Extraordinary Genius

A new study suggests that Albert Einstein’s extraordinary genius may have been related to a uniquely shaped brain.

Researchers compared Einstein’s brain to 85 ‘normal’ human brains to determine, what, if any, unusual features it possessed.

‘Although the overall size and asymmetrical shape of Einstein’s brain were normal, the prefrontal, somatosensory, primary motor, parietal,  temporal and occipital cortices were extraordinary,’ said Dean Falk, the Hale G. Smith Professor of Anthropology at Florida State,  told Science  Daily.

EinsteinResearchers now believe the unique shape of  Einstein’s brain may have helped boost his cognitive abilities

‘These may have  provided the neurological underpinnings for some of his visuospatial and mathematical abilities, for  instance.’

Using 14 recently discovered pictures of the  genius’ brain, Falks and her colleagues were able to describe Einstein’s entire cerebral cortex.

Their study, ‘The Cerebral Cortex of Albert  Einstein: A Description and Preliminary Analysis of Unpublished Photographs,’  were published Nov. 16 in Brain, a journal on neurology.

FalkDean Falk and her colleagues were able to present for the first time a clear description of Einstein’s cortex
Einstein  Researchers used photos taken of Einstein’s  brain upon his death in 1955 to advance their findings

With permission from his family, Einstein’s  brain was removed and photographed upon his death in 1955.

It was even sectioned into 240 blocks to make histological slides.

The paper will also outline a ‘roadmap’ to Einstein’s brain made in 1955 by Dr. Thomas Harvey.

                                          Left and right views of Einstein’s brain

Most of those photos, blocks, and slides have been lost from the public eye, and the photographs used by Falk’s team are held by the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Attribution: Mail Online

Heal Thy Self

Human skin is a special material: It needs to be flexible, so that it doesn’t crack every time a user clenches his fist. It needs to be sensitive to stimuli like touch and pressure—which are measured as electrical signals, so it needs to conduct electricity. Crucially, if it’s to survive the wear and tear it’s put through every day, it needs to be able to repair itself. Now, researchers in California may have designed a synthetic version—a flexible, electrically conductive, self-healing polymer.

The result is part of a decadelong miniboom in “epidermal electronics”—the production of circuits thin and flexible enough to be attached to skin (for use as wearable heart rate monitors, for example) or to provide skinlike touch sensitivity to prosthetic limbs. The problem is that silicon, the base material of the electronics industry, is brittle. So various research groups have investigated different ways to produce flexible electronic sensors.

Chemists, meanwhile, have become increasingly interested in “self-healing” polymers. This sounds like science fiction, but several research groups have produced plastics that can join their cut edges together when scientists heat them, shine a light on them, or even just hold the cut edges together. In 2008, researchers at ESPCI ParisTech showed that a specially designed rubber compound could recover its mechanical properties after being broken and healed repeatedly.

Chemical engineer Zhenan Bao of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and her team combined these two concepts and explored the potential of  self-healing polymers in epidermal electronics. However, all the self-healing polymers demonstrated to date had had very low bulk electrical conductivities and would have been little use in electrical sensors. Writing in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers detail how they increased the conductivity of a self-healing polymer by incorporating nickel atoms, allowing electrons to “jump” between the metal atoms. The polymer is sensitive to applied forces like pressure and torsion (twisting) because such forces alter the distance between the nickel atoms, affecting the difficulty the electrons have jumping from one to the other and changing the electrical resistance of the polymer.

To demonstrate that both the mechanical and the electrical properties of the material could be repeatedly restored to their original values after the material had been damaged and healed, the researchers cut the polymer completely through with a scalpel. After pressing the cut edges together gently for 15 seconds, the researchers found the sample went on to regain 98% of its original conductivity. And crucially, just like the ESPCI group’s rubber compound, the Stanford team’s polymer could be cut and healed over and over again.

“I think it’s kind of a breakthrough,” says John J. Boland, a chemist at the CRANN nanoscience institute at Trinity College Dublin. “It’s the first time that we’ve seen this combination of both mechanical and electrical self-healing.” He is, however, skeptical about one point: “With a scalpel you can very precisely cut the material without inducing significant local mechanical deformation around the wound.” Failure due to mechanical tension, however, could stretch the material, producing significant scarring and preventing complete self-healing, he suspects.

