During a space shuttle mission on October 30th, 2007, astronauts set out to install two solar panels on the truss of the International Space Station (ISS). The first panel deployed successfully but they noticed a two-foot-wide tear in the second panel. 

To repair it, they had to send someone on a spacewalk while tethered to the shuttle’s inspection arm. Mercury astronauts wouldn't have blinked at the idea but modern NASA has a zero risk tolerance so not only was it dangerous - the robotic arm hadn't been used in such a way, a wrong move could have electrocuted the astronaut - but it also had political implications if an accident happened. 

Video games have beem widely available to the home market for 40 years, which means there have been 40 years of concern about what impact, negative or positive, they may have.

Soon after the first video games such as Pong and Space Invaders hit the market in the 1970s, psychologists and neuroscientists began to investigate whether playing video games might be beneficial to the brain.  Proponents speak of the neuroscience benefit of time-pressured deployment, flexible allocation, of attention as well as precise bi-manual movements while detractors worry about the time spent away from doing other things and that video games may inspire violent behavior. 

A new paper says that words can play a powerful role in what we perceive.What we see is a function not only of incoming visual information, but also how that information is interpreted in light of other visual experiences, and may even be influenced by language.

"Perceptual systems do the best they can with inherently ambiguous inputs by putting them in context of what we know, what we expect," says lead author and University of Wisconsin–Madison psychology professor Gary Lupyan. "Studies like this are helping us show that language is a powerful tool for shaping perceptual systems, acting as a top-down signal to perceptual processes. In the case of vision, what we consciously perceive seems to be deeply shaped by our knowledge and expectations."

Researchers writing in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology suggest that incubating retinal cells with vegetable oils induces biochemical and biophysical changes in the cell membrane, which may have a beneficial effect in preventing or slowing the development of retinopathy.

Dysfunction of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells is found in retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness of elderly people in developed countries. 

If you have to have light at night, a new study suggests that the color can make a big difference in how (un)healthy it is - and the answer is counter-intuitive.

Though the color blue is believed to have a calming effect, a study involving hamsters found that blue light had the worst effects on mood-related measures, followed closely by white light. The best? Red.  

Hamsters exposed to red light at night had significantly less evidence of depressive-like symptoms and changes in the brain linked to depression, compared to those that experienced blue or white light. Total darkness is still best.

The visual cortex is a fantastical portion of the brain, and one which is enlarged in our species to the extent that we can use our eyes to make sense of the world around us in amazing detail. We notice colours, shapes, motion, direction, and even three dimensions, allowing the brain to generate a coherent percept of the visual scene. Many primates like ourselves are extremely visual animals, and rely on eyes not only to inform about the world around us, but to warn of impending danger or alert about opportunity.

Far more people are willing to donate their eyes to research than actually are registered to donate, according to a paper in
Current Eye Research.

While demand for tissue remains high, the number of human eyes donated for research declined 28 percent between 1997 and 2004, said Andrew Williams, a third-year Michigan State University College of Human Medicine student.

Of roughly 200 patients with eye diseases surveyed in the study, 90 percent said they were willing to donate their eyes.

A new paper published in
Psychonomic Bulletin and Review and based on a small experiment found that people who are blindfolded employ the same strategy to intercept a running ball carrier as people who can see, which suggests that multiple areas of the brain cooperate to accomplish the task.  Or they do what they learned when they could see.

Either way, chasing down a moving object is not only a matter of sight or of sound, but of mind.

Dopamine, the neurotransmitter celebrity chemical du jour in brain stories, gets invoked a lot because it can make a lot of correlations possible - and that means fun for journalists who either want to highlight the ridiculous or scare you

Like guns? Dopamine. Are you a Democrat? Dopamine. But aside from its 'pleasure chemical' designation, dopamine has lots of roles in the brain. So if a man takes antipsychotic medication, he may lactate as a side effect, because those medications focus on dopamine. And if there is an addiction story, dopamine is invoked.

Visually impaired individuals and people with uncorrected refractive error, those who could benefit from glasses to achieve normal vision but don't wear glasses, have a significantly greater risk of diminished balance with their eyes closed on a compliant, foam surface than individuals with normal vision.

The research suggests that vision may play an important role in calibrating the vestibular system, which includes the bones and soft tissue of the inner ear, to help optimize physical balance. The work provides direction for more targeted studies on how poor vision impacts vestibular balance, and how to better develop fall prevention strategies for those with poor vision.