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Concept: Electricity


In March 1800, Alexander von Humboldt observed the extraordinary spectacle of native fisherman collecting electric eels (Electrophorus electricus) by “fishing with horses” [von Humboldt A (1807) Ann Phys 25:34-43]. The strategy was to herd horses into a pool containing electric eels, provoking the eels to attack by pressing themselves against the horses while discharging. Once the eels were exhausted, they could be safely collected. This legendary tale of South American adventures helped propel Humboldt to fame and has been recounted and illustrated in many publications, but subsequent investigators have been skeptical, and no similar eel behavior has been reported in more than 200 years. Here I report a defensive eel behavior that supports Humboldt’s account. The behavior consists of an approach and leap out of the water during which the eel presses its chin against a threatening conductor while discharging high-voltage volleys. The effect is to short-circuit the electric organ through the threat, with increasing power diverted to the threat as the eel attains greater height during the leap. Measurement of voltages and current during the behavior, and assessment of the equivalent circuit, reveal the effectiveness of the behavior and the basis for its natural selection.

Concepts: Electricity, Fish, Eel, Electric eel, Electric fish, Alexander von Humboldt, Lisa Germano, Mark Oliver Everett


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive neuromodulation technique inducing prolonged brain excitability changes and promoting cerebral plasticity, is a promising option for neurorehabilitation. Here, we review progress in research on tDCS and language functions and on the potential role of tDCS in the treatment of post-stroke aphasia. Currently available data suggest that tDCS over language-related brain areas can modulate linguistic abilities in healthy individuals and can improve language performance in patients with aphasia. Whether the results obtained in experimental conditions are functionally important for the quality of life of patients and their caregivers remains unclear. Despite the fact that important variables are yet to be determined, tDCS combined with rehabilitation techniques seems a promising therapeutic option for aphasia.

Concepts: Medicine, Electricity, Electrochemistry, Traumatic brain injury, Linguistics, Alternating current, Transcranial direct current stimulation, Broca's area


The nanoscale electrical properties of individual self-assembled GeSi quantum rings (QRs) were studied by scanning probe microscopy-based techniques. The surface potential distributions of individual GeSi QRs are obtained by scanning Kelvin microscopy (SKM). Ring-shaped work function distributions are observed, presenting that the QRs' rim has a larger work function than the QRs' central hole. By combining the SKM results with those obtained by conductive atomic force microscopy and scanning capacitance microscopy, the correlations between the surface potential, conductance, and carrier density distributions are revealed, and a possible interpretation for the QRs' conductance distributions is suggested.

Concepts: Electricity, Energy, Scanning tunneling microscope, Scanning probe microscopy, Kelvin probe force microscope, Scanning capacitance microscopy


Alternative hypotheses had been advanced as to the components forming the elongate fin coursing along the ventral margin of much of the body and tail from behind the abdominal region to the posterior margin of the tail in the Electric Eel, Electrophorus electricus. Although the original species description indicated that this fin was a composite of the caudal fin plus the elongate anal fin characteristic of other genera of the Gymnotiformes, subsequent researchers proposed that the posterior region of the fin was formed by the extension of the anal fin posteriorly to the tip of the tail, thereby forming a “false caudal fin.” Examination of ontogenetic series of the genus reveal that Electrophorus possesses a true caudal fin formed of a terminal centrum, hypural plate and a low number of caudal-fin rays. The confluence of the two fins is proposed as an additional autapomorphy for the genus. Under all alternative proposed hypotheses of relationships within the order Gymnotiformes, the presence of a caudal fin in Electrophorus optimized as being independent of the occurence of the morphologically equivalent structure in the Apteronotidae. Possible functional advantages to the presence of a caudal fin in the genus are discussed.

Concepts: Electricity, Species, Fish, Eel, Actinopterygii, Electric eel, Electric fish, Gymnotiformes


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a promising tool for cognitive enhancement and neurorehabilitation in clinical disorders in both cognitive and clinical domains (e.g., chronic pain, tinnitus). Here we suggest the potential role of tDCS in modulating cortical excitation/inhibition (E/I) balance and thereby inducing improvements. We suggest that part of the mechanism of action of tDCS can be explained by non-invasive modulations of the E/I balance.

