Archive for category Uncategorized

[WEB SITE] Neuroprosthetics: Recovering from injury using the power of your mind

Neuroprosthetics, also known as brain-computer interfaces, are devices that help people with motor or sensory disabilities to regain control of their senses and movements by creating a connection between the brain and a computer. In other words, this technology enables people to move, hear, see, and touch using the power of thought alone. How do neuroprosthetics work? We take a look at five major breakthroughs in this field to see how far we have come – and how much farther we can go – using just the power of our minds.
woman with electrodes attached to skull]

Using electrodes, a computer, and the power of thought, neuroprosthetic devices can help patients with motor or sensory difficulties to move, feel, hear, and see.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide lose control of their limbs as a result of an injury to their spinal cord. In the United States, up to 347,000 people are living with spinal cord injury (SCI), and almost half of these people cannot move from the neck down.

For these people, neuroprosthetic devices can offer some much-needed hope.

Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) usually involve electrodes – placed on the human skull, on the brain’s surface, or in the brain’s tissue – that monitor and measure the brain activity that occurs when the brain “thinks” a thought. The pattern of this brain activity is then “translated” into a code, or algorithm, which is “fed” into a computer. The computer, in turn, transforms the code into commands that produce movement.

Neuroprosthetics are not just useful for people who cannot move their arms and legs; they also help those with sensory disabilities. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that approximately 360 million people across the globe have a disabling form of hearing loss, while another 39 million people are blind.

For some of these people, neuroprosthetics such as cochlear implants and bionic eyes have given them back their senses and, in some cases, they have enabled them to hear or see for the very first time.

Here, we review five of the most significant developments in neuroprosthetic technology, looking at how they work, why they are helpful, and how some of them will develop in the future.

Ear implant

Probably the “oldest” neuroprosthetic device out there, cochlear implants (or ear implants) have been around for a few decades and are the epitome of successful neuroprosthetics.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved cochlear implants as early as 1980, and by 2012, almost 60,000 U.S. individuals had had the implant. Worldwide, more than 320,000 people have had the device implanted.

A cochlear implant works by bypassing the damaged parts of the ear and stimulating the auditory nerve with signals obtained using electrodes. The signals relayed through the auditory nerve to the brain are perceived as sounds, although hearing through an ear implant is quite different from regular hearing.

Although imperfect, cochlear implants allow users to distinguish speech in person or over the phone, with the media abound with emotional accounts of people who were able to hear themselves for the first time using this sensory neuroprosthetic device.

Here, you can watch a video of a 29-year-old woman who hears herself for the first time using a cochlear implant:

Eye implant

The first artificial retina – called the Argus II – is made entirely from electrodes implanted in the eye and was approved by the FDA in February 2013. In much the same way as the cochlear implant, this neuroprosthetic bypasses the damaged part of the retina and transmits signals, captured by an attached camera, to the brain.

This is done by transforming the images into light and dark pixels that get turned into electrical signals. The electrical signals are then sent to the electrodes, which, in turn, send the signal to the brain’s optic nerve.

While Argus II does not restore vision completely, it does enable patients with retinitis pigmentosa – a condition that damages the eye’s photoreceptors – to distinguish contours and shapes, which, many patients report, makes a significant difference in their lives.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a neurodegenerative disease that affects around 100,000 people in the U.S. Since its approval, more than 200 patients with retinitis pigmentosa have had the Argus II implant, and the company that designed it is currently working to make color detection possible as well as improve the resolution of the device.

Neuroprosthetics for people with SCI

Almost 350,000 people in the U.S. are estimated to live with SCI, and 45 percent of those who had an SCI since 2010 are considered tetraplegic – that is, paralyzed from the neck down.

At Medical News Today, we recently reported on a groundbreaking one-patient experiment that enabled a man with quadriplegia to move his arms using the sheer power of his thoughts.

Bill Kochevar had electrodes surgically fitted into his brain. After training the BCI to “learn” the brain activity that matched the movements he thought about, this activity was turned into electrical pulses that were then transmitted back to the electrodes in his brain.

In much the same way that the cochlear and visual implants bypass the damaged area, so too does this BCI area avoid the “short circuit” between the brain and the patient’s muscles created by SCI.

With the help of this neuroprosthetic, the patient was able to successfully drink and feed himself. “It was amazing,” Kochevar says, “because I thought about moving my arm and it did.” Kochevar was the first patient in the world to test the neuroprosthetic device, which is currently only available for research purposes.

You can learn more about this neuroprosthetic from the video below:

However, this is not where SCI neuroprosthetics stop. The Courtine Lab – which is led by neuroscientist Gregoire Courtine in Lausanne, Switzerland – is tirelessly working to help injured people to regain control of their legs. Their research efforts with rats have enabled paralyzed rodents to walk, achieved by using electrical signals and making them stimulate nerves in the severed spinal cord.

“We believe that this technology could one day significantly improve the quality of life of people confronted with neurological disorders,” says Silvestro Micera, co-author of the experiment and neuroengineer at Courtine Labs.

Recently, Prof. Courtine has also led an international team of researchers to successfully create voluntary leg movement in rhesus monkeys. This was the first time that a neuroprosthetic was used to enable walking in nonhuman primates.

However, “it may take several years before all the components of this intervention can be tested in people,” Prof. Courtine says.

