Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, March 24 – Friday, March 28

Human Interest:
Boston bombing survivor dances again (United Press International)
A professional dancer who lost the lower part of her left leg in the Boston Marathon bombing about a year ago is the recipient of a prosthetic limb specially designed for her by the director of MIT’s Media Lab. In a presentation at the TED Conference in Vancouver this month, the inventor described how the limb was developed after carefully studying dancers with biological limbs of the recipient’s size and weight as they moved about on the floor. The prosthesis recipient demonstrated her new leg at the conference by dancing the rumba.

Students sign up to learn to speak with their hands at Catonsville elementary school (The Baltimore Sun)
A sign language club at Westchester Elementary in Catonsville, Maryland, meets after school for an hour each week. Beyond learning to communicate with those that are Deaf, sign language offers other benefits, according to the teacher, including the development of a sense of self and an ability to express emotions. Practicing sign language also improves motor skills and teaches the students to develop a sense of space. American Sign Language (ASL), in addition to being the official language of the Deaf community, is recognized as a foreign language in Maryland.

Stroke study to assess whether walking is improved by gait training and brain stimulation (Rehab Management)
A researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago will investigate whether a blend of brain stimulation and gait training can help improve a patient’s ability to walk following stroke. According to the researcher, rehabilitation often uses a “bottom up” approach, first training muscles and re-teaching walking, in the hope that the brain will relearn the control of these functions. This investigation will use a “top down” approach, dynamically stimulating the brain with a low level of current through the motor area that controls the legs, to make it more responsive to the therapy the patient will receive.

UK study: only 1 in 5 people with a hearing problem wears a hearing aid (Hearing Review)
According to a study of the habits of 160,000 people in the United Kingdom aged 40 to 69 years, 10.7 percent of participants had significant hearing problems when listening to speech in the presence of background noise. However, only 2.1 percent used a hearing aid. About one in 10 middle-aged adults had substantial hearing problems and were more likely to be from a working class or ethnic minority background.

Brain changes suggest autism starts in the womb (National Public Radio/Shots blog)
While the symptoms of autism may not be obvious until a child is a toddler, the disorder itself appears to begin well before birth. Researchers at the Autism Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego, report that brain tissue taken from children who died and also happened to have autism revealed patches of disorganization in the cortex, an area critical for learning and memory. Organization of the cortex begins in the second trimester of pregnancy. The article includes an audio version.

Kids of addicted parents more likely to have arthritis as adults (United Press International)
According to researchers at the University of Toronto, in Canada, parental addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a significant factor associated with 30 percent higher odds of arthritis in their children as they grow older. Researchers located the correlation by surveying a group of about 13,000 adults, more than a fifth of whom had arthritis, while 14 percent had at least one parent who struggled with addiction.

Nasal spray delivers new type of depression treatment (Science Daily)
Research from the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health suggests that a nasal spray delivering a peptide to treat depression could be a potential alternative to conventional antidepressants. The peptide treatment interferes with the binding of two dopamine receptors and constitutes an entirely new approach to treating depression, which has previously relied on medications that block serotonin or norepinephrine transporters.

Self-designed prosthetic knee for extreme sports: interview w/Mike Schultz, Biodapt Inc. (Medgadget)
The professional snowmobile racer interviewed describes how, following a leg amputation resulting from an accident, he designed his own prosthesis. Using his Moto Knee, he has won multiple medals in the adaptive Snocross and Motocross classes. His company, Biodapt Inc., has sold over 100 units of his Moto Knee and Versa Foot designs.

Mom’s harness invention gives kids a chance to walk (NBC Today Show)
The Firefly Upsee is a double pair of rubber shoes with a harness that helps a small child walk with a parent or other adult caregiver. It was invented by an Israeli woman whose son has cerebral palsy when the boy’s therapists did not encourage walking because they believed too much activity could worsen his muscle spasms. Leckey, a company in Northern Ireland, has updated the design for a mass market. The Upsee will be commercially available on April 7.

Easing epilepsy with battery power (The New York Times)
The RNS System is a novel battery powered device designed to reduce seizures and improve the lives of patients whose epilepsy cannot be treated with drugs or brain surgery. The device, which was approved by the FDA, is implanted in a patient’s skull and, via wires threaded into the brain, tracks electrical activity and quells impending seizures. The system also includes a wand that the wearer holds to his or her head to download brain data from the device to a laptop for a doctor to review. The article includes a video demonstrating the system.

Smart home to detect symptoms of neurodegenerative disease (gizmag)
The Technalia Centre for Applied Research in Spain has created a system of sensors which, when fitted into a home, can monitor changes in an older person’s habits and routine. These observations can then be used to assess whether the individual is suffering from the early stages of a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. The system can allow seniors to remain in their own homes while receiving a higher standard of care.

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