Concepts: Electricity, Electrochemistry, Pain, Direct current, Alternating current, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Chronic pain, Transcranial direct current stimulation


Phenolic lipids were isolated from rye grains, cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL) from Anacardium occidentale, and fruit bodies of Merrulius tremellosus, and their effects on the electric eel acetylcholinesterase activity and conformation were studied. The observed effect distinctly depended on the chemical structure of the phenolic lipids that were available for interaction with the enzyme. All of the tested compounds reduced the activity of acetylcholinesterase. The degree of inhibition varied, showing a correlation with changes in the conformation of the enzyme tested by the intrinsic fluorescence of the Trp residues of the protein.

Concepts: Electricity, Enzyme, Effect, Nitrogen, Chemical compound, Eel, Cashew, Electric eel


Direct electric power generation using biological functions have become a research focus due to their low cost and cleanliness. Unlike major approaches using glucose fuels or microbial fuel cells (MFCs), we present a generation method with intrinsically high energy conversion efficiency and generation with arbitrary timing using living electric organs of Torpedo (electric rays) which are serially integrated electrocytes converting ATP into electric energy. We developed alternative nervous systems using fluid pressure to stimulate electrocytes by a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (Ach), and demonstrated electric generation. Maximum voltage and current were 1.5 V and 0.64 mA, respectively, with a duration time of a few seconds. We also demonstrated energy accumulation in a capacitor. The current was far larger than that using general cells other than electrocytes (~pA level). The generation ability was confirmed against repetitive cycles and also after preservation for 1 day. This is the first step toward ATP-based energy harvesting devices.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Electricity, Neurotransmitter, Energy conversion, Coal, Electricity generation, Electrical generator, Electric power


Current standardized treatments for cognitive impairment in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder remain limited and their efficacy restricted. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a promising tool for enhancing cognitive performance in several neuropsychiatric disorders. Nevertheless, the effects of tDCS in reducing cognitive impairment in patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have not yet been investigated.

Concepts: Electricity, Electrochemistry, Educational psychology, Alternating current, Transcranial direct current stimulation


Processing and manipulation of highly conductive pristine graphene in large quantities are still major challenges in the practical application of graphene for electric device. In the present study, we report the liquid-phase exfoliation of graphite in toluene using well-defined poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) to produce a P3HT/graphene composite. We synthesize and use regioregular P3HT with controlled molecular weights as conductive dispersants for graphene. Simple ultrasonication of graphite flakes with the P3HT successfully produces single-layer and few-layer graphene sheets dispersed in toluene. The produced P3HT/graphene composite can be used as conductive graphene ink, indicating that the P3HT/graphene composite has high electrical conductivity owing to the high conductivity of P3HT and graphene. The P3HT/graphene composite also works as an oxidation-resistant and conductive film for a copper substrate, which is due to the high gas-barrier property of graphene.

Concepts: Electricity, Electrical conductor, Aluminium, Copper, Graphite, Graphene, Electrical conductivity, Fullerene


Synthetic experimental substrates are indispensable tools which can allow researchers to model biological processes non-invasively in three-dimensional space. In this study, we investigated the capacities of an electroconductive material whose properties converge upon those of the brain. An electrically conductive material composed of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, ions, water, and trace amounts of other organic compounds and minerals was classically conditioned as inferred by electrophysiological measurements. Spectral densities evoked during the display of a conditioned stimulus (CS) probe were strongly congruent with those displayed during the conditioned-unconditioned stimulus pairing (CS-UCS). The neutral stimulus consisted of the pulsed light from a LED. The unconditioned stimulus was an alternating current. Interstimulus intervals >130 ms did not result in conditioned responses. Microscopic analysis of the chemically-fixed substratum revealed 10-200 μm wide ‘vessel structures’ within samples exposed to a stimulus. Greater complexity (increased fractal dimensions) was clearly discernable by light microscopy for stained sections of fixed samples that had been conditioned compared to various controls. The denser pixels indicated greater concentration of stain and increased canalization. Implications for learning and memory formation are discussed.

Concepts: Electricity, Classical conditioning, Fear conditioning, Ivan Pavlov, Eyeblink conditioning, Interstimulus interval