An arm that feels

Silvestro Micera has also led other projects on neuroprosthetics, among which is the arm that “feels.” In 2014, MNT reportedon the first artificial hand that was enhanced with sensors.

Researchers measured the tension in the tendons of the artificial hand that control grasping movements and turned it into electric current. In turn, using an algorithm, this was translated into impulses that were then sent to the nerves in the arm, producing a sense of touch.

Since then, the prosthetic arm that “feels” has been improved even more. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, both in Pennsylvania, tested the BCI on a single patient with quadriplegia: Nathan Copeland.

The scientists implanted a sheath of microelectrodes below the surface of Copeland’s brain – namely, in his primary somatosensory cortex – and connected them to a prosthetic arm that was fitted with sensors. This enabled the patient to feel sensations of touch, which felt, to him, as though they belonged to his own paralyzed hand.

While blindfolded, Copeland was able to identify which finger on his prosthetic arm was being touched. The sensations he perceived varied in intensity and were felt as differing in pressure. 

Neuroprosthetics for neurons?

We have seen that brain-controlled prosthetics can restore patients’ sense of touch, hearing, sight, and movement, but could we build prosthetics for the brain itself?

Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra managed to artificially grow brain cells and create functional brain circuits, paving the way for neuroprosthetics for the brain.

By applying nanowire geometry to a semiconductor wafer, Dr. Vini Gautam, of ANU’s Research School of Engineering, and colleagues came up with a scaffolding that allows brain cells to grow and connect synaptically.

Project group leader Dr. Vincent Daria, from the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Australia, explains the success of their research:

We were able to make predictive connections between the neurons and demonstrated them to be functional with neurons firing synchronously. This work could open up a new research model that builds up a stronger connection between materials nanotechnology with neuroscience.”

Neuroprosthetics for the brain might one day help patients who have experienced a stroke or who live with neurodegenerative diseases to recover neurologically.

Every year in the U.S., almost 800,000 people have had a stroke, and more than 130,000 people die from it. Neurodegenerative diseases are also widespread, with 5 million U.S. adults estimated to live with Alzheimer’s disease, 1 million to have Parkinson’s, and 400,000 to experience multiple sclerosis.

Learn about Facebook’s newest endeavour: the development of BCIs.

Source: Neuroprosthetics: Recovering from injury using the power of your mind – Medical News Today

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

[Abstract] Linking of the quality of life in neurological disorders (Neuro-QoL) to the international classification of functioning, disability and health

Abstract

Background

The quality of life in neurological disorders (Neuro-QoL) is a U.S. National Institutes of Health initiative that produced a set of self-report measures of physical, mental, and social health experienced by adults or children who have a neurological condition or disorder.

Objective

To describe the content of the Neuro-QoL at the item level using the World Health Organization’s international classification of functioning, disability and health (ICF).

Methods

We assessed the Neuro-QoL for its content coverage of functioning and disability relative to each of the four ICF domains (i.e., body functions, body structures, activities and participation, and environment). We used second-level ICF three-digit codes to classify items into categories within each ICF domain and computed the percentage of categories within each ICF domain that were represented in the Neuro-QoL items.

Results

All items of Neuro-QoL could be mapped to the ICF categories at the second-level classification codes. The activities and participation domain and the mental functions category of the body functions domain were the areas most often represented by Neuro-QoL. Neuro-QoL provides limited coverage of the environmental factors and body structure domains.

Conclusions

Neuro-QoL measures map well to the ICF. The Neuro-QoL–ICF-mapped items provide a blueprint for users to select appropriate measures in ICF-based measurement applications.

Source: Linking of the quality of life in neurological disorders (Neuro-QoL) to the international classification of functioning, disability and health | SpringerLink

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

[WEB SITE] Can wine protect your neurons? Study investigates

Excessive alcohol consumption has a wide range of harmful health effects, but some previous research has indicated that a moderate intake of wine can have positive cognitive effects. A new study investigates why that may be the case.
[pouring a glass of red wine]

New research looks at the molecular mechanism behind the neuroprotective effect of wine compounds.

Although the negative effects of alcohol consumption are well-known, some studies have indicated that a moderate intake of red wine may delay age-related cognitive impairment, as well as the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Moderate consumption was defined in these studies as under 250 milliliters per day.

A new study – published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition – set out to investigate the molecular mechanism behind this.

The researchers – led by Dr. Esteban-Fernández, from the Institute of Food Science Research in Madrid, Spain – decided to examine the gut metabolites that the human body produces after wine consumption.

Wine compounds prevent neuronal death, gut microbiome plays key role

Dr. Esteban-Fernández and team selected these metabolites from the urine and feces of people who consume wine regularly and moderately.

The researchers then added these metabolites to human neurons. The researchers induced stress in these human cells to simulate the conditions that usually lead to neuronal death in neurodegenerative diseases.

The study revealed that wine-derived metabolites prevent the neurons from dying under these stress conditions.

Surprisingly, the results also showed that these metabolites are active at different points during the cell signaling process that ultimately leads to neuronal death.

According to the researchers, this means that the exact composition of the wine metabolites is crucial for this protective effect. Furthermore, this composition depends, in turn, on the composition of the gut microbiome – that is, the trillions of microorganisms living inside our intestines.

