems. KAIST (President Kwang-Hyung Lee) announced on the 26th that Kyeong Rok Choi, a research professor of the Bioprocess Research Center and Sang Yup Lee, a Distinguished Professor of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, published a paper titled “Metabolic Engineering of Microorganisms for Food and Cosmetics Production” upon invitation by “Nature Reviews Bioengineering” to be published online published by Nature after peer review. ※ Paper title: Systems metabolic engineering of microorganisms for food and cosmetics production ※ Author information: Kyeong Rok Choi (first author) and Sang Yup Lee (corresponding author) Systems metabolic engineering is a research field founded by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of KAIST to more effectively develop microbial cell factories, the core factor of the next-generation bio industry to replace the existing chemical industry that relies heavily on petroleum. By applying a systemic metabolic engineering strategy, the researchers have developed a number of high-performance microbial cell factories that produce a variety of food and cosmetic compounds including natural substances like heme and zinc protoporphyrin IX compounds which can improve the flavor and color of synthetic meat, lycopene and β-carotene which are functional natural pigments that can be widely used in food and cosmetics, and methyl anthranilate, a grape-derived compound widely used to impart grape flavor in food and beverage manufacturing. In this paper written upon invitation by Nature, the research team covered remarkable cases of microbial cell factory that can produce amino acids, proteins, fats and fatty acids, vitamins, flavors, pigments, alcohols, functional compounds and other food additives used in various foods and cosmetics and the companies that have successfully commercialized these microbial-derived materials Furthermore, the paper organized and presents systems metabolic engineering strategies that can spur the development of industrial microbial cell factories that can produce more diverse food and cosmetic compounds in an eco-friendly way with economic feasibility. < Figure 1. Examples of production of food and cosmetic compounds using microbial cell factories > For example, by producing proteins or amino acids with high nutritional value through non-edible biomass used as animal feed or fertilizer through the microbial fermentation process, it will contribute to the increase in production and stable supply of food around the world. Furthermore, by contributing to developing more viable alternative meat, further reducing dependence on animal protein, it can also contribute to reducing greenhouse gases and environmental pollution generated through livestock breeding or fish farming. In addition, vanillin or methyl anthranilate, which give off vanilla or grape flavor, are widely added to various foods, but natural products isolated and refined from plants are low in production and high in production cost, so in most cases, petrochemicals substances derived from vanillin and methylanthranilic acid are added to food. These materials can also be produced through an eco-friendly and human-friendly method by borrowing the power of microorganisms. Ethical and resource problems that arise in producing compounds like Calmin (cochineal pigment), a coloring added to various cosmetics and foods such as red lipstick and strawberry-flavored milk, which must be extracted from cochineal insects that live only in certain cacti. and Hyaluronic acid, which is widely consumed as a health supplement, but is only present in omega-3 fatty acids extracted from shark or fish livers, can also be resolved when they can be produced in an eco-friendly way using microorganisms. KAIST Research Professor Kyeong Rok Choi, the first author of this paper, said, “In addition to traditional fermented foods such as kimchi and yogurt, foods produced with the help of microorganisms like cocoa butter, a base ingredient for chocolate that can only be obtained from fermented cacao beans, and monosodium glutamate, a seasoning produced through microbial fermentation are already familiar to us”. “In the future, we will be able to acquire a wider variety of foods and cosmetics even more easily produced in an eco-friendly and sustainable way in our daily lives through microbial cell factories.” he added. < Figure 2. Systems metabolic engineering strategy to improve metabolic flow in microbial cell factories > Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee said, “It is engineers’ mission to make the world a better place utilizing science and technology.” and added, “Continuous advancement and active use of systems metabolic engineering will contribute greatly to easing and resolving the problems arising from both the food crisis and the climate change." This research was carried out as a part of the “Development of Protein Production Technology from Inorganic Substances through Control of Microbial Metabolism System Project” (Project Leader: Kyeong Rok Choi, KAIST Research Professor) of the the Center for Agricultural Microorganism and Enzyme (Director Pahn-Shick Chang) supported by the Rural Development Administration and the “Development of Platform Technologies of Microbial Cell Factories for the Next-generation Biorefineries Project” (Project Leader: Sang Yup Lee, KAIST Distinguished Professor) of the Petroleum-Substitute Eco-friendly Chemical Technology Development Program supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT.
