The World's First VR Brain Surgery Is Here


A lot of consumers are focused on virtual reality as a means of immersing themselves in games or traveling to exotic locales, but the technology holds some incredible potential as a learning tool. One recent—and graphic—example is VR brain surgery, which allows viewers to examine the amygdala like they never thought possible.

In the experience, which was produced and overseen by Fundamental VR at the Royal London Hospital, users will be able to follow along with surgeons as a patient is wheeled into the operating room and undergoes a real neurosurgical procedure to repair two aneurysms (balloon-like bulges in an artery that can rupture). Cameras installed in the OR and GoPro units on the surgeons provide a first person-perspective; you can also switch to the POV of the patient as instruments enter and exit your field of view.

The idea was embraced by surgeons at Royal London, who see it as having the potential to be a valuable training tool for neurosurgeons by mimicking "hands on" experience. Although the footage is best seen using a VR headset, you can get a feel for the experience in the YouTube footage below. Did we mention it's very, very graphic?

More sophisticated versions of the program—including tactile feedback for users—are expected to be implemented in Fundamental VR's surgical training programs in the future. Currently, programs like Surgical Navigation Advanced Platform (SNAP) are being used at major institutions like Stanford University and University of California, Los Angeles to map the brain prior to incision.

If this whets your appetite for witnessing brain operation footage, don't forget we filmed and broadcast a live brain surgery in partnership with National Geographic. You can still check it out here.

[h/t Wired]

Why You Shouldn't Skip the Flu Shot This Year

Americans aren’t too vigilant about getting flu shots. During the 2016-17 influenza season, the vaccination rate for adults was just 48.6 percent, far below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s goal of 70 percent coverage. Parents tend to be a little better with kids—in 2016, the rate for children aged 6 to 23 months was 76.3 percent—but overall, we tend to meet each flu season with apathy.

That might be an especially bad idea this year. Here’s why.

In 2017-18, the flu hospitalized 900,000 people, the highest number in modern history. About 80,000 people died of flu, the most in decades. A particularly virulent strain, H3N2, was partly to blame. Vaccines were effective in roughly one out of four people infected with that specific virus and 40 percent effective overall. We also have more people aging into a higher-risk category. Public health experts agree the flu will continue to be a worthy adversary, with another cascade of potentially preventable serious illness or death this year.

To minimize your chances of getting sick, the advice is unanimous: Get a flu shot. Because it takes your body up to two weeks to create an immune response, getting a shot before Halloween is ideal. While they’re not perfect and can’t guarantee immunity, the shot's benefits are still considerable. The chances that you’ll avoid becoming ill are significantly higher. You’re also far less likely to spread the virus to others. And if you do develop symptoms, you’re less likely to develop complications from pneumonia. If you’re pregnant, the shot will assist your already overtaxed immune system as well as provide protection for your child after birth.

Above all, don't try to talk yourself out of it. In a 2015 poll conducted by National Public Radio (NPR) and Truven Health Analytics, roughly half of respondents believed they were healthy enough to fight the virus on their own. Some were concerned about side effects (such as mild soreness at the injection site, which usually lasts only a day or two) or that the shot itself could be infectious. (It isn't.)

The vaccine isn’t the only preventative step. It’s vital to get enough sleep to keep your immune system strong. The CDC also recommends washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth after coming into contact with potentially contaminated surfaces.

[h/t healthline]

The Most Googled Health Symptoms in Each State

It’s no secret that the internet has radically changed our approach to health care. Symptoms that once had us going to the doctor can now be assessed online with varying degrees of accuracy, reassuring us that it’s either benign or that death is imminent.

According to Medicare review site, the medical conditions we worry about can vary widely by region. The site recently examined Google Trends for the most widely-searched symptoms and then looked to see which states had the highest volume of searches for each.

The takeaway: People are worried about some very strange conditions.

A map of the most-Googled health symptoms in each state

The West Coast seems preoccupied with more conventional maladies—stomach issues, including food poisoning and morning sickness. Creeping closer to the East Coast, things get very specific.

Wisconsin and South Carolina residents seem to be curious about the color of their poop and whether light or green-colored stool is indicative of anything. (Maybe: clay-colored stool could indicate problems with your bile duct, while green stool might mean food is moving through the large intestine too quickly. That, or you’re eating a lot of vegetables.)

Utah’s investigation of morning sickness checks out: It holds the second-place position among states for the number of babies born annually. Nebraskans might be getting a surplus of Viagra commercials; Ohio is doing its due diligence on the problems of being uncircumcised.

The most searched condition in a fifth of states? Stress. Googling “sweaty palms” probably isn’t helping.