The gut microbiome is responsible for processing and breaking down wine into various metabolites, including phenolic acid and aroma compounds – wine compounds whose neuroprotective effects were demonstrated in this study.

“In other words, differences in our gut microbiota are leading to the different metabolites. Which underpins the idea that humans benefit from food in different ways,” the study’s lead author explains.

Healthful diet is crucial for healthy brain function

“This individual difference is a factor not to be neglected to understand the health effects of certain foods. We are now in need to advance our understanding of the effect of diet in the promotion of normal brain function,” Dr. Esteban-Fernández adds.

She also comments on the importance of a balanced diet for preventing neurodegeneration:

It is very important to understand that certain food compounds are responsible for this health benefit in protecting against the onset of neurodegenerative diseases; no medication was involved. I am not advocating to replace medicines by diet, but I want to raise more awareness [on] how your diet is helping to prevent diseases or reduces the risk of getting sick. It is more than feasible to go to the supermarket and buy vegetables and fruit: it depends only on the individuals to maintain a balanced diet.”

Although she advocates for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low in saturated fats, Dr. Esteban-Fernández also cautions against an excessive preoccupation with nutrition and urges the public to discern between accurate and false diet information.

“Society is nowadays full of false myths about diet, and it is the role of both science and media to avoid the spread of these rumors, as well as make people aware of the importance of diet for your health,” the author adds.

Learn how a red wine compound was found to slow down neural aging in mice.

Source: Can wine protect your neurons? Study investigates – Medical News Today

, , , ,

Leave a comment

[WEB SITE] Experiences of patients with traumatic brain injury and their carers during transition from in-patient rehabilitation to the community – CNS

PURPOSE: To explore the experiences of individuals who have had a severe
traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their carers in the first month post-discharge
from in-patient rehabilitation into living in the community.

METHOD: Using a qualitative approach underpinned by critical realism, we explored the narratives of 10 patients and nine carers using semi-structured interviews approximately one month post-discharge. Thematic analysis was carried out independently by two researchers.

RESULTS: Firstly, perceptions of support were mixed but many patients and carers felt unsupported in the inpatient phase, during transitions between units and when preparing for discharge. Secondly, they struggled to accept a new reality of changed abilities, loss of roles and loss of autonomy. Thirdly, early experiences post-discharge exacerbated fears for the future.

CONCLUSIONS: Most patients and carers struggled to identify a cohesive plan that supported their transition to living in the community. Access to services required much persistence on the part of carers and tended to be short-term, and therefore did not meet their long-term needs. We propose the need for a case manager to be involved at an early stage of their rehabilitation and act as a key point for information and access to on-going rehabilitation and other support services. Implications for Rehabilitation Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a major cause of long-term disability. It can affect all areas of daily life and significantly reduce quality of life for both patient and carer. Professionals appear to underestimate the change in abilities and impact on daily life once patients return home. Community services maintain a short-term focus, whereas patients and carers want to look further ahead – this dissonance adds to anxiety. The study’s findings on service fragmentation indicate an urgent need for better integration within health services and across health, social care and voluntary sectors. A link person/case manager who oversees the patient journey from admission onwards would help improve integrated care and ensure the patient, and
carer, are at the center of service provision.

Source: Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Guide – Research Reports – Experiences of patients with traumatic brain injury and their carers during transition from in-patient rehabilitation to the community

, ,

Leave a comment

[BLOG POST] How do muscles change shape when they are passively lengthened?

Muscles are often referred to as ‘motors’ that drive human and animal movements. This analogy certainly captures the important role of muscles as active generators of force and movement. However, it sells the equally important passive properties of muscles short. Most of us will only appreciate the importance of passive muscle properties when these are affected by disease. For instance, people who have had a stroke or children with cerebral palsy frequently develop muscle contractures – a stiffening of muscles even when the muscle is not activated. Contractures frequently lead to loss of mobility, bone deformities and other undesirable effects that limit physical independence.

Aiming to better understand the passive mechanical properties of muscles, we have used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique, to obtain the most detailed measurements to date of changes in muscle structure of a human calf muscle (medial gastrocnemius) during passive lengthening (Bolsterlee et al., 2017; note that for those interested in more details on this novel imaging technique, there is a recent review paper by Damon et al., 2017). From the DTI data we measured how several thousands of muscle fibres changed length, orientation and curvature when the whole muscle was lengthened. We also measured the change in dimensions of muscle fibres, which can be thought of as several centimeter long cylindrical tubes with diameters similar to human hairs. From anatomical MRI scans the changes in three-dimensional whole-muscle shape were derived.

Example of a three-dimensional reconstruction of the architecture of the human medial gastrocnemius from diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data.

WHAT DID WE FIND?

We found that the medial gastrocnemius reduced both its width and its depth when the muscle lengthened. Muscle fibres rotated by about 8° and lengthened by 35% when the whole muscle changed its length by 7%. The diffusion properties of muscle tissue measured by DTI (which gives information about the microstructure of muscle cells) suggest that the diameter of muscle fibres decreases when fibres are lengthened, presumably to maintain a constant volume.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPLICATIONS

These data help us understand the complex changes in structure that human muscles undergo when they passively lengthen. We can now use these methods to study, in unprecedented detail, the differences in muscle structure between healthy people and people with muscle contractures. This may give us new insights into the mechanisms of contracture, which will ultimately enable better management or treatment of this condition.