KAIST researchers find sleep delays more prevalent in countries of particular culture than others
Sleep has a huge impact on health, well-being and productivity, but how long and how well people sleep these days has not been accurately reported. Previous research on how much and how well we sleep has mostly relied on self-reports or was confined within the data from the unnatural environments of the sleep laboratories. So, the questions remained: Is the amount and quality of sleep purely a personal choice? Could they be independent from social factors such as culture and geography? < From left to right, Sungkyu Park of Kangwon National University, South Korea; Assem Zhunis of KAIST and IBS, South Korea; Marios Constantinides of Nokia Bell Labs, UK; Luca Maria Aiello of the IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Daniele Quercia of Nokia Bell Labs and King's College London, UK; and Meeyoung Cha of IBS and KAIST, South Korea > A new study led by researchers at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Nokia Bell Labs in the United Kingdom investigated the cultural and individual factors that influence sleep. In contrast to previous studies that relied on surveys or controlled experiments at labs, the team used commercially available smartwatches for extensive data collection, analyzing 52 million logs collected over a four-year period from 30,082 individuals in 11 countries. These people wore Nokia smartwatches, which allowed the team to investigate country-specific sleep patterns based on the digital logs from the devices. < Figure comparing survey and smartwatch logs on average sleep-time, wake-time, and sleep durations. Digital logs consistently recorded delayed hours of wake- and sleep-time, resulting in shorter sleep durations. > Digital logs collected from the smartwatches revealed discrepancies in wake-up times and sleep-times, sometimes by tens of minutes to an hour, from the data previously collected from self-report assessments. The average sleep-time overall was calculated to be around midnight, and the average wake-up time was 7:42 AM. The team discovered, however, that individuals' sleep is heavily linked to their geographical location and cultural factors. While wake-up times were similar, sleep-time varied by country. Individuals in higher GDP countries had more records of delayed bedtime. Those in collectivist culture, compared to individualist culture, also showed more records of delayed bedtime. Among the studied countries, Japan had the shortest total sleep duration, averaging a duration of under 7 hours, while Finland had the longest, averaging 8 hours. Researchers calculated essential sleep metrics used in clinical studies, such as sleep efficiency, sleep duration, and overslept hours on weekends, to analyze the extensive sleep patterns. Using Principal Component Analysis (PCA), they further condensed these metrics into two major sleep dimensions representing sleep quality and quantity. A cross-country comparison revealed that societal factors account for 55% of the variation in sleep quality and 63% of the variation in sleep quantity. Countries with a higher individualism index (IDV), which placed greater emphasis on individual achievements and relationships, had significantly longer sleep durations, which could be attributed to such societies having a norm of going to bed early. Spain and Japan, on the other hand, had the bedtime scheduled at the latest hours despite having the highest collectivism scores (low IDV). The study also discovered a moderate relationship between a higher uncertainty avoidance index (UAI), which measures implementation of general laws and regulation in daily lives of regular citizens, and better sleep quality. Researchers also investigated how physical activity can affect sleep quantity and quality to see if individuals can counterbalance cultural influences through personal interventions. They discovered that increasing daily activity can improve sleep quality in terms of shortened time needed in falling asleep and waking up. Individuals who exercise more, however, did not sleep longer. The effect of exercise differed by country, with more pronounced effects observed in some countries, such as the United States and Finland. Interestingly, in Japan, no obvious effect of exercise could be observed. These findings suggest that the relationship between daily activity and sleep may differ by country and that different exercise regimens may be more effective in different cultures. This research published on the Scientific Reports by the international journal, Nature, sheds light on the influence of social factors on sleep. (Paper Title "Social dimensions impact individual sleep quantity and quality" Article number: 9681) One of the co-authors, Daniele Quercia, commented: “Excessive work schedules, long working hours, and late bedtime in high-income countries and social engagement due to high collectivism may cause bedtimes to be delayed.” Commenting on the research, the first author Shaun Sungkyu Park said, "While it is intriguing to see that a society can play a role in determining the quantity and quality of an individual's sleep with large-scale data, the significance of this study is that it quantitatively shows that even within the same culture (country), individual efforts such as daily exercise can have a positive impact on sleep quantity and quality." "Sleep not only has a great impact on one’s well-being but it is also known to be associated with health issues such as obesity and dementia," said the lead author, Meeyoung Cha. "In order to ensure adequate sleep and improve sleep quality in an aging society, not only individual efforts but also a social support must be provided to work together," she said. The research team will contribute to the development of the high-tech sleep industry by making a code that easily calculates the sleep indicators developed in this study available free of charge, as well as providing the benchmark data for various types of sleep research to follow.
