Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, March 3 – Friday, March 7

Disability studies: hot topic on campus (The Wall Street Journal)
Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations created a formal concentration on disability studies in 2009. However, in response to increased student demand, it now offers eight courses that draw more than 300 students, up from just one class five years ago. This spring’s roster includes classes on disability and employment policies, disability law and even a writing seminar on “intersections of disability identity in the law, workplace and society.”

Moving out of poverty linked to kids’ mental health (Reuters)
A study from Harvard Medical School has revealed that moving out of impoverished neighborhoods has different effects on the mental health of boys compared to girls. Researchers found boys had higher rates of mental health problems years after their families got vouchers to move out of impoverished neighborhoods, compared to boys who did not get assistance. On the other hand, moving out of high-poverty neighborhoods was linked to lower rates of depression and behavioral problems among girls.

Circadian clock and its mechanisms may help control hearing damage (Hearing Review)
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have identified a biological circadian clock in the cochlea. This clock, controlled by genes that regulate circadian rhythms, controls how well hearing damage may heal and opens up a new way of treating people with hearing disabilities. By measuring the activity of the auditory nerve in mice, the researchers found that mice exposed to moderate noise levels during the night suffered from permanent hearing damages while those exposed to similar noise levels during the day did not.

Sochi Paralympics failing to meet London Games’ standard (Sports Illustrated)
Leading up to the London Olympics, organizers ran a spectacular promotional campaign for the Paralympics that would follow the Games. In Sochi, by contrast, there’s little sign the Paralympics are even coming to the city. The competition will run from March 7 to 16, with more than 600 athletes from 44 countries, but the only visible promotion around town seems to be the occasional sign with the words “Paralympic Games” along the newly constructed highways. On TV, Olympic-themed talk shows and news reports rarely mention the upcoming Paralympics, let alone raise awareness about specific events or athletes.

Artificial muscles may pave way for superhuman exoskeletons, robots (Rehab Management)
An international team of researchers from institutions including the University of Texas at Dallas has developed thermal-powered artificial muscles, produced by twisting and coiling high-strength polymer fishing line and sewing thread. These muscles can lift 100 times more weight and generate 100 times higher mechanical power than human muscles of the same length and weight. The muscles could be used to produce superhuman strength in exoskeletons and robots. The technology could also be implemented in devices that communicate touch from sensors on a remote robotic hand to a human hand.

Stimulation glove can improve motor function in stroke patients, study says (Rehab Management)
Neuroscientists at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany have designed a glove that can result in an improvement in motor function and tactile perception in stroke patients. The glove uses weak electrical pulses to stimulate the nerve fibers that connect the hands with the brain. Patients control the intensity of the stimulation, and the electrical contacts are integrated into the glove as thin conducting material transmits electric pulses to the fingertips.

An activity tracker for seniors (MIT Technology Review)
The company CarePredict has developed a wearable tracking system intended to help caretakers monitor the activity of home-dwelling older adults for early signs of serious health concerns. The system monitors movements and body orientation while keeping track of which room the user is in. The wrist-worn tracker was purposely designed to look like a fashionable beaded bracelet. The company also plans to create a version that looks like a standard men’s watch.

Can an app help make life easier for children with ADHD? (Science Daily)
Researchers at the Norwegian SINTEF (Foundation for Industrial and Technical Research) are investigating whether technology such as digital calendars and smartwatches can provide support for children with autism and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Three participating families who have children with autism and ADHD will try out mobile apps that could help the children keep track of their daily activities such as getting dressed, cleaning their teeth, etc.

New therapy helps improve audio, visual perception in stroke patients (Science Daily)
Neuropsychologists at Germany’s Saarland University have developed a new technique that is helping to restore stroke patients’ perception of sounds and images. The technique is used to treat hemispatial neglect, a condition wherein patients are unable to properly discern images or sounds on the stroke-affected side of their body. Using optokinetic stimulation therapy (OKS), patients are shown a cloud of dots on a large screen, one of which is a different color, that move coherently to the neglected side of space. Patients are instructed to fixate on the target with the different color and follow it with their eyes to the edge of the screen.

Rehab system dangles patients below a robot (gizmag)
A fall prevention system has been developed for patients undergoing rehabilitation for conditions that compromise their gait or sense of balance. The Bioness Vector Gait and Safety System suspends patients below a robotic trolley that moves with them to hold them up. Sensors in the trolley detect users’ movements and move along its ceiling-mounted conductive rail to stay above them. Parameters such as body weight support and degree of fall protection can be saved as patient profiles for subsequent sessions and adjusted as needed. A video demonstrating the system is included.

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