PUBLICATION

Bolsterlee B, D’Souza A, Gandevia SC, Herbert RD (2017). How does passive lengthening change the architecture of the human medial gastrocnemius muscle? J Appl Physiol, 122(4): 727-738.

KEY REFERENCES

Damon BM, Froeling M, Buck AK, Oudeman J, Ding Z, Nederveen AJ, Bush EC, Strijkers GJ (2017). Skeletal muscle diffusion tensor-MRI fiber tracking: rationale, data acquisition and analysis methods, applications and future directions. Nmr Biomed 30. DOI: 10.1002/nbm.3563.

SIMILAR POSTS

Muscle: a novel way to study its structure. Written by Arkiev D’Souza

Human muscles fascicles: what can ultrasound and diffusion tensor imaging reveal? Written by Bart Bolsterlee

Source: How do muscles change shape when they are passively lengthened? – Motor Impairment

, ,

Leave a comment

[BLOG POST] Everything You Want To Know About Stairlifts Is Right Here  

Photo of a room with a dining table with chairs in the middle. In the corner are stairs, and a stairlift is attached to it.

Ever wondered if you can make stairs at home accessible for your elderly loved ones or other family members whose disabilities may prevent them from going up and down the stairs? Our friends over at Home Healthcare Adaptations have created a comprehensive guide that will walk you through the types of stairlifts, mechanics of how they work, who would need them, their costs, benefits, and safety features. Watch this quick video below to understand the basics of stairlifts. Text version is below the video.

What are stairlifts?

  • Stairlifts are lifting devices powered by electricity which enable people with limited mobility to travel ip and down staircases with ease.
  • They are equipped with a chair or a platform, the selection dependent upon the specific user’s needs.

How does a stairlift work?

  • A stairlift moves along a rail which is fitted to the stairs and a motor is used to move the stairlift along a track.
  • This motor is powered by a battery which charges automatically on a continual basis. It can be charged at either the top or the bottom of the stairs and will always be sufficiently charged so that it will never cut out halfway along the stairs.
  • Stairlifts are easy to operate. They are controlled by a small toggle or joystick on the armrest – simply direct this up or down to move the stairlift.
  • If you have 2 or more people using the same stairlift, it comes as standard with 2 remotes that will enable a user to summon it up/down the stairs.

Who is most likely to need a stairlift?

  • Someone with multiple sclerosis or arthritis.
  • Someone who has undergone hip replacements.
  • Someone whose mobility is affected following an operation.
  • An elderly person with notable frailty.

Types of Stairlifts

  • Straight stairlifts are the simplest of all stairlift types and can fit the majority of staircases that have a straight flight from bottom to top.
  • Curved stairlifts are used when the staircase for which it is being fitted has one or more turns.
  • Perch (or standing) stairlifts are ideal for those who find it difficult to bend their knees and sit. The seat is smaller and positioned higher than with a standard stairlift, allowing the user to perch rather than sit.
  • Outdoor lifts have similar features to indoor stairlifts, in addition to being waterproof and able to withstand extreme conditions.

How much do stairlifts cost?

  • Straight stairlifts cost in the region of €1,800 (supply and maintenance) and can be fitted within 2-3 days of being ordered.
  • Curved stairlifts are more expensive, as they are made to measure. They usually cost between €5,000 and €6,000, while manufacture and fitting could take 5-6 weeks from the initial order date.

Stairlift safety features

  • Sensors to detect potential obstructions.
  • Lockable on/off switch to deactivate the stairlift when not in use.
  • Mechanical and electrical braking systems to braking systems to bring the stairlift to a smooth, safe stop.
  • Safety belts on the seat/perch to prevent users from falling off the stairlift.
  • Swiveling footplates to bridge the gap between the stairlift and the top of the stairs.

Benefits of Stairlifts

  • Provide a safe, comfortable method of moving freely around your home.
  • Promote a substantial degree of independence.
  • No need to walk up and down stairs to fo to an upstairs bathroom or bedroom.
  • You can continue living in your current home without the need to relocate.
  • Extremely easy to use – all you need to do to operate a stairlift is move a control pad.
  • Easy to fold and unfold so as to be unobstrusive when not in use.
  • Very affordable – running costs are similar to what you’d use in boiling a kettle

Source: Home Healthcare Adaptations

Read more here.

Source: Everything You Want To Know About Stairlifts Is Right Here – Assistive Technology Blog

,

Leave a comment

[WEB SITE] Five of the best apps to train your brain

It is no secret that as we age, our brain function declines. However, studies have suggested that keeping mentally active – particularly when older – can help to maintain cognitive functioning. Brain training apps are considered a useful aid for mental stimulation, but which one is right for you? We present our pick of five of the best brain training apps around.
[An illustration of a brain and technology]

Research has suggested that brain training may be beneficial for cognitive functioning.

Brain training is based on the premise that mental stimulation can improve neuroplasticity. This is the brain’s ability to form and reorganize connections between brain cells in response to new tasks.

While some studies have failed to find a link between brain training and improved cognitive functioning, other research has found the opposite.

A study published in PLOS One in 2013, for example, found that young adults who engaged in brain training games demonstrated improvements in brain processing speed, working memory, and executive functions.