Professor Shinhyun Choi’s team, selected for Nature Communications Editors’ highlight
[ From left, Ph.D. candidates See-On Park and Hakcheon Jeong, along with Master's student Jong-Yong Park and Professor Shinhyun Choi ] See-On Park, Hakcheon Jeong, Jong-Yong Park - a team of researchers under the leadership of Professor Shinhyun Choi of the School of Electrical Engineering, developed a highly reliable variable resistor (memristor) array that simulates the behavior of neurons using a metal oxide layer with an oxygen concentration gradient, and published their work in Nature Communications. The study was selected as the Nature Communications' Editor's highlight, and as the featured article posted on the main page of the journal's website. Link : https://www.nature.com/ncomms/ [ Figure 1. The featured image on the main page of the Nature Communications' website introducing the research by Professor Choi's team on the memristor for artificial neurons ] Thesis title: Experimental demonstration of highly reliable dynamic memristor for artificial neuron and neuromorphic computing. ( https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-30539-6 ) At KAIST, their research was introduced on the 2022 Fall issue of Breakthroughs, the biannual newsletter published by KAIST College of Engineering. This research was conducted with the support from the Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center of Samsung Electronics.
Gut Hormone Triggers Craving for More Proteins
- Revelations from a fly study could improve our understanding of protein malnutrition in humans. - A new study led by KAIST researchers using fruit flies reveals how protein deficiency in the diet triggers cross talk between the gut and brain to induce a desire to eat foods rich in proteins or essential amino acids. This finding reported in the May 5 issue of Nature can lead to a better understanding of malnutrition in humans. “All organisms require a balanced intake of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for their well being,” explained KAIST neuroscientist and professor Greg Seong-Bae Suh. “Taking in sufficient calories alone won’t do the job, as it can still lead to severe forms of malnutrition including kwashiorkor, if the diet does not include enough proteins,” he added. Scientists already knew that inadequate protein intake in organisms causes a preferential choice of foods rich in proteins or essential amino acids but they didn’t know precisely how this happens. A group of researchers led by Professor Suh at KAIST and Professor Won-Jae Lee at Seoul National University (SNU) investigated this process in flies by examining the effects of different genes on food preference following protein deprivation. The group found that protein deprivation triggered the release of a gut hormone called neuropeptide CNMamide (CNMa) from a specific population of enterocytes - the intestine lining cells. Until now, scientists have known that enterocytes release digestive enzymes into the intestine to help digest and absorb nutrients in the gut. “Our study showed that enterocytes have a more complex role than we previously thought,” said Professor Suh. Enterocytes respond to protein deprivation by releasing CNMa that conveys the nutrient status in the gut to the CNMa receptors on nerve cells in the brain. This then triggers a desire to eat foods containing essential amino acids. Interestingly, the KAIST-SNU team also found that the microbiome - Acetobacter bacteria - present in the gut produces amino acids that can compensate for mild protein deficit in the diet. This basal level of amino acids provided by the microbiome modifies CNMa release and tempers the flies’ compensatory desire to ingest more proteins. The research team was able to further clarify two signalling pathways that respond to protein loss from the diet and ultimately produce the CNMa hormone in these specific enterocytes. The team said that further studies are still needed to understand how CNMa communicates with its receptors in the brain, and whether this happens by directly activating nerve cells that link the gut to the brain or by indirectly activating the brain through blood circulation. Their research could provide insights into the understanding of similar process in mammals including humans. “We chose to investigate a simple organism, the fly, which would make it easier for us to identify and characterize key nutrient sensors. Because all organisms have cravings for needed nutrients, the nutrient sensors and their pathways we identified in flies would also be relevant to those in mammals. We believe that this research will greatly advance our understanding of the causes of metabolic disease and eating-related disorders,” Professor Suh added. This work was supported by the Samsung Science and Technology Foundation (SSTF) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea. Publication: Kim, B., et al. (2021) Response of the Drosophila microbiome– gut–brain axis to amino acid deficit. Nature. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03522-2 Profile: Greg Seong-Bae Suh, Ph.D Associate Professor firstname.lastname@example.orgLab of Neural Interoception https://www.suhlab-neuralinteroception.kaist.ac.kr/Department of Biological Sciences https://bio.kaist.ac.kr/ Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https:/kaist.ac.kr/en/ Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