Now, Bao and her fellow researchers are working to make the polymer more like human skin. “I think it will be very interesting if we can make the self-healing skin elastic,” she says, “because, while it’s currently flexible, it’s still not stretchable. That’s definitely something we’re moving towards for our next-generation self-healing skin.”

Attribution: Real Clear Science

New Pacemaker

More than 3 million people worldwide have their hearts regulated by a pacemaker, with numbers rising due to an aging population.

Patients face regular operations to replace worn-out batteries, but now scientists believe a person’s own beating heart could generate enough electricity to power the life-saving  devices.

Researchers at the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan have created a prototype that runs of piezoelectricity – the electrical charge generated from motion.

Future of pacemakers? The energy harvester developed at the University of Michigan can harness energy from vibrations and convert it to electricityFuture of pacemakers? The energy harvester developed at the University of Michigan can harness energy from vibrations and convert it to  electricity

Lead author Dr Amin Karami said it could be a promising technological solution for pacemakers, because they require only small amounts of power to operate.

At present the implanted devices, which send electrical impulses into the heart to help  maintain a normal heartbeat, have to be replaced every five to seven years when their batteries run out.

Dr Karami said: ‘Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years. You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is  implemented.’

The researchers stumbled across the medical breakthrough by accident. They were looking to design a light unmanned aircraft which could be powered by the vibrations of its own  wings.

They then realized that the properties of  certain power-generating piezoelectric materials could be applied to powering pacemakers.

Dr Karami: Said device could save patients from countless operations to replace batteries
Dr Karami said device could save patients from countless operations to replace batteries

For the latest study the team measured heartbeat-induced vibrations in the chest. They then used a ‘shaker’ to reproduce the vibrations in the laboratory and connected it to a prototype cardiac energy harvester they had developed.

Measurements of the prototype’s performance, based on a wide range of simulated heartbeats, showed the energy harvester generated more than 10 times the power required by modern pacemakers.

‘The device is about half the size of batteries now used in pacemakers and includes a self-powering back-up capacitor’, Dr Karami said. Researchers hope to integrate their technology into commercial pacemakers.

‘What we have proven is that under optimal conditions, this concept is working,’ Dr Karami said.

The researcher, who presented the study at a meeting of the American Heart Association, said the technology might one day also power other implantable cardiac devices, such as  defibrillators.

About 700,000 people worldwide, including 100,000 in the U.S who have heart rhythm disturbances get a pacemaker or defibrillator each year.

In the United States, pacemakers sell for about $5,000, which does not include the cost of surgery, a hospital stay and additional care.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Center for  Advancing  Translational Sciences.

Attribution: Claire Bates

New Cancer Detector

A groundbreaking device that can diagnose  cancer in just 20 minutes is being developed by British scientists.

The world’s first tumor profiler, as it is known, will allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to quickly identify all known types of cancer while the patient waits.

It is hoped the device, which will also gauge the correct drug to prescribe cancer sufferers, will be used within the next three years.

A British company has developed a device that can diagnose cancer in just 20 minutes - and decide the best drug for treatment

The device has been invented as part of a partnership between private firm QuantuMDx, Newcastle University and Sheffield University.

Scientists say the Q-Cancer device will have a dramatic impact on the rapid and accurate diagnosis of cancer.

Company officials said the device has the potential to prolong the lives of the 12 million newly diagnosed cancer sufferers around the world.

It will enable surgeons to immediately remove most, if not all of the tumor, and allow cancer specialists to prescribe the correct treatment regime according to the type of cancer developed.

The device makes use of advanced nanotechnology, analyzing submicroscopic amounts of tissue to work out the type of cancer, its genetic make-up and how far it has developed.

Professor John Burn (left), a renowned geneticist, and Jonathan O'Halloran, both of QuantuMDx, the company developing the device
Professor John Burn (left), a renowned geneticist, and Jonathan O’Halloran, both of QuantuMDx, the company developing the device

Professor Sir John Burn, the Newcastle University academic who is also medical director of QuantuMDx, said: ‘We have a world leading position to deliver complex DNA tumor testing to the routine pathology lab or even to the operating theatre.

‘A low-cost device requiring no technical expertise will extract, amplify and analyze tumor DNA to make sure the patient gets the right treatment first time and without delay.’

