Research Picks for December 2015

Brain wave detection

EEG, electroencephalograms, is a non-invasive tool for measuring the electrical activity of the brain. Electrodes placed on the patient’s scalp measure voltage fluctuations due to ionic currents generated by brain cells, as such they can reveal normal and abnormal neural oscillations, often referred to as “brain waves”. The EEG of a patient suffering a seizure are statistically very different from that in a normal EEG. Now, Indian researchers have used statistical analysis to develop a wavelet-analysis that uses very little computational power to analysis EEG and to detect seizure patterns quickly and accurately. The further development of their approach could improve the timely diagnosis of seizures when symptoms are not manifesting themselves physically, perhaps in immobile patients.

Khan, Y.U. and Farooq, O. (2015) ‘Wavelet-based multi-class discrimination of EEG for seizure detection’, Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp.266–278.

Tagging with ants

A tagging system for online social networks and social media mimics the behaviour of a colony of ants to aggregate member interests in the network and allow people to expand their circle of friends and contacts as well as broadening their perspective in the network. Details of how the system arrives at an “optimal trust path” reveal how the system targets and tags users and/or information based on the foraging behaviour of ants. Testing the system using the online bookmarking service “Delicious” shows how effective ant-based friend recommendation can be.

Bedi, P. and Sharma, R. (2015) ‘Ant-based friends recommendation in social tagging systems’, Int. J. Swarm Intelligence, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.321–343.

Pay as you go

There are countless alternative sales models that have found their place in the online world of ecommerce, although the majority are simply examples of bartering, haggling and other transactions that have existed since the invention of money centuries ago. One model that has gained some traction particularly in the area of digital goods, is the “pay-what-you-like” model in which customers are encouraged to name their price and to pay only what they feel a product or service is worth. The concept is open to exploitation by frugal consumers who might opt to pay the minimum rather than paying the true value. Researchers in Germany have investigated what factors influence customers in establishing a price for a standardised product. They suggest that fairness, altruism, loyalty, price consciousness, income, satisfaction and reference price might affect the customer’s decision and their willingness to pay. It turns out that just how personal or social the transaction is has perhaps the strongest influence and whether or not the transaction is anonymous.

Dorn, T. and Suessmair, A. (2016) ‘Is it really worth it? A test of pay-what-you-want pricing strategies in a German consumer behaviour context’, Global Business and Economics Review, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp.82–100.

Putting a curve on banana dynamics

Americans eat a lot of bananas accounting for about 17 percent of the global banana trade, it is the country’s biggest fruit import, especially given that there is no domestic production. Imports amount to some $2.1 billion in 2014. 95% percent of bananas are imported from Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The banana market is therefore an important part of foreign exchange between South America and the USA. How the USA allocates banana imports is the subject of research by the US Department of Agriculture. The team was particularly interested in Guatemala’s emergence as the leading US supplier and the decline of Costa Rica. Pricing, lean harvests (due to hurricane damage) and a refocusing of the smaller suppliers on the European Union seems to be the major driver in the shifting banana market dynamics between South America and the USA. In addition, Costa Rica and others have simply stopped producing as many bananas having moved to growing more pineapples, for instance, as the popularity of the banana in the US has declined.

Muhammad, A., Zahniser, S. and Fonsah, E.G. (2015) ‘A dynamic analysis of US banana demand by source: a focus on Latin American suppliers’, Int. J. Trade and Global Markets, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp.281–296.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.