Plasma Jets Stabilize Water to Splash Less
< High-speed shadowgraph movie of water surface deformations induced by plasma impingement. > A study by KAIST researchers revealed that an ionized gas jet blowing onto water, also known as a ‘plasma jet’, produces a more stable interaction with the water’s surface compared to a neutral gas jet. This finding reported in the April 1 issue of Nature will help improve the scientific understanding of plasma-liquid interactions and their practical applications in a wide range of industrial fields in which fluid control technology is used, including biomedical engineering, chemical production, and agriculture and food engineering. Gas jets can create dimple-like depressions in liquid surfaces, and this phenomenon is familiar to anyone who has seen the cavity produced by blowing air through a straw directly above a cup of juice. As the speed of the gas jet increases, the cavity becomes unstable and starts bubbling and splashing. “Understanding the physical properties of interactions between gases and liquids is crucial for many natural and industrial processes, such as the wind blowing over the surface of the ocean, or steelmaking methods that involve blowing oxygen over the top of molten iron,” explained Professor Wonho Choe, a physicist from KAIST and the corresponding author of the study. However, despite its scientific and practical importance, little is known about how gas-blown liquid cavities become deformed and destabilized. In this study, a group of KAIST physicists led by Professor Choe and the team’s collaborators from Chonbuk National University in Korea and the Jožef Stefan Institute in Slovenia investigated what happens when an ionized gas jet, also known as a ‘plasma jet’, is blown over water. A plasma jet is created by applying high voltage to a nozzle as gas flows through it, which causes the gas to be weakly ionized and acquire freely-moving charged particles. The research team used an optical technique combined with high-speed imaging to observe the profiles of the water surface cavities created by both neutral helium gas jets and weakly ionized helium gas jets. They also developed a computational model to mathematically explain the mechanisms behind their experimental discovery. The researchers demonstrated for the first time that an ionized gas jet has a stabilizing effect on the water’s surface. They found that certain forces exerted by the plasma jet make the water surface cavity more stable, meaning there is less bubbling and splashing compared to the cavity created by a neutral gas jet. Specifically, the study showed that the plasma jet consists of pulsed waves of gas ionization propagating along the water’s surface so-called ‘plasma bullets’ that exert more force than a neutral gas jet, making the cavity deeper without becoming destabilized. “This is the first time that this phenomenon has been reported, and our group considers this as a critical step forward in our understanding of how plasma jets interact with liquid surfaces. We next plan to expand this finding through more case studies that involve diverse plasma and liquid characteristics,” said Professor Choe. This work was supported by KAIST as part of the High-Risk and High-Return Project, the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF), and the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS). Image Credit: Professor Wonho Choe, KAIST Usage Restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute these materials, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Park, S., et al. (2021) Stabilization of liquid instabilities with ionized gas jets. Nature, Vol. No. 592, Issue No. 7852, pp. 49-53. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03359-9 Profile: Wonho Choe, Ph.D. Professor email@example.com https://gdpl.kaist.ac.kr/ Gas Discharge Physics Laboratory (GDPL) Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering Department of Physics Impurity and Edge Plasma Research Center (IERC) http://kaist.ac.kr/en/ Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea (END)
Acoustic Graphene Plasmons Study Paves Way for Optoelectronic Applications