Chief executive Elaine Warburton said:  ‘Currently tumor samples are sent away to a centralized sequencing laboratory, which can take several weeks to turnaround results, usually at a very high price which is not routinely affordable to many.

‘As far as we are aware, QuantuMDx’s current underlying technologies, which can break up a sample and extract the DNA in under five minutes represents a world first for complex molecular diagnostics.

Dr Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK’s senior  science information officer, said: ‘Using the latest technology to analyze tumors quickly and cheaply could make a real difference to cancer patients and we will watch these developments with interest. It will need thorough testing to show it meets the standards required  for routine use.’

Attribution: Anna Hodgekiss

Spare Parts

A kidney-like organ grown from scratch in the lab has been shown to work in animals – an achievement that could be the prelude to growing spare kidneys for someone from their own stem cells.

Donated kidneys are in huge demand worldwide.

Christodoulos Xinaris of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Bergamo, Italy, and his colleagues extracted cells from the kidneys of mouse embryos as they grew in the mother. The cells formed clumps that could be grown for a week in the lab to become “organoids” containing the fine plumbing of nephrons – the basic functional unit of the kidney. A human kidney can contain over 1 million nephrons.

Chemical broth

Next, Xinaris’s team marinated the organoids in a chemical broth called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which makes blood vessels grow. Then they transplanted the organoids onto the kidneys of adult rats.

By injecting the rats with extra VEGF, the researchers encouraged the new tissue to grow its own blood vessels within days. The tissue also developed features called glomeruli, chambers where blood enters the nephrons to be cleansed and filtered.

The researchers then injected the animals with albumin proteins labelled with markers that give out light. They found that the kidney grafts successfully filtered the proteins from the bloodstream, proving that they could crudely perform the main function of real kidneys.

“This is the first kidney tissue in the world totally made from single cells,” says Xinaris. “We have functional, viable, vascularized tissue, able to filter blood and absorb large molecules from it. The final aim is to construct human tissues.”

“This technique could not be used clinically, but it shows a possible way forward for developing a functional kidney in the future,” says Anthony Hollander, a tissue engineer at the University of Bristol, UK. Although it will be several years before lab-grown tissues can benefit patients, the team says that the latest findings are a key milestone on the way.

Xinaris is currently working out how to add ducts to siphon urine to the bladder. So too are other groups. “We can now engineer kidneys with a proper drainage system,” says Jamie Davies at the University of Edinburgh, UK, who is a co-author on the Xinaris paper. “But we’ve not put these in animals yet.”

Cell sources needed

The other stumbling block is finding sources of human cells that will behave like the mouse embryonic kidney cells and self-assemble into complex kidney structures such as nephrons.

Obviously, says Davies, it is unethical to extract kidney embryonic cells from growing human embryos, but several potential cell sources are emerging. These include stem cells from amniotic fluid or the bone marrow, and adult cells such as skin cells converted in the lab into primitive kidney cells.

Both Davies and Xinaris are now working with human cells, incorporating them into the cultures of mouse cells that already grow into kidney tissue. Davies’s team is growing the kidneys within membranes taken from hen’s eggs, which allows them to view and manipulate the whole process.

Kidneys are the latest of several lab-grown organs and replacement parts to be developed, including livers, windpipes, parts of voiceboxes and hearts

The biggest question of all, however, is whether large enough grafts can be made to benefit patients. “We don’t know whether these little fetal kidneys could grow large enough to become fully functioning tissue in humans,” says Davies.

Attribution: NewScientist

Forever Young

Marine animals could hold the key to looking young

Sea urchins could hold the key to youth

Sea urchins could hold the key to youth

Sea cucumbers and sea urchins are able to change the elasticity of collagen within their bodies, and could hold the key to maintaining a youthful appearance, according to scientists at Queen Mary, University of London.

The researchers investigated the genes of marine creatures such as sea urchins and sea cucumbers, known as echinoderms. They found the genes for “messenger molecules” known as peptides, which are released by cells and tell other cells in their bodies what to do.

The study was published online in the journals PLOS One and General and Comparative Endocrinology.

Project leader Professor Maurice Elphick, from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: “Probably the most exciting discovery from our research was finding genes encoding peptides that cause rapid stiffening or softening of collagen in the body wall of sea cucumbers.

“Although sea urchins and sea cucumbers may not look much like us, we are actually quite closely related to them. As we get older, changes in collagen cause wrinkling of our skin, so if we can find out how peptides cause the body wall of a sea cucumber to quickly become stiff or soft then our research might lead to new ways to keeping skin looking young and healthy.”

