Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, February 9 – Friday, February 13

Human Interest:
Meet the first model with Down syndrome to walk the runway at Fashion Week (NBC TODAY)
Jamie Brewer, an actress with Down syndrome, is modeling designs by Carrie Hammer during New York Fashion Week. She is part of “Role Models Not Runway Models,” a campaign the designer started a year ago featuring clients of hers who are real-life role models. Last year’s campaign included a model who uses a wheelchair. While most recognize Brewer for her work on the TV series “American Horror Story,” she has long worked as an advocate for people with disabilities.

Child wrongly removed from mom with disability, Feds say (Disability Scoop)
Just two days after a 19-year-old Massachusetts woman with intellectual disability gave birth, state officials took her newborn away in an act the federal government contends violated the woman’s civil rights. In a 26-page report, federal officials said that Massachusetts’ handling of the case violated the mother’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The findings call for the state to provide compensatory damages to the mother, halt their efforts to terminate her parental rights, and provide her with appropriate supports and services so that she may pursue reunification with her daughter. Investigators are also calling for policy changes to prevent similar discrimination on the basis of disability.

Cerebellum’s higher role in cognition and assistive technologies (Rehab Management)
The cerebellum, a region of the brain that in the course of human evolution has changed very little and has been assumed to control only basic motor and balance functions, could in fact be a target for brain-controlled interfaces. A study conducted at the University of Missouri suggests the cerebellum can play a critical role in control tasks associated with assistive technologies, such as robotic arms, that would benefit individuals with physical disabilities.

MIT researchers develop glucose-responsive diabetes treatment (Gizmag)
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new form of diabetes treatment that not only circulates in the bloodstream for a long period of time, but is only activated when blood sugar levels get too high. Two modifications to insulin were made: a hydrophobic molecule known as an aliphatic domain was added to ensure that the engineered hormone stays in the bloodstream for the required length of time. Then, BPA was added, a chemical group that reversibly binds to glucose, thus bringing it into contact with the insulin when high levels of sugar present themselves.

Brain waves of older adults compound hearing problems (The Hearing Review)
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive Brain Sciences in Germany have discovered that changes in brain waves compound hearing problems in older adults. They found that the hearing difficulties older people experience, in addition to hearing loss, likely are due to changes in the brain’s alpha waves, whose adaption to altered hearing situations improves speech comprehension. The researchers conclude that these findings encourage further exploration of how a hearing aid might be adapted to a listener’s brain activity to improve speech comprehension in challenging listening environments.

Treating the uninjured side of the brain appears to aid stroke recovery (Science Daily)
According to researchers at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Regents University, while the opposite side of the brain following a stroke may not have directly experienced the stroke, its ability to aid the injured side is affected. That aid includes endothelial cells that line blood vessels on both sides of the brain releasing growth factors that protect neurons, help ailing ones recover, and prompt the growth of new blood vessels to the stroke site. All this activity also attracts endogenous stem cells so that, even if the new blood vessels never actually carry blood, they help create what is called a “regenerative niche” that can minimize stroke damage. According to the researchers, to maximize stroke recovery, focus should be more directed on ways to support the side of the brain where the injury didn’t occur.

A brain system that appears to compensate for autism, OCD, and dyslexia (Science Daily)
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, and Specific Language Impairment appear to compensate for dysfunction by relying on a powerful and nimble system in the brain known as declarative memory. It allows individuals with autism to learn scripts for navigating social situations, helps people with OCD or Tourette’s to control tics or compulsions, and provides strategies to overcome reading and language difficulties in those diagnosed with language impairments. This discovery can be used to improve the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

iBrailler smart Braille keyboard for iPads (Medgadget)
Engineers from Stanford and New Mexico State University have released a free app that makes typing Braille easy on tablet computers. Unlike traditional Braille typewriters, which have physical keys assigned to each finger, the iBrailler app automatically moves the keys to be where the fingers are. This is done by the user placing all the fingers on the screen before typing, with the app registering the location of all the fingers. Simply lifting the hands off the screen and placing them back results in recalibrating the keys. The free app is available for Apple iPads and can be downloaded from the iTunes store.

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