It is not only young adults who might benefit from brain training. Research presented at the 2016 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference found that older adults who took part in ten 1-hour brain training sessions over a 5-week period were 48 percent less likely to develop cognitive decline or dementia over 10 years.

Such studies have fueled the development of hundreds of brain training apps, many of which claim to improve cognitive functions such as learning, memory, and concentration. With so many to choose from, however, how do you know which one is best for you?

Medical News Today have tried and tested five of the best brain training apps available to help you make an informed decision.

Lumosity: Colorful and fun

Considered by many as the “original” brain training app, Lumosity is used by more than 85 million people across the globe. The app consists of more than 50 colorful and fun minigames designed to train five cognitive functions: speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem-solving.

Lumosity’s games have been created with the help of more than 100 researchers from around the world. Furthermore, their website cites a study of more than 4,700 adults that found that brain training with Lumosity improved cognition more than crosswords.

[Lumosity iOS image]

Lumosity has more than 85 million users worldwide. Image credit: Lumosity

With this in mind, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the app for ourselves.

At sign-up, you are required to complete a “fit test,” which calibrates your speed, attention, and memory through three separate games.

Once the games are complete, users are shown how their results compare with those of other users in the same age group. This provides insight into the areas of cognition that require the most attention.

Each day going forward, Lumosity sends a reminder to complete a brain “workout.” The daily brain workout involves playing three minigames – five with the premium version – each focusing on the five cognitive functions.

One game we enjoyed was Train of Thought, which focuses on attention. In this game, the user must change the direction of train tracks, with the aim of guiding different colored trains to the correct home. We found that this game really challenged our concentration – although it could be frustrating at times.

Luminosity is an app that could easily appeal to both children and adults. Many of the games – such as Highway Hazards, a driving game that involves moving left or right to avoid road hazards – have a child-like appeal.

Lumosity is free to download on Android and iOS, though upgrading to a premium subscription costs $11.99 per month or $59.99 for 1 year.

Elevate: Boosting ‘productivity, earning power, and self-confidence’

While Elevate has fewer users than Lumosity, at 10 million downloads worldwide, it holds the title of iPhone’s best app of the year for 2014. So what makes it stand out?

The app consists of more than 40 minigames designed to boost math and speaking skills, as well as improve memory, attention, and processing speed.

[Elevate app]

Just like Lumosity, Elevate encourages daily brain training, which involves the completion of three games, or five games with the “PRO” version.

Elevate has more of an adult feel than many of the other brain training apps; the minigames take a more serious approach, focusing less on colorful illustrations and more on text. Each game also comes with a brief description of its goal, such as “stop mixing up commonly confused words” and “improve your reading comprehension.”

One game we enjoyed was Error Avoidance, whereby the user is required to “keep” or “swap” two words in a passage of text within a set time. For example: “He fashioned the cookie doe into the shape of a grazing dough.” In this case, the two words would be swapped.

Elevate provides a daily, weekly, and monthly rundown of overall performance, as well as performance in five specific areas: writing, listening, speaking, reading, and math. If you’re feeling competitive, you have the option of comparing your performance with that of other users in the same age group.

Elevate is available to download for free on both Android and iOS. Upgrading to PRO costs $4.99 for 1 month or $39.99 for a year.

Peak: Flexible training and tracking

Rated by Google as one of the best Android apps for 2016, Peak offers more than 30 minigames to help improve concentration, memory, mental agility, language, and problem-solving.

[Peak app]These games have been developed with the help of scientists from respectable universities across the globe, including Yale University in Connecticut and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Like Lumosity, there are a number of games that may appeal to children and adults alike. One such game is Turtle Traffic – a mental agility game that requires the user to navigate a turtle through the sea and collect jellyfish.

Based on performance in baseline tests, a personalized workout plan is provided, although the user is not limited to this plan. In the “Pro” version, all games are available to play at any time.

The Peak creators recommend brain training for 3 days per week. One great feature of Peak is that you can select the days that you want to train and set reminders for these days.

Cognitive performance is also very easy to track. Not only does the app provide information on individual game performance, but it also provides data on overall performance in each of the five cognitive functions. Similar to the other brain training apps, you are also able to compare performance with other users.

Peak is available to download for free on Android and iOS. A 12-month subscription starts from $34.99, while 1 month starts from $4.99.

Fit Brains: Targeting emotional intelligence

Fit Brains is a creation of Rosetta Stone – an education technology software company best known for their online language courses.

[Fit brains app]This brain training app boasts the largest variety, with more than 60 minigames and more than 500 personalized training programs. With the input of neuroscientists, these games have been created to help exercise key cognitive functions, including concentration, memory, speed of thinking, and problem-solving.

What sets Fit Brains part from other brain training apps, however, is that it also targets emotional intelligence through games that focus on social skills, social awareness, self-awareness, and self-control.

One game we enjoyed at MNT was Speedy Sorts – a game that tests thinking speed by asking the user to arrange objects into the correct piles as quickly as possible.

Based on the results of each game played, the user is provided with a score out of 200 for each cognitive area. The app also compares individual results with those of other users.

Unlike many other brain training apps, Fit Brains also has a school edition – a brain training package that aims to boost the cognitive functions of schoolchildren.

Fit Brains is free to download on Android and iOS. An upgrade to premium costs $9.99 for a month and $49.99 for a year.