The scientists analyzed the DNA sequences of thousands of genes in the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and the edible sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus and specifically searched for genes encoding peptide messenger molecules. Rapid advances in technology used to sequence genes made the research possible.

“When the human genome was sequenced over a decade ago it cost millions of pounds – now all of the genes in an animal can be sequenced for just a few thousand pounds,” Professor Elphick said.

“We also found that sea urchins have a peptide that is very similar to calcitonin, a hormone that regulates our bones to make sure that they remain strong,” Professor Elphick said.

“So it will be fascinating to find out if calcitonin-type peptides have a similar sort of role in spiny-skinned creatures like sea urchins.”

“These types of advances in basic science are fascinating in their own right but they are also important because they underpin the medical breakthroughs that lead to improvement in the quality of people’s lives.”

Attribution: Real Clear Science

Ban Football?

by: the Common Constitutionalist

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program a month or two ago. He was discussing the NFL, football in general, concussions and other injuries. The crux of his monologue was his claim that, due to injuries, within a decade or two, there will be no more football.

People called in to his program saying he was crazy. The NFL, after all, is not only wildly popular, but a veritable money-making machine for all involved. No one in their right mind would ever try to put the brakes on that gravy train.

As Rush often says, “Don’t doubt me”.

Well, I for one, do not doubt him. His track record is very good. He claims to know liberals better than they know themselves. As he puts it rather ingloriously, “I know liberals as well as I know my own glorious naked body”. Scary thought, I know.  Try not to dwell on that.

Liberals are really quite predictable. They are all Nannies at heart. They don’t think, they feel. They feel somehow better equipped to solve the worlds problems than us conservatives, that “something” always must be done. Liberals are also the kings of the knee-jerk reaction and contradiction.

If they see something they don’t like, unlike a conservative, who can simply avoid it, the liberal must stop it, ban it or shut it down.

Of course the liberal must employ the government to do their bidding. The government is the only entity large enough and with enough authority to demand society cease whatever behavior or product the liberal finds so offensive.

It always happens the same way. It begins small with a “concerned citizen” suggesting to a local politician that something should be regulating. The politician, seeing a golden opportunity, provides a knee-jerk law or regulation. Maybe not enough motorists are wearing seatbelts, or helmets, or car seats. Second hand smoke, salt, sugar, trans fats are all killing us. “Do it for the children”, they exclaim. If it saves just one life, it will be worth it (except for abortion). Herein also lies the contradiction, or paradox. One example is cigarette smoking. The liberal desperately needs the tax revenue from smokers to fund their silly government programs but yet they call for regulations virtually banning the product.

Then “science” or “medicine” is employed, proving the “concerned citizen” right. It could be faux-science (global warming), but that matters not. As long as it advances the agenda and the agenda is always for our own good. Liberals care more than we do, so we couldn’t very well be left to fend for ourselves. What do we think this is, a free society?

Before you know it, there has been a state law passed, regulating this or that and finally an overarching federal law.

It’s always the same tune, just with different lyrics.

That brings us full circle, back to football. Even I was surprised how fast this has progressed.

When Limbaugh predicts something, it usually takes years for society to catch up.

Don’t Doubt Him!

(I live in New Hampshire, so don’t doubt me when I say, Dover is a liberal stronghold. I don’t know what their “Nannies per capita” are, but it’s up there.)

DOVER, N.H. (AP) — A proposal to drop football at one New Hampshire school district has surprised and upset many residents.

The idea was suggested at a Dover School Board meeting Monday night by board member Paul Butler, a retired physician.

Butler said the potential for concussions is too great of a risk. He said concussions on developing brains can have a long-lasting impact, including the possibility of brain damage, depression and dementia.

Butler said he knows stopping the game isn’t popular.

“I suspect it’s going to take a long time. This might be the first volley. It took a long time for people to wear bicycle helmets. It took a long time for people to stop smoking,” he said.

The board later released a statement that Butler’s comments were his reaction to various studies he’s read and is not the opinion of the board itself. It said termination of the high school football program isn’t on the agenda at this time.

Dover Athletic Director Peter Wotton said safer tackling is being coached and players are being supervised by doctors.