- The first images of mid-infrared optical waves compressed 1,000 times captured using a highly sensitive scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscope. - KAIST researchers and their collaborators at home and abroad have successfully demonstrated a new methodology for direct near-field optical imaging of acoustic graphene plasmon fields. This strategy will provide a breakthrough for the practical applications of acoustic graphene plasmon platforms in next-generation, high-performance, graphene-based optoelectronic devices with enhanced light-matter interactions and lower propagation loss. It was recently demonstrated that ‘graphene plasmons’ – collective oscillations of free electrons in graphene coupled to electromagnetic waves of light – can be used to trap and compress optical waves inside a very thin dielectric layer separating graphene from a metallic sheet. In such a configuration, graphene’s conduction electrons are “reflected” in the metal, so when the light waves “push” the electrons in graphene, their image charges in metal also start to oscillate. This new type of collective electronic oscillation mode is called ‘acoustic graphene plasmon (AGP)’. The existence of AGP could previously be observed only via indirect methods such as far-field infrared spectroscopy and photocurrent mapping. This indirect observation was the price that researchers had to pay for the strong compression of optical waves inside nanometer-thin structures. It was believed that the intensity of electromagnetic fields outside the device was insufficient for direct near-field optical imaging of AGP. Challenged by these limitations, three research groups combined their efforts to bring together a unique experimental technique using advanced nanofabrication methods. Their findings were published in Nature Communications on February 19. A KAIST research team led by Professor Min Seok Jang from the School of Electrical Engineering used a highly sensitive scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscope (s-SNOM) to directly measure the optical fields of the AGP waves propagating in a nanometer-thin waveguide, visualizing thousand-fold compression of mid-infrared light for the first time. Professor Jang and a post-doc researcher in his group, Sergey G. Menabde, successfully obtained direct images of AGP waves by taking advantage of their rapidly decaying yet always present electric field above graphene. They showed that AGPs are detectable even when most of their energy is flowing inside the dielectric below the graphene. This became possible due to the ultra-smooth surfaces inside the nano-waveguides where plasmonic waves can propagate at longer distances. The AGP mode probed by the researchers was up to 2.3 times more confined and exhibited a 1.4 times higher figure of merit in terms of the normalized propagation length compared to the graphene surface plasmon under similar conditions. These ultra-smooth nanostructures of the waveguides used in the experiment were created using a template-stripping method by Professor Sang-Hyun Oh and a post-doc researcher, In-Ho Lee, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Professor Young Hee Lee and his researchers at the Center for Integrated Nanostructure Physics (CINAP) of the Institute of Basic Science (IBS) at Sungkyunkwan University synthesized the graphene with a monocrystalline structure, and this high-quality, large-area graphene enabled low-loss plasmonic propagation. The chemical and physical properties of many important organic molecules can be detected and evaluated by their absorption signatures in the mid-infrared spectrum. However, conventional detection methods require a large number of molecules for successful detection, whereas the ultra-compressed AGP fields can provide strong light-matter interactions at the microscopic level, thus significantly improving the detection sensitivity down to a single molecule. Furthermore, the study conducted by Professor Jang and the team demonstrated that the mid-infrared AGPs are inherently less sensitive to losses in graphene due to their fields being mostly confined within the dielectric. The research team’s reported results suggest that AGPs could become a promising platform for electrically tunable graphene-based optoelectronic devices that typically suffer from higher absorption rates in graphene such as metasurfaces, optical switches, photovoltaics, and other optoelectronic applications operating at infrared frequencies. Professor Jang said, “Our research revealed that the ultra-compressed electromagnetic fields of acoustic graphene plasmons can be directly accessed through near-field optical microscopy methods. I hope this realization will motivate other researchers to apply AGPs to various problems where strong light-matter interactions and lower propagation loss are needed.” This research was primarily funded by the Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center of Samsung Electronics. The National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Samsung Global Research Outreach (GRO) Program, and Institute for Basic Science of Korea (IBS) also supported the work. Publication: Menabde, S. G., et al. (2021) Real-space imaging of acoustic plasmons in large-area graphene grown by chemical vapor deposition. Nature Communications 12, Article No. 938. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21193-5 Profile: Min Seok Jang, MS, PhD Associate Professorjang.firstname.lastname@example.org://jlab.kaist.ac.kr/ Min Seok Jang Research GroupSchool of Electrical Engineering http://kaist.ac.kr/en/Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)Daejeon, Republic of Korea (END)
Expanding the Biosynthetic Pathway via Retrobiosynthesis
- Researchers reports a new strategy for the microbial production of multiple short-chain primary amines via retrobiosynthesis. - KAIST metabolic engineers presented the bio-based production of multiple short-chain primary amines that have a wide range of applications in chemical industries for the first time. The research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering designed the novel biosynthetic pathways for short-chain primary amines by combining retrobiosynthesis and a precursor selection step. The research team verified the newly designed pathways by confirming the in vivo production of 10 short-chain primary amines by supplying the precursors. Furthermore, the platform Escherichia coli strains were metabolically engineered to produce three proof-of-concept short-chain primary amines from glucose, demonstrating the possibility of the bio-based production of diverse short-chain primary amines from renewable resources. The research team said this study expands the strategy of systematically designing biosynthetic pathways for the production of a group of related chemicals as demonstrated by multiple short-chain primary amines as examples. Currently, most of the industrial chemicals used in our daily lives are produced with petroleum-based products. However, there are several serious issues with the petroleum industry such as the depletion of fossil fuel reserves and environmental problems including global warming. To solve these problems, the sustainable production of industrial chemicals and materials is being explored with microorganisms as cell factories and renewable non-food biomass as raw materials for alternative to petroleum-based products. The engineering of these microorganisms has increasingly become more efficient and effective with the help of systems metabolic engineering – a practice of engineering the metabolism of a living organism toward the production of a desired metabolite. In this regard, the number of chemicals produced using biomass as a raw material has substantially increased. Although the scope of chemicals that are producible using microorganisms continues to expand through advances in systems metabolic engineering, the biological production of short-chain primary amines has not yet been reported despite their industrial importance. Short-chain primary amines are the chemicals that have an alkyl or aryl group in the place of a hydrogen atom in ammonia with carbon chain lengths ranging from C1 to C7. Short-chain primary amines have a wide range of applications in chemical industries, for example, as a precursor for pharmaceuticals (e.g., antidiabetic and antihypertensive drugs), agrochemicals (e.g., herbicides, fungicides and insecticides), solvents, and vulcanization accelerators for rubber and plasticizers. The market size of short-chain primary amines was estimated to be more than 4 billion US dollars in 2014. The main reason why the bio-based production of short-chain primary amines was not yet possible was due to their unknown biosynthetic pathways. Therefore, the team designed synthetic biosynthetic pathways for short-chain primary amines by combining retrobiosynthesis and a precursor selection step. The retrobiosynthesis allowed the systematic design of a biosynthetic pathway for short-chain primary amines by using a set of biochemical reaction rules that describe chemical transformation patterns between a substrate and product molecules at an atomic level. These multiple precursors predicted for the possible biosynthesis of each short-chain primary amine were sequentially narrowed down by using the precursor selection step for efficient metabolic engineering experiments. “Our research demonstrates the possibility of the renewable production of short-chain primary amines for the first time. We are planning to increase production efficiencies of short-chain primary amines. We believe that our study will play an important role in the development of sustainable and eco-friendly bio-based industries and the reorganization of the chemical industry, which is mandatory for solving the environmental problems threating the survival of mankind,” said Professor Lee. This paper titled “Microbial production of multiple short-chain primary amines via retrobiosynthesis” was published in Nature Communications. This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea. -Publication Dong In Kim, Tong Un Chae, Hyun Uk Kim, Woo Dae Jang, and Sang Yup Lee. Microbial production of multiple short-chain primary amines via retrobiosynthesis. Nature Communications ( https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-20423-6) -Profile Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee email@example.com Metabolic &Biomolecular Engineering National Research Laboratory http://mbel.kaist.ac.kr Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering KAIST
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