CogniFit: For consumers, scientists, and clinicians

CogniFit is perhaps the most advanced brain training app we reviewed, consisting of a variety of minigames designed to train more than 20 cognitive skills, including short-term memory, planning, hand-eye coordination, and auditory perception.

[CogniFit app]

The CogniFit developers are keen to point out that all of their brain training tools have been validated by scientists – including researchers from the University of Washington and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Furthermore, they state that the efficacy of their tools has been established through general population studies.

Interestingly, CogniFit also offers tools that researchers and healthcare professionals can use in order to study and assess cognitive function in patients.

MNT tested the brain training games for consumers, and we found them to be a good balance of fun and mental stimulation.

One game we enjoyed was Reaction Field, which tests response time, visual scanning, and inhibition – which is the ability to control impulsive behavior. This game is similar to Whac-a-Mole; the user is required to remember the color of a mole and tap on moles of the same color as they pop up from holes in the ground.

Individual cognitive performance is assessed using the Lumosity Performance Index, which is calculated using the average scores of all games played. Like the other brain training apps, you can also compare your performance against that of other users.

CogniFit is available to download for free on Android and iOS. A premium upgrade costs $19.99 for 1 month or $189.99 for a year.

Learn about five of the best meditation apps.

Source: Five of the best apps to train your brain – Medical News Today

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

[ARTICLE] mHealth or eHealth? Efficacy, Use, and Appreciation of a Web-Based Computer-Tailored Physical Activity Intervention for Dutch Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial  – Full Text

ABSTRACT

Background: Until a few years ago, Web-based computer-tailored interventions were almost exclusively delivered via computer (eHealth). However, nowadays, interventions delivered via mobile phones (mHealth) are an interesting alternative for health promotion, as they may more easily reach people 24/7.

Objective: The first aim of this study was to compare the efficacy of an mHealth and an eHealth version of a Web-based computer-tailored physical activity intervention with a control group. The second aim was to assess potential differences in use and appreciation between the 2 versions.

Methods: We collected data among 373 Dutch adults at 5 points in time (baseline, after 1 week, after 2 weeks, after 3 weeks, and after 6 months). We recruited participants from a Dutch online research panel and randomly assigned them to 1 of 3 conditions: eHealth (n=138), mHealth (n=108), or control condition (n=127). All participants were asked to complete questionnaires at the 5 points in time. Participants in the eHealth and mHealth group received fully automated tailored feedback messages about their current level of physical activity. Furthermore, they received personal feedback aimed at increasing their amount of physical activity when needed. We used analysis of variance and linear regression analyses to examine differences between the 2 study groups and the control group with regard to efficacy, use, and appreciation.

Results: Participants receiving feedback messages (eHealth and mHealth together) were significantly more physically active after 6 months than participants in the control group (B=8.48, df=2, P=.03, Cohen d=0.27). We found a small effect size favoring the eHealth condition over the control group (B=6.13, df=2, P=.09, Cohen d=0.21). The eHealth condition had lower dropout rates (117/138, 84.8%) than the mHealth condition (81/108, 75.0%) and the control group (91/127, 71.7%). Furthermore, in terms of usability and appreciation, the eHealth condition outperformed the mHealth condition with regard to participants receiving (t182=3.07, P=.002) and reading the feedback messages (t181=2.34, P=.02), as well as the clarity of the messages (t181=1.99, P=.049).

Conclusions: We tested 2 Web-based computer-tailored physical activity intervention versions (mHealth and eHealth) against a control condition with regard to efficacy, use, usability, and appreciation. The overall effect was mainly caused by the more effective eHealth intervention. The mHealth app was rated inferior to the eHealth version with regard to usability and appreciation. More research is needed to assess how both methods can complement each other.

Trial Registration: Netherlands Trial Register: NTR4503; http://www.trialregister.nl/trialreg/admin/rctview.asp?TC=4503 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6lEi1x40s)

Introduction

Insufficient physical activity is considered to be a major public health issue worldwide [1,2]. The Dutch public health guidelines recommend adults to engage in moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on at least 5 days per week [3,4]. Studies suggest that sufficient physical activity can effectively prevent numerous chronic diseases and mental health issues [2,46]. Lee et al [7] argued that 6% to 10% of worldwide deaths caused by noncommunicable diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes, can be attributed to physical inactivity. Therefore, there is a need for interventions that increase the level of physical activity and can reach a broad population cost effectively [1].

Empirical research suggests that Web-based computer-tailored interventions are a promising solution [8]. These interventions provide tailored information and feedback via the Internet and therefore have some important advantages. First, Web-based computer-tailored interventions can adapt intervention materials according to the specific situation, characteristics, and needs of an individual and accordingly make information more personally relevant for the individual [911]. Second, research has shown that tailored messages are more likely to be read, understood, discussed with others, and remembered by the receiver [1214]. Third, due to the fact that more and more people are using the Internet to search for health-related information and health advice [1517], Web-based computer-tailored health interventions offer an effective method to reach a broad population cost effectively [1822]. Fourth, even though a broad population is targeted simultaneously, each individual can make use of the intervention privately at any given point in time or place [18,23].