“Any sport is a target, because it feel like anytime you put kids in motion — there is an inherent risk to playing sports and taking part in athletics, and for some reason the target is on football. I don’t think it should be on anything,” he said.

Wotton said girls basketball ranked higher in concussions in 2011.

A new law in New Hampshire is aimed at protecting student athletes from concussions and other head injuries. Under the law, coaches and other athletic officials who suspect that an athlete has suffered a concussion will be required to remove him or her from play immediately, and the athlete will have to get written authorization from a health care provider and a parent before returning.

Information about such injuries also will be distributed to all youth athletes each year, and parents will have to sign forms indicating they had read the information before the start of practice or competition.

And so it begins. Don’t Doubt Him!

Power of Kawaii

One thing the internet has  shown us, it is that few  people can resist looking at images of cute animals.

Now new research has  revealed that looking at cute images of baby animals doesn’t just make you feel  warm and fuzzy inside, but can actually improve your work performance and help  you concentrate.

The study comes from  researchers at Hiroshima University. In Japanese, the word ‘kawaii’ means cute,  and so the report is rather appropriately entitled ‘Power of Kawaii’.

The subjects were told the  pictures, which they viewed during a ‘break’ in the tasks, were for a separate  experiment.

In the Operation  experiment, the participants who were shown images of puppies and kittens  performed their tasks better after the break than those who looked at cats and  dogs. Performance scores improved by 44%. They also took their time. The time it  took to complete the task increased by 12%.

‘This finding suggests that  viewing cute images makes participants behave more deliberately and perform  tasks with greater time and care,’ said the researchers, according to the  published paper.

Similar jumps in  performance were seen in the numbers experiment, suggesting that looking at cute  images increases attentiveness even when the task at hand is unlikely to raise  feelings of empathy.

The group that saw kitten  and puppies were more accurate, improving their scores by about 16%. They were  also faster, increasing the number of random numerical sequences they got  through by about 13%. There was no change among groups that saw cats and dogs,  and food images.

‘Kawaii things not only  make us happier, but also affect our behavior,’ wrote the researchers, led by  cognitive psychologist Hiroshi Nittono. ‘This study shows that viewing cute  things improves subsequent performance in tasks that require behavioral  carefulness, possibly by narrowing the breadth of attentional  focus.’

The study’s authors write  that in the future cute objects could be used as a way to trigger emotions ‘to  induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and  office work.’

Melts in Your Mouth or in Your Hand

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass.–Tiny, fully biocompatible electronic devices that are able to dissolve harmlessly into their surroundings after functioning for a precise amount of time have been created by a research team led by biomedical engineers at Tufts University in collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dubbed “transient electronics,” the new class of silk-silicon devices promises a generation of medical implants that never need surgical removal, as well as environmental monitors and consumer electronics that can become compost rather than trash.

“These devices are the polar opposite of conventional electronics whose integrated circuits are designed for long-term physical and electronic stability,” says Fiorenzo Omenetto, professor of biomedical engineering at Tufts School of Engineering and a senior and corresponding author on the paper “A Physically Transient Form of Silicon Electronics” published in the September 28, 2012, issue of Science.

“Transient electronics offer robust performance comparable to current devices but they will fully resorb into their environment at a prescribed time—ranging from minutes to years, depending on the application,” Omenetto explains. “Imagine the environmental benefits if cell phones, for example, could just dissolve instead of languishing in landfills for years.”

The futuristic devices incorporate the stuff of conventional integrated circuits — silicon and magnesium — but in an ultrathin form that is then encapsulated in silk protein.

“While silicon may appear to be impermeable, eventually it dissolves in water,” says Omenetto. The challenge, he notes, is to make the electrical components dissolve in minutes rather than eons.

Researchers led by UIUC’s John Rogers — the other senior and corresponding author — are pioneers in the engineering of ultrathin flexible electronic components.   Only a few tens of nanometers thick, these tiny circuits, from transistors to interconnects, readily dissolve in a small amount of water, or body fluid, and are harmlessly resorbed, or assimilated. Controlling materials at these scales makes it possible to fine-tune how long it takes the devices to dissolve.

Device dissolution is further controlled by sheets of silk protein in which the electronics are supported and encapsulated.   Extracted from silkworm cocoons, silk protein is one of the strongest, most robust materials known. It’s also fully biodegradable and biofriendly and is already used for some medical applications.   Omenetto and his Tufts colleagues have discovered how to adjust the properties of silk so that it degrades at a wide range of intervals.

