The challenge of protecting against chemical weapons and biological effects has evolved in order to respond the needs of modern day war on terror, with experts using machine learning and AI to find, synthesize and test chemicals. On ESOF’s fourth day, researchers discussed new platforms for finding novel toxic substances and how mapping the chemical universe can help protect us against bio weapons.

In a paper that was published yesterday on the scientific magazines Nature and Science titled “Software beats animal tests at predicting toxicity of chemicals” Thomas Hartung, a toxicologist at Johns Hopkins University working on this research, presented the results of using an AI software that has been implemented in nine toxicology tests with an accuracy of 87%. This machine-learning software that is trained on massive amounts of data can predict several kinds of toxicity and sometimes even outperforms expensive animal studies. Therefore, these computer models could replace certain standard safety studies conducted on millions of animals each year.

Another presentation that drew a lot of attention today was the one about memory and whether brain techniques can help boost it and improve mental health in later life.

With the global population living longer, mental health and well-being is becoming more and more important. Can keeping your brain stimulated by practicing a variety of activities such as learning a new language, help improve your mental health?  French and British researchers demonstrated some of the mental training activities trialed as part of the EU-funded Silver Santé study. The participants are volunteers aged 60 and over with various health profiles in a research that measures the effectiveness of a range of interventions, such as learning English and meditating. It is a five-year study launched in 2016 in France, the UK, Spain and Germany.

“The aim of our project is to study different techniques which empower the individuals to safeguards their own mental health in later life in order to prove (or not) their effectiveness and it may reduce the cost/care on public health services of age-associated diseases and help overcome health inequalities”, explains Geraldine Poisnel, team coordinator at Inserm. “Our study is unique in several ways. It is the first time that such a study takes into account the emotional dimension of ageing, it is using a complete and unique set of measurements to assess the voluntreers and it also has the longest ever meditation intervention”.