Until a few years ago, Web-based computer-tailored interventions were almost exclusively delivered via computer. This medium of delivery has formed the term eHealth (electronic Health). The concept of eHealth has been described as the use of the Internet and related technologies to deliver health-related information and interventions [23]. Even though eHealth has been shown to be an efficient strategy to lower costs and deliver health messages more interactively, it also has several disadvantages. One of the major problems with eHealth interventions is the high percentage of dropout [24,25].

To make interventions even more accessible, and thereby decrease chances of dropout, health promotion professionals are increasingly interested in the use of mHealth (mobile Health). mHealth refers to the delivery of health messages and interventions via mobile phones or tablets by making use of telecommunication and multimedia technologies [2631]. In the Netherlands, almost 70% of Dutch households use the Internet via mobile phones and approximately 45% use tablets [32]. Based on the increasing usage of mobile phones as a lifestyle device, it has been argued that mHealth might increase the use of interventions and thereby also their efficacy [28,29]. Whereas computers and laptops are relatively stationary, mobile phones and tablets can be carried and used everywhere [33]. People are able to use mHealth independent of time or space, which could improve the usage and evaluation of interventions compared with eHealth [28,31,33].

Most people already use their phones for a variety of personal and work-related matters, such as social networking, calendaring, financial tracking, or emailing [33]. This leads to the assumption that the inclusion of health-related information would be advisable. However, previous research shows some pitfalls of mHealth. First, mobile phone technology is a rapidly changing field that introduces new apps, communication possibilities, and additional gadgets nearly by the day. This makes it difficult for intervention developers to keep up with the newest technologies and interests of their users [34,35]. Second, although using text messaging can be a very effective way of communicating, some intervention messages might be too long or difficult to be presented in such a short manner. This restricted communication can lead to more misunderstandings between the participant and health professional, which in turn can influence the effectiveness of the intervention [36]. And third, both participants and health professionals claim to feel unsure about the safety of private and sensitive information. Although this concern can also arise in the eHealth sector, the inferior but rapidly growing mHealth sector evokes skepticism on both sides [37].

To examine whether mHealth can improve the use and efficacy and reduce dropout rates of Web-based computer-tailored interventions, this study examined the effects of an mHealth and eHealth intervention on physical activity compared with a control group. Both interventions were identical with regard to content but differed in the medium of delivery. The main aim of the study was to examine the efficacy of the 2 versions on physical activity and to compare them with a control group. A secondary aim was to study potential differences in dropout and appreciation of the mHealth and eHealth intervention.

Figure 1. Flowchart of the participation of respondents.

Continue —> JMIR-mHealth or eHealth? Efficacy, Use, and Appreciation of a Web-Based Computer-Tailored Physical Activity Intervention for Dutch Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial | Gomez Quiñonez | Journal of Medical Internet Research

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

[WEB SITE] ‘Microwave helmet’ may cut time taken to evaluate head injuries – Medical News Today

Published: Friday 10 March 2017

A portable device that covers the head and uses microwave technology to examine brain tissue in prehospital settings could cut the time it takes to evaluate brain injuries. So conclude researchers after evaluating their “microwave helmet” in a small trial.

The researchers – including members from Chalmers University of Technology and Sahlgrenska University Hospital, both in Gothenburg, Sweden – report their findings in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

They suggest that the results of their small trial show that microwave technology can be used for the rapid detection of intracranial bleeding that can result from head injuries.

First author Dr. Johan Ljungqvist, a specialist in neurosurgery at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital, says: “The microwave helmet could improve the medical assessment of traumatic head injuries even before the patient arrives at the hospital.”

He notes that even though their study was small, and they only focused on one type of head injury, “the result indicates that the microwave measurements can be useful in ambulances and in other care settings.”

In their study paper, he and his colleagues note that microwave technology has already been evaluated for other medical applications – such as distinguishing between strokes caused by blood clots and strokes caused by bleeding in the brain.

TBI is a leading cause of disability and death

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is disruption of normal brain function due to trauma that results from an injury that bumps, jolts, hits, or penetrates the head. The severity of trauma ranges from “mild” (the most common kind, also known as concussion) to “severe.”

Fast facts about TBI

  • In the U.S. between 2006 and 2010, TBI-related deaths were highest in people aged 65 and older
  • Over that period, vehicle crashes were the leading cause of TBI-related deaths for young people aged between 5 and 24
  • Among nonfatal TBI-related injuries, rates of ED visits were highest for children aged 4 and under.

Learn more about TBI

TBI can disrupt memory, thinking, movement, vision, hearing, and emotional functioning. It can also result in personality changes and depression. The effects are not confined to individuals; they can also impact families, friends, and communities.

TBI is a major cause of death and disability in the United States, where estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that 138 people die every day from injuries that include TBI.

The majority of TBI survivors experience effects that last a few days, while others are left with enduring disabilities that can last for the rest of their lives.

In the U.S. in 2010, the amount of visits to emergency departments (EDs), admissions to hospitals, and deaths either related to TBI alone or to TBI linked with other injuries totaled around 2.5 million.

CDC figures for between 2006 and 2010 show falls as the leading cause of TBI (accounting for 40.5 percent of ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths), followed by unintentional blunt trauma (15.5 percent), and motor vehicle crashes (14.3 percent).

Dr. Ljungqvist and colleagues note that the key to improving outcomes for people who sustain TBIs is to reduce the time it takes from when the injury occurs to deciding the right treatment.