The researchers successfully demonstrated the new platform by testing a thermal device designed to monitor and prevent post-surgical infection (demonstrated in a rat model) and also created a 64 pixel digital camera.

Collaborating with Omenetto from Tufts Department of Biomedical Engineering were Hu Tao, research assistant professor and co-first author on the paper; Mark A. Brenckle, doctoral student; Bruce Panilaitis, program administrator; Miaomiao Yang, doctoral student; and David L. Kaplan, Stern Family Professor of Engineering and department chair. In addition to Tufts and UIUC, co-authors on the paper also came from Seoul National University, Northwestern University, Dalian University of Technology (China), Nano Terra (Boston), and the University of Arizona.

In the future, the researchers envision more complex devices that could be adjustable in real time or responsive to changes in their environment, such as chemistry, light or pressure.

The work was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Multi University Research Initiative program, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health under award EB002520 and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Attribution: Real Clear Science

Obamacare is Coming! Hide Your Wallets!

These are the Top 5 Worst Taxes ‘Obamacare’ Will Impose in 2013

from:  at The Blaze

The Grover Norquist-founded Americans for Tax Reform, a 501(c)(4) lobbying group that opposes “all tax increases as a matter of principle,” on Friday released a list of what, they say, are the top five worst taxes The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e. “Obamacare”) will impose on Americans in 2013.

Here they are [all block quotes via the report]:

The ‘Obamacare’ Medical Device Tax

Americans For Tax Reform Releases a List of the Top 5 Worst Taxes Obamacare Will Impose in 2013Tax Increase: $20 Billion

Medical device manufacturers employ 409,000 people in 12,000 plants across the country. Obamacare imposes a new 2.3 percent excise tax on gross sales — even if the company does not earn a profit in a given year. In addition to killing small business jobs and impacting research and development budgets, this will increase the cost of your health care — making everything from pacemakers to prosthetics more expensive.

The ‘Obamacare’ ‘Special Needs Kids Tax’

Americans For Tax Reform Releases a List of the Top 5 Worst Taxes Obamacare Will Impose in 2013Tax Increase: $13 Billion

The 30-35 million American who use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) at work to pay for their family’s basic medical needs will face a new government cap of $2,500 (currently the accounts are unlimited under federal law, though employers are allowed to set a cap).

There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap will be particularly cruel and onerous: parents of special needs children.  There are several million families with special needs children in the United States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs education. Tuition rates at one leading school that teaches special needs children in Washington, D.C. (National Child Research Center) can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars can be used to pay for this type of special needs education. This Obamacare tax provision will limit the options available to these families.

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The ‘Obamacare’ Surtax on Investment Income

Americans For Tax Reform Releases a List of the Top 5 Worst Taxes Obamacare Will Impose in 2013Tax Increase: $123 Billion

This is a new, 3.8 percentage point surtax on investment income earned in households making at least $250,000 ($200,000 single).  This would result in the following top tax rates on investment income:

The table above also incorporates the scheduled hike in the capital gains rate from 15 to 20 percent, and the scheduled hike in dividends rate from 15 to 39.6 percent.

The ‘Obamacare’ ‘Haircut’ for Medical Itemized Deductions

Americans For Tax Reform Releases a List of the Top 5 Worst Taxes Obamacare Will Impose in 2013Tax Increase: $15.2 Billion

Currently, those Americans facing high medical expenses are allowed a deduction to the extent that those expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI).  This tax increase imposes a threshold of 10 percent of AGI. By limiting this deduction, Obamacare widens the net of taxable income for the sickest Americans.  This tax provision will most harm near retirees and those with modest incomes but high medical bills.

The ‘Obamacare’ Medicare Payroll Tax Hike

Americans For Tax Reform Releases a List of the Top 5 Worst Taxes Obamacare Will Impose in 2013Tax Increase: $86.8 Billion

The Medicare payroll tax is currently 2.9 percent on all wages and self-employment profits.  Under this tax hike, wages and profits exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 in the case of married couples) will face a 3.8 percent rate instead. This is a direct marginal income tax hike on small business owners, who are liable for self-employment tax in most cases. The table below compares current law vs. the Obamacare Medicare Payroll Tax Hike: