‘Virtual physiotherapist’ helps paralyzed patients exercise using computer games

A simple device can improve the ability of patients with arm disability to play physiotherapy-like computer games, according to new research.

The low-cost invention, called gripAble™, consists of a lightweight electronic handgrip, which interacts wirelessly with a standard PC tablet to enable the user to play arm-training games. To use it, patients squeeze, turn or lift the handgrip, and it vibrates in response to their performance whilst playing. The device uses a novel mechanism, which can detect the tiny flicker movements of severely paralysed patients and channel them into controlling a computer game.

Special-training computer games, controlled by the device, have been designed for people with no previous experience of using computers. For example one computer game requires the user to squeeze repeatedly to slowly reveal a photograph.

Full story of paralyzed patients and gripAble at Science Daily

Neighborhoods important factor in risk of stroke for all races

A higher neighborhood advantage, or socioeconomic status, of where a person lives contributes to a lower risk of having a stroke no matter the person’s race, according to findings published in the Oct. 14 online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The report from the University of Alabama at Birmingham REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke study shows this effect is the same for black and white adults, both men and women.

“More blacks than whites in the United States have strokes and die from strokes,” said Virginia Howard, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor in the UAB School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology. “More people who live in the Southeastern area known as the stroke belt have stroke and die from stroke compared to those who live in the rest of the United States.”

Full story of neighborhoods impact of stroke risk at Science Daily

Elder abuse under-identified in U.S. emergency departments

Elder abuse affects approximately 1 in 10 older adults in the United States and has far-reaching negative effects on physical and mental health. Victims of elder abuse, like other vulnerable populations, tend not to receive routine care from a primary care physician and often depend on the emergency department. With over 23 million emergency department visits by older adults annually, the emergency department is an important setting to identify elder abuse and initiate interventions to ensure patient safety and address unmet care needs.

In a new study published this week in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of California San Diego, and Weil Cornell Medicine used a nationally-representative dataset to estimate the frequency with which emergency providers make a formal diagnosis of elder abuse. The answer: 1 in 7,700 visits.

Full story of identifying elder abuse in emergency departments at Science Daily

Failures in mental health system flagged in new report in England

Significant numbers of people with learning disabilities, particularly very young adults, remain inappropriately incarcerated in English hospitals, says new research.

That is despite Government targets, published in the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal, for everyone with a learning disability in England, who was inappropriately detained in hospital, to be discharged by 1 June, 2014.

A new briefing paper, published by the Centre for Disability Research (CeDR) at Lancaster University, reports on the experience of the 3,000 people with a learning disability in English hospitals for assessment and treatment.

Full story of mental health system failures at Science Daily

Human stem cells treat spinal cord injury side effects in mice

People with spinal cord injuries suffer from many complications in addition to paralysis and numbness. Some of these problems are caused by a lack of the neurotransmitter GABA in the injured spinal cord. Now research in mice is showing that human embryonic stem cells differentiated into medial ganglionic eminence (MGE)-like cells, which produce GABA, may help alleviate two of the most severe side effects — chronic neuropathic pain and bladder dysfunction. The results appear September 22 in Cell Stem Cell.

This study, a collaboration between senior authors Arnold Kriegstein, Director of the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and Linda Noble-Haeusslein, a professor in the Departments of Neurological Surgery and Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at UCSF, addressed both neuropathic pain and bladder dysfunction, which are at least in part attributed to overactive spinal cord circuits. “We reasoned if we could take inhibitory neurons and directly place them into the spinal cord in the regions that are overactive, they might integrate into those circuits and suppress the activity,” says Kriegstein.

Full story of stem cell treatment for spinal cord injuries at Science Daily

More than half of persons with Alzheimer’s disease aged 90 years or more use psychotropic drugs

Psychotropic drug use is rather common among persons aged 90 years of more diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease compared with those who were diagnosed at younger age, concludes study conducted at University of Eastern Finland. Persons aged 90 years or more used antipsychotics 5 times and antidepressants 2.5 times more often than those without the disease in the same age group. The results were published in Age and Ageing journal.

56% of persons aged 90 years or more with Alzheimer’s disease use psychotropic drugs whereas the same figure was 48% among younger persons with Alzheimer’s disease and 38% among those aged 90 years or more but without Alzheimer’s disease. Psychotropic drugs include antipsychotics, antidepressants and benzodiazepines and related drugs which are used for anxiety and insomnia in short-term treatment. On the contrary, persons aged 90 years or more with Alzheimer’s disease used less frequently antidementia drugs (63%) when compared with younger persons with the same disease (72%).

Full story of Alzheimer’s patients 90 or older using psychotropic drugs at Science Daily

Research hints at underlying cause for Alzheimer’s drug trial failures

Because Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia, many people use the two terms interchangeably. But inadequate blood flow to the brain due to micro infarcts, mini-strokes, or strokes is a hallmark of a disease called Vascular Cognitive Impairment and Dementia (VCID). VCID is the second most common cause of dementia, and the two are not mutually exclusive – researchers estimate that 40-60% of Alzheimer’s disease patients also have VCID.

A paper recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience by Donna Wilcock, PhD, of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, reports that a certain form of immunotherapy targeted to Alzheimer’s patients may be ineffective when that patient also has VCID.

“These findings are important in that they provide a possible explanation for why clinical trials of anti-Aβ immunotherapy for Alzheimer’s disease have been historically unsuccessful,” Wilcock said. “If up to 40% of people with Alzheimer’s also have VCID, treatment candidates that target only the AD physiology won’t be effective in those patients. It’s like treating only half the disease.”

Full story of underlying cause of Alzheimer’s drug failers at Science Daily

Cardiovascular risk factor prevention should be addressed at all ages

Prevention of cardiovascular disease in mid- to later life in black and white Americans is an increasingly important health concern, according to a study from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke project recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

University of Alabama at Birmingham investigators and their colleagues found that the development of risk factors including hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol remains high in adults over age 45, even extending up to ages over 75 years. In addition, the development of these risk factors was 25 to 100 percent higher in the black population than in the white population.

“Much of the attention on prevention of risk factors has been focused on young people. We have shown that there is a high risk of developing risk factors, particularly for blacks, even among the elderly population,” said George Howard, Dr.P.H., lead author of the study and professor in the UAB School of Public Health Department of Biostatistics. “It is important that health care professionals educate people of all ages on what they need to be doing to prevent these risk factors for stroke and heart disease.”

Full story of cardiovascular risk prevention at Science Daily

Combination of complementary medicine, standard care helps reduce pre-op anxiety

A new study conducted at the University of Haifa has some complementary things to say about complementary medicine. The combination of complementary medicine with standard care for preoperative anxiety reduces anxiety levels among patients. Prof. Lital Keinan Boker, one of the researchers, notes that “combined treatment using complementary medicine and standard care shows real potential to reduce preoperative anxiety levels and improve the outcome of the operation. Consideration should be given to offering this combination to patients who are interested in it.”

Preoperative anxiety, which may manifest itself in elevated blood pressure, rapid pulse, sugar metabolism changes, and other symptoms, is one of the most significant factors predicting mortality among postoperative cardiovascular patients. In addition, preoperative anxiety can also influence and extend the postoperative recovery period.

The current study was undertaken by Samuel Attias as part of his master’s studies in the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa, under the supervision of Prof. Lital Keinan Boker of the University of Haifa and Dr. Elad Schiff of Bnai Zion Hospital in Haifa. The researchers sought to examine whether complementary medicine practices, applied alongside conventional care, could help reduce anxiety levels.

Full story of complementary medicine to reduce pre-op anxiety at Science Daily

In the eye of the beholder: First-of-its-kind tool measures caregiver’s perception of capabilities of person with dementia

Comprehensive occupational therapy care requires a family-centered approach including treatment for the person with dementia and education for the caregiver. Clinical assessments exist to evaluate the capabilities of a person with dementia, but until now, occupational therapists did not have a validated instrument to gain understanding of the caregiver’s perceptions of the person with dementia’s abilities. Occupational therapist researchers at the Jefferson College of Health Professions at Thomas Jefferson University developed a first-of-its-kind tool to close this gap and published their findings in OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health.

“Until now, occupational therapists had no objective way of knowing if the caregiver was overestimating or underestimating the abilities of the person they are caring for, leaving therapists to depend only on observation to determine what kind of caregiver education is needed,” said Catherine Verrier Piersol, Ph.D., OTR/L, first author and Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy in the Jefferson College of Health Professions. “Often, a caregiver overestimates the person’s abilities, so they may not provide enough support and supervision which can lead to risk or harm. But equally important, if they underestimate the person’s abilities, they might restrict the person’s participation in daily activities and create unnecessary dependence.”

Full story of caregiver’s measuring tool for dementia at Science Daily