Microwave helmet

The microwave helmet has three parts: a helmet incorporating microwave antennae that is placed on the patient’s head; a microwave signal generator; and a computer that controls the equipment, collects the data, and processes them through advanced mathematical algorithms.

The microwave generator sends signals through transmit antennae in the helmet into the patient’s brain.

Receiving antennae in the helmet pick up the signals after they have been scattered by and reflected from the brain tissue.

The advanced algorithms analyze the complex patterns in the microwave signals to deduce what they might indicate about changes in the brain.

Dr. Ljungqvist and colleagues evaluated the ability of their microwave technology to differentiate between people with brain bleeds due to injury and people without brain injury.

Microwave technology ‘shows promise in early triage of TBI’

The team tested the device on 20 patients with traumatic intracranial hematomas, 20 patients with chronic subdural hematoma, and 20 healthy volunteers. The patients were hospitalized for surgery in a Swedish hospital.

The participants also underwent traditional scanning with computerized tomography (CT). The CT scan results were then compared with the microwave helmet results.

The authors conclude that the microwave technology “shows promise as a tool to improve triage accuracy.” It detected the hematomas at 100 percent sensitivity and 75 percent specificity.

Sensitivity indicates how well a test rules out disease, and specificity indicates how well it rules it in. Thus, in this study, the microwave helmet “over-diagnosed” 25 percent of the cases (that is, 25 percent were “false positives.”)

The researchers note that plans are already in place to test the microwave helmet with more acute head injury patients in Sweden and other countries.

“Microwave technology has the potential to revolutionize medical diagnostics by enabling faster, more flexible, and more cost-effective care.”

Mikael Persson, professor of biomedical engineering, Chalmers University of Technology

Learn how a molecule discovery may lead to new drugs for brain and spinal cord injury.

Source: ‘Microwave helmet’ may cut time taken to evaluate head injuries – Medical News Today

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

[WEB SITE] One step at a time

IMAGE: DR. KIM (LEFT) WITH DR. SHARMA AND A HYBRID EXOSKELETON PROTOTYPE IN THE NEUROMUSCULAR CONTROL AND ROBOTICS LABORATORY IN THE SWANSON SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING. view more CREDIT: SWANSON SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING

PITTSBURGH (March 7, 2017) … The promise of exoskeleton technology that would allow individuals with motor impairment to walk has been a challenge for decades. A major difficulty to overcome is that even though a patient is unable to control leg muscles, a powered exoskeleton could still cause muscle fatigue and potential injury.

However, an award from the National Science Foundation’s Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) program will enable researchers at the University of Pittsburgh to develop an ultrasound sensor system at the heart of a hybrid exoskeleton that utilizes both electrical nerve stimulation and external motors.

Principal investigator of the three year, $400,000 award is Nitin Sharma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Co-PI is Kang Kim, associate professor of medicine and bioengineering. The Pitt team is collaborating with researchers led by Siddhartha Sikdar, associate professor of bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering at George Mason University, who also received a $400,000 award for the CPS proposal, “Synergy: Collaborative Research: Closed-loop Hybrid Exoskeleton utilizing Wearable Ultrasound Imaging Sensors for Measuring Fatigue.”

This latest funding furthers Dr. Sharma’s development of hybrid exoskeletons that combine functional electrical stimulation (FES), which uses low-level electrical currents to activate leg muscles, with powered exoskeletons, which use electric motors mounted on an external frame to move the wearer’s joints.

“One of the most serious impediments to developing a human exoskeleton is determining how a person who has lost gait function knows whether his or her muscles are fatigued. An exoskeleton has no interface with a human neuromuscular system, and the patient doesn’t necessarily know if the leg muscles are tired, and that can lead to injury,” Dr. Sharma explained. “Electromyography (EMG), the current method to measure muscle fatigue, is not reliable because there is a great deal of electrical “cross-talk” between muscles and so differentiating signals in the forearm or thigh is a challenge.”

To overcome the low signal-to-noise ratio of traditional EMG, Dr. Sharma partnered with Dr. Kim, whose research in ultrasound focuses on analyzing muscle fatigue.

“An exoskeleton biosensor needs to be noninvasive, but systems like EMG aren’t sensitive enough to distinguish signals in complex muscle groups,” Dr. Kim said. “Ultrasound provides image-based, real-time sensing of complex physical phenomena like neuromuscular activity and fatigue. This allows Nitin’s hybrid exoskeleton to switch between joint actuators and FES, depending upon the patient’s muscle fatigue.”

In addition to mating Dr. Sharma’s hybrid exoskeleton to Dr. Kim’s ultrasound sensors, the research group will develop computational algorithms for real-time sensing of muscle function and fatigue. Human subjects using a leg-extension machine will enable detailed measurement of strain rates, transition to fatigue, and full fatigue to create a novel muscle-fatigue prediction model. Future phases will allow the Pitt and George Mason researchers to develop a wearable device for patients with motor impairment.

“Right now an exoskeleton combined with ultrasound sensors is just a big machine, and you don’t want to weigh down a patient with a backpack of computer systems and batteries,” Dr. Sharma said. “The translational research with George Mason will enable us to integrate a wearable ultrasound sensor with a hybrid exoskeleton, and develop a fully functional system that will aid in rehabilitation and mobility for individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries or strokes.”

###

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Source: One step at a time | EurekAlert! Science News

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: