Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, January 12 – Friday, January 16

Human Interest:
Heart problems, deafness influenced Beethoven’s music, study says (The Hearing Review)
According to researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Washington, Ludwig van Beethoven’s musical compositions might have been affected by both his deafness and an irregular heartbeat caused by cardiac arrhythmia. Beethoven was highly attuned to the rhythm of his own heartbeat. And, according to one of the researchers, “when your heart beats irregularly from heart disease, it does so in some predictable patterns. We think we hear some of those patterns in his music.”

Advocacy:
Lawmakers look to improve care for kids with complex needs (Disability Scoop)
A new bill in Congress would amend the 50-year-old Medicaid law to make it easier for health care providers in different states to coordinate the care of children with medically complex or rare conditions such as sickle cell anemia, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, and congenital heart defects. The Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act also calls for the creation of a national database of Medicaid claims data that researchers could use to study complicated conditions that affect one in 25 children nationwide. The proposal has broad bipartisan support, and advocates expect it to be introduced in the next few weeks.

Self-advocate gets State of the Union invite (Disability Scoop)
Sara Wolff, who has Down syndrome, helped US Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) get a bill passed that helps those with disabilities, so the senator invited Wolff to sit in the US House gallery to watch President Obama deliver the State of the Union Speech. The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act allows people with disabilities to save money in untaxed accounts similar to tax-advantaged accounts used by families who save for college. The act also allows Americans with disabilities to save money for education, housing, transportation, and health care without losing eligibility for government programs.

Education:
‘Braille Challenge’ sets high expectations for blind students (Reuters)
More than a thousand students with visual impairments will compete against their peers as the Braille Challenge begins across the US and Canada. Forty regional events will take place through March as blind students in first through 12th grades test skills in five categories: spelling, proof reading, speed and accuracy, charts and graphs, and reading comprehension. Sixty qualifying finalists will go on to the Braille Challenge Finals in June at the Braille Institute. The Institute organized the first Braille Challenge 15 years ago in an attempt to reverse the falling Braille literacy rate. In 1960, 50 percent of legally blind school-age children were able to read Braille. Today, the rate is down to 8.5 percent.

Research:
A bendable implant taps the nervous system without damaging it (MIT Technology Review)
Most ideas for implants that can interface with the nervous system run up against a basic materials problem: wires are stiff while bodies are soft. That has motivated researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Switzerland to design a soft, flexible electronic implant which allegedly has the same ability to bend and stretch as dura mater, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Using the implant, the scientists reported in the journal Science that they could overcome spinal injury in rats by wrapping it around the spinal cord and sending electrical signals to make the rodents’ hind legs move.

Rehabilitation:
Texas center offering innovative treatment for veterans with traumatic brain injuries (Fox News)
The Carrick Brain Center in Dallas, Texas, treats patients with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke. The therapies offered focus on rewiring the brain in order to restore functionality to different areas of the brain. The center offers each patient an individualized treatment plan, which includes its patented Off Vertical Axis Rotational Device (OVARD) therapy, which provides neurological rehabilitation. The patient is fastened into the OVARD, which rotates the patient in a precisely controlled manner, stimulating the vestibular system to encourage neural activity in parts of the brain that have been affected by illness or injury.

Technology:
Tattoo-like sensor can detect glucose levels without painful finger prick (Science Daily)
Scientists have developed the first ultra-thin, flexible device that sticks to skin like a rub-on tattoo and can detect a person’s glucose levels. The sensor has the potential to eliminate finger-pricking for many people with diabetes. The researchers made a wearable, non-irritating platform that can detect glucose in the fluid just under the skin based on integrating glucose extraction and electrochemical biosensing. Preliminary testing on seven healthy volunteers showed it was able to accurately determine glucose levels.

Medgadget at CES 2015: ADAMM intelligent asthma management wearable (Medgadget)
ADAMM (Automated Device for Asthma Monitoring and Management) is a wearable device measuring about the diameter of a hockey puck. This smart patch can not only tell when the wearer is experiencing an asthma attack by measuring heart rate, respiration, coughing, and breath sounds, but also uses the information to detect if an attack is imminent. ADAMM transmits its data wirelessly to a mobile app, where it can remind the wearer to take his or her medication or, if the wearer is a child, alert a parent or guardian via text message. Already FDA approved, ADAMM is projected to be commercially available in the second quarter of the year.

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