Michigan Findings and Facts for November 2023

Check out intriguing findings from researchers across Michigan in this month’s Study Breaks.
Stock photograph by Andrea Piacquadio via pexels.com

In our November 2023 issue, we shared some of the most interesting recent findings from Michigan researchers. Explore some of those findings here.

Steering Away from Cars

Electric vehicles have been touted as the transportation of the future, and both Uber and Lyft have pledged to make the switch to EVs by 2030. But how much of an impact would that actually make? Not much, according to researchers at the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon University.

They estimate that while greenhouse gas emissions from ride-hailing services would go down 40-45 percent, the overall costs to society would decrease as little as 3 percent per trip. Their study, which analyzed recent Chicago-area data, found that EVs have to travel greater distances to refuel, resulting in increased traffic, collisions, and fossil fuel plant pollution — canceling out much of the benefits.

“Overall, our findings made it very clear that a large part of the damage that cars cause is … unlikely to be eliminated by electrification,” says U-M professor Parth Vaishnav. “A bigger win would be to dramatically reduce our dependence on cars.”

New Tech Reads Minds, Sort of

Scientists at Michigan State University, collaborating with U-M, have developed new brain imaging technology to examine how memories are made. This new imaging system can capture brain activity at an unprecedented level of detail: Current technology can record only several hundred neurons, while the MSU prototype can capture up to 20,000. The goal is to identify the specific neurons used to create memories.

“We want to know how memories are made and how they fail to be made in people with memory disorders like Alzheimer’s disease,” says Mark Reimers, a neuroscience professor at MSU. “We hope we will be the first people to observe and document memory formation across multiple regions of the cortex.”

The research is supported by a $750,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Older Detroiters Face Barriers to Telehealth

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine was a potential lifesaver for older people — except for those who lacked internet access or know-how.

A new report from two professors at Michigan universities documents how the shift to telehealth in 2020 left many older Detroiters behind. Over a third of Detroit residents age 65-plus have at least three chronic health conditions, making access to health care imperative. But the city has a low rate of internet connectivity — in fact, about 25 percent of Detroit’s population has no internet in their homes, far more than the state average.

“A legacy of racist, discriminatory policies in Detroit have impeded education and health and literacy,” says Wayne State University professor Carrie Leach, who wrote the article with Nicholas Schroeck of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. “Combine that with poor access to the internet, and risks of poor health outcomes rise dramatically.”

This story is from the November 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.