Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Understanding Aphasia

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Assisted suicide: why I want the right to die - video


Assisted suicide: why I want the right to die. Credit: Sarah Boseley and Cameron Robertson Link to this video

A 46-year-old-man who wants to die after a stroke that left him almost completely paralysed is bringing a groundbreaking legal action that could effectively lead to the legalisation of assisted suicide in the UK.

Martin, as he has agreed to be called to preserve his anonymity and that of his family, was a fit and active man who enjoyed rugby, cars and socialising with friends in the pub before suffering a brainstem stroke three years ago. Now requiring round-the-clock care, his mobility is limited to moving his eyes and small movements of his head. He communicates by staring at letters on a computer screen which the machine recognises and forms into words spoken by a digitised voice.

Martin has been asking to die since six months after the stroke but says he has no one willing to assist him and cannot on his own organise a trip to the Swiss clinic Dignitas, where he could end his life legally. His wife, who chooses to be known as Felicity, says.......

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Visionary physician: Dr. Joseph Gravlee back at work after suffering stroke

FAIRHOPE, Alabama — More than 2 years after a massive stroke left him partially paralyzed and in a coma for 12 days, ophthalmologist Joseph Gravlee has returned to work in a supervisory role at the practice that he founded here. While it’s still difficult for him to speak with anything more than a “yes” or “no,” he’s driving again, getting around in an old Ford 250 diesel pickup that was modified with a knob so he can steer with his left hand.
“The patients love seeing Joe,” said his wife, Glenda Gravlee. “Everywhere I go, people ask me how he is doing.”
Since the Feb. 18, 2009, stroke, Gravlee, 57, has struggled with expressive aphasia, which is the loss of ability to produce spoken or written language.

Jennifer Aniston’s mother has a strok

Jennifer Aniston’s 75-year-old mother, Nancy Dow, a former model, suffered a stroke over the weekend and was hospitalized in Beverly Hills.
Dow, according to the Daily Mail, was in critical condition when she was first admitted into the hospital.
Aniston, along with boyfriend actor Justin Theroux, was at her mother’s side in tears on Saturday, according to Us Magazine, despite their previously strained relationship. The mother and daughter have been distant since Dow spoke about their troubles in a 1996 interview and later wrote a tell all book about the relationship, From Mother and Daughter to Friends: A Memoir. The two were estranged from that point until they went through a painful reconciliation in 2009, and now Aniston only wants to support her mother during this rough time.
No update has yet to be giving on Dow’s condition. Aniston wishes to keep the matter private as her family gets through this.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Medical Treatment: The Key to Stopping Stroke?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The key to preventing a common type of stroke may be aggressive medical therapy by itself, rather than in combination with surgery, according to new research.Investigators studied 451 patients aged 30 to 80 who had at least 70 percent narrowing in the arteries in the brain and had experienced symptoms in the past month. Patients in one group were assigned to receive intensive management that involved smoking cessation and blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and blood-clot prevention medications. The other group of patients received the same medical treatment but also had balloon angioplasty and a stent procedure.Nearly 15 percent of patients who received stents had a stroke or died within 30 days of enrolling in the study compared to less than 6 percent of patients in the medical therapy group. At one year, about 21 percent of the patients who received the stents had negative effects compared to 12 percent in the medical treatment group.“This study provides an answer to a longstanding question by physicians -- what to do to prevent a devastating second stroke in a high-risk population. Although technological advances have brought intracranial stenting into practice, we have now learned that when tested in a large group, this particular device did not lead to a better health outcome," Walter Koroshetz, M.D., deputy director of the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which funded the clinical trial, was quoted as saying.These results were surprising to the researchers who thought patients receiving stents would fare better. However, they say more studies are needed to determine the long-term benefits of each strategy."The real question is, is there a benefit to patients over the long-term," study co-author and co-principal investigator Brian L. Hoh, M.D., who is an associate professor of radiology and neuroscience in the UF College of Medicine, was quoted as saying. "If you think about it, when people are concerned about stroke, it's not just their first month that matters, so we're waiting to see what the longer-term results will be."Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. Patients with the type of stroke known as symptomatic intracranial atherosclerosis do not respond well to existing treatments. About one-quarter of them have another stroke within a year.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Estimating the lifetime economic burden of stroke according to the age of onset in South Korea: a cost of illness study

The recently-observed trend towards younger stroke patients in Korea raises economic concerns, including erosion of the workforce. We compared per-person lifetime costs of stroke according to the age of stroke onset from the Korean societal perspective.


A state-transition Markov model consisted of three health states ('post primary stroke event', 'alive post stroke', and 'dead') was developed to simulate the natural history of stroke. The transition probabilities for fatal and non-fatal recurrent stroke by age and gender and for non-stroke causes of death were derived from the national epidemiologic data of the Korean Health Insurance Review and Assessment Services and data from the Danish Monitoring Trends in Cardiovascular Disease study. We used an incidence-based approach to estimate the long-term costs of stroke. The model captured stroke-related costs including costs within the health sector, patients' out-of-pocket costs outside the health sector, and costs resulting from loss of productivity due to morbidity and premature death using a human capital approach. Average insurance-covered costs occurring within the health sector were estimated from the National Health Insurance claims database. Other costs were estimated based on the national epidemiologic data and literature. All costs are presented in 2008 Korean currency values (Korean won = KRW).


The lifetime costs of stroke were estimated to be: 200.7, 81.9, and 16.4 million Korean won (1,200 KRW is approximately equal to one US dollar) for men who suffered a first stroke at age 45, 55 and 65 years, respectively, and 75.7, 39.2, and 19.3 million KRW for women at the same age. While stroke occurring among Koreans aged 45 to 64 years accounted for only 30% of the total disease incidence, this age group incurred 75% of the total national lifetime costs of stroke.


A higher lifetime burden and increasing incidence of stroke among younger Koreans highlight the need for more effective strategies for the prevention and management of stroke especially for people between 40 and 60 years of ages.

Angry reaction to new stroke figures

hitting back ... Dr Jon Scott of South Tyneside NHS Trust.
HOSPITAL bosses in South Tyneside have hit back at figures which appear to show that the treatment of stroke patients in the borough is not up to scratch.
Quarterly data on the quality of stroke care, released by the Royal College of Physicians, charts the first 72 hours of care a patient receives.
The figures, collected between April and June, show South Tyneside District Hospital NHS Trust performed significantly worse than the national average.
Hospital chiefs say the figures are not a true representation of their performance because they don’t take into account the way patients are admitted in the borough.
The Trust has spent £1m revamping the stroke unit at the Harton Lane hospital and say the numbers aren’t a true representation because a third of the 75 units involved didn’t supply information and the way in which patients receive treatment is also not taken into account.
The data claimed that it took 421 minutes for patients in the borough to receive a scan on arrival at hospital, compared with the national average of 143 minutes.
It also highlighted that it took 227 minutes – compared with 128 minutes nationally – for patients to come into contact with a member of the stroke team.
This increased to 230 minutes – above the national average of 188 – when out of hours.
Dr Jon Scott, consultant stroke physician, said the figures are assumed to be correct, but not all stroke units entered data into the Stroke Improvement National Audit Programme (SINAP) so the national average wasn’t a true representation.
He said: “The guidance for CT scans is that they need to be done for all patients within 24 hours and, for a small minority, as soon as possible.
“The national average includes data from hyperacute units, where patients are diverted past their local hospital. Therefore, it is rather difficult to interpret as the national average figure comprises many different types of stroke service.”
He said South Tyneside has a 24/7 consultant-led and delivered service that is able to guarantee treatment, irrespective of time of onset of symptoms and guarantees a consultant review within 24 hours for all patients, even at weekends and bank holidays.
Dr Scott says the pathway the hospital uses to treat its patients through its A&E department, before they are transferred to the stroke unit, has also affected scores.
He said: “Our pathway utilises the on-call registrar to review acute stroke patients in A&E.
“This is not classified as a ‘member of the stroke team’ according to the SINAP data definitions, hence the higher than average score.
“First contact with someone who fits the SINAP definition tends to occur when the patient arrives on the stoke unit.
“This is why our in-hours and out-of hours contact times are virtually identical.”
The next audit figures are due in November.

Neurology: Ultrasound markers may predict high stroke risk

A pair of visual ultrasound markers may help physicians better determine which patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis face a higher stroke risk, and better determine which patients might benefit from carotid endarterectomy (CEA), according to a study published online Aug. 17 in Neurology.

The absolute benefit of CEA is small, which has spurred concerns about the cost effectiveness and utility of the procedure. However, limiting the procedure to patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis (CS) at higher risk for ipsilateral stroke could yield cost and clinical benefits.

Thus, Raffi Topakian, MD, of the department of neurology at Academic Teaching Hospital Wagner-Jauregg in Linz, Austria, and colleagues devised a study to determine whether a predictive score based ultrasonic plaque morphology assessment and the detection of asymptomatic emboli signals on transcranial Doppler ultrasound might improve prediction of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

The researchers leveraged data from 435 patients with  asymptomatic CS enrolled in the Asymptomatic Carotid Emboli Study (ACES). Participants were enrolled between July 1999 and August 2007 and had > 70 percent asymptomatic CS. Ultrasound was performed at study entry.

The primary endpoint was stroke or stroke/TIA risk predicted by plaque echolucency at study entry. Secondary endpoints were ipsilateral stroke alone, any stroke or cardiovascular death.

The research team analyzed plaque morphology and graded plaques as echolucent or echogenic, using a five-type classification scale.

Nearly 38 percent of plaques were graded as echolucent, and of the 428 patients with analyzable transcranial Doppler recordings, 17.1 percent had at least one emboli signal detected on either of the two baseline recordings.

During the nearly two-year follow-up, researchers recorded 10 ipsilateral strokes, 20 ipsilateral TIAs and 17 strokes in any territory, with 33 patients suffering any stroke or CV death.

Also, during follow-up, 33 patients underwent CEA and there were 29 deaths.

According to Topakian et al, plaque echolucency was associated with an increased risk of ipsilateral stroke and showed a trend toward association with ipsilateral stroke and TIA and any stroke. Subjects with both echolucency and embolic signal positivity at baseline faced a significant increase in risk for ipsilateral stroke and TIA, ipsilateral stroke and any stroke.

“[Patients] with both conditions present had at least a 10-fold increase in the risk of ipsilateral stroke with an annual risk of about 8.9 percent compared with a 0.8 percent risk in individuals without both risk markers,” wrote Topakian.

The researchers noted that the visual scale is relatively easy to use and could be incorporated into outpatient clinical management of patients with asymptomatic CS, while providing a strong prediction of future risk.

However, one limitation of the study is that physicians may have excluded high risk patients with asymptomatic CS from ACES.

Still, the researchers concluded that the combined markers enable differentiation between low-risk and high-risk patients and may help inform decision-making and selection of appropriate candidates for CEA.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gaming glove may help stroke patients recover

Gaming glove may help stroke patients recover

(Credit: McGill University)
In addition to shaking hands with a robot to regain motor skills, stroke patients may be able to retrain their brains and recover hand motion by playing video games with a sensor glove developed at McGill University.
Mechanical engineering students under Rosaire Mongrain produced the Biomedical Sensor Glove in cooperation with Montreal start-up Jintronix.
The prototype has inertial measurement units to track the movement of the wrist, palm, and index finger. Patients play a video game involving a virtual hand that manipulates objects.
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Associated software produces 3D models and lets patients monitor their progress at home. The system also sends data to treating physicians so they can keep tabs on the recovery process.
"The glove could take on many forms, and even rings alone could be used," Mongrain says. "The technology could also benefit people learning surgery and instruments such as piano."
Similar commercial gloves exist, but cost tens of thousands of dollars. By using cheaper sensors, the Biomedical Sensor Glove would cost about $1,000 to produce. Jintronix has submitted the idea to Grand Challenges Canada, an international development NPO, for funding.
Yet another good reason to keep playing video games.

Read more:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Best Life: Nick Chisholm The Death and Life of Nick Chisholm

Best Life: Nick Chisholm

The Death and Life of Nick Chisholm

A decade ago, he lay in his hospital bed, unable to move but alert enough to overhear doctors telling his family he wouldn't survive. That made him angry. Angry enough, in fact, to prove them wrong
By Oliver Broudy, Photographs by Tom Holland, Posted Date: September 14, 2010
Boyd was the last person you'd expect to turn all serious, but that day he left the jokes at the door. Pulling a chair up to Nick's bed, he steadied himself and then did for his friend what only a best friend would do. He offered to kill him.
The proposition was not altogether unreasonable. A few weeks before, Nick Chisholm had been a vigorous 27-year-old, a fearsome rugby player who pumped iron three times a week and on weekends tamed mountains with his Diamondback Zetec bike. Now he lay in a hospital bed, submerged inside a body he no longer controlled. And yet he knew this body was his, for it never stopped screaming at him to attend to it. An unsoothed calf spasm felt like a spear wound; an unscratchable itch like a spider gnawing his flesh. He longed to cry out—but his voice was gone, too. All that remained was the terror.

They call it locked-in syndrome. The phrase conveys a certain mechanical accuracy, but a nearer description might be "hell." It's usually brought on by a stroke when the neural isthmus connecting the brain to the body is catastrophically blocked, leaving the body unresponsive but all cognitive faculties intact. For a long time the doctors didn't know Nick was even conscious. No hope of recovery, he heard them say. Better if he'd died. And perhaps this was true. In many respects he was dead already, his consciousness orphaned. Pinching out that spark might even be an act of mercy. More read....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Virtual reality game can greatly help stroke victims

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A new technology is helping some elderly patients regain their balance and flexibility. It works by allowing the patients to work out with their virtual selves.

At 74-years-old, Beale Hughes doesn't play quite as much beach volleyball as she might like, but her avatar does.

Beale is rehabbing from cancer at the Rheem Valley Convalescent Hospital in Contra Costa County. She's strengthening her balance with the help of a new interactive exercise system called the Omni-VR.

"It feels, believe it or not, like fun," said Hughes.

As Beale moves, an infrared camera mounted on top of the monitor is capturing her entire body in 3D. Her movements are then relayed via software to her avatar -- the character playing the game on the screen. When Beale twists, bends and moves her arms, the avatar does the same.

"I'm a little tired, but happily so," said Hughes.

Ernie Escovido is an occupational therapist with Accelerated Care Plus, the company that developed the system. He says the games engage the patient's upper and lower bodies far more than simple gaming controls used in earlier systems, encouraging them to stretch and move in natural motion.

"It enables us to really engage the patient's true movements and then drive the actual rehab programs we're using," said Escovido.

Beale needs the help of a therapist to complete some of the movements, but says she's already made strides using the system.

"like my friends who come and visit, noticed a difference in my balance. You have to have balance and I certainly need more of it," said Hughes.

There is new research backing this type of rehab. A study from the University of Toronto found using virtual reality games led to significant improvement in patients who suffered a stroke. They found that patients who played virtual reality games in therapy had nearly a five time higher chance of recovering strength in their limbs than patients who did not. more read...

Voice for the voiceless

CHENNAI: Innovation sprouts only when a strongly-felt need arises. Ajit Narayanan sensed such a need two years prior, when he visited Vidya Sagar, an organisation that works with children and young adults with neurological disabilities and speech disorders. As  a result of his device, Avaz, hundreds of such children are now able communicate with ease.“Avaz is a handy hardware device for people with speech disorders such as cerebral palsy, autism and aphasia that translates their muscle movements into speech,” says this 29-year-old city based innovator. Lacking controlled movements makes communication hard for people with neurological disabilities and Avaz works on the principle of scanning their movements. It displaysvarious options on a screen and presents a highlight that moves between the different options. When a full sentence has been constructed, Avaz converts the message into speech.  more read...

Coffee studies should warm your heart

Just last month, Swedish researchers announced results of a large study showing that coffee seemed to reduce the risk of stroke in women by up to 25%. (Anacleto Rapping / Los Angeles Times / April 10, 2011)
Looking for a reason to not give up your coffee habit? Here's one possibility: heart health.

Numerous studies in recent years have reported that drinking coffee may be good for the cardiovascular system and might even help prevent strokes. Just last month, Swedish researchers announced results of a large study showing that coffee seemed to reduce the risk of stroke in women by up to 25%.

Not long ago, researchers thought quite the opposite about coffee and the heart, says Dr. Thomas Hemmen, director of the UC San Diego Stroke Center: "Coffee is fun and it tastes good, so people assumed for many years that it would be bad for you."

Studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s offered little in the way of confirmation or refutation. Several suggested an increased risk of heart attack among coffee drinkers. Others showed a lowered risk of heart attack and stroke. Still others found no connection at all.

Many of these early studies were criticized for being too small or too brief. In response, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health decided to look at coffee consumption, heart disease and stroke risk among more than 45,000 healthy men enrolled in the school's ongoing Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Their analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990, found that coffee drinking had no effect on the men's risk of heart attack or stroke.

But in the last few years, a spate of studies has revisited the question, and many of them have found — unexpectedly — that coffee drinking is linked to a decreased stroke risk.

A 2008 study of more than 26,000 male smokers in Finland found that the men who drank eight or more cups of coffee a day had a 23% lower risk of stroke than the men who drank little or no coffee. And a few other reports suggest the effect applies to healthy nonsmokers too. Researchers at UCLA and USC examined data on coffee consumption and stroke prevalence among more than 9,000 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Sur  more read...

Coffee and stroke risk in women

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Women who have coffee everyday reduce their risk of stroke by as much as 25 percent.

Coffee consumption has been inconsistently associated with stroke incidence and mortality in previous studies. To investigate the association between coffee consumption and stroke incidence, researchers studied 34,670 Swedish women, aged 49 to 83 years, who took part in the Swedish Mammography Cohort, which looked for associations between diet, lifestyle and disease. Between 1998 and 2008, 1,680 women had a stroke. But it was found that coffee drinkers had a 22 to 25 percent lowered risk.

Women who reported drinking 1-2 cups a day, 3-4 cups a day or 5 or more cups had similar benefits, compared with women who drank less than a cup of coffee. The results remained unchanged even after taking into account smoking, weight, diabetes, high blood pressure or drinking. Although the women in the study were not asked whether they drank decaffeinated coffee, most Swedes drink caffeinated coffee.

The researchers speculated that coffee might reduce inflammation, lower oxidative stress and improve insulin resistance, which in turn could lower the risk for stroke. However, the findings are preliminary and need further research.

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Study reveals increased inequality in stroke deaths across Europe and central Asia

There is growing inequality between different countries in Europe and central Asia in the proportion of people who die from stroke, according to a study published online today in the European Heart Journal.
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In countries where the proportions of stroke deaths have been low at the end of the 20th century, the death rates are continuing to decrease sharply; these countries include most of the western European nations. But in countries where stroke deaths were moderate or high, there has been "a further unprecedented increase in this cause of death" say the authors of the study; these countries include many in Eastern Europe and central Asia, such as Russia, Poland, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
The authors of this multi-national study say that, as previous research has shown a strong correlation between the prevalence of and deaths from stroke, their findings given an indication of how well blood pressure is controlled in different countries.
"Stroke mortality reflects the status of hypertension in the different regions of Europe. Monitoring changes over time can be extremely useful to watch the status of hypertension, the most important cardiovascular risk factor," said Professor Josep Redon, the first author of the paper and scientific director of the Research Institute (INCLIVA) at the University of Valencia, Spain.
Stroke is a major public health problem; it is the third most common cause of death after heart attacks and cancer; it is responsible for 3% of adult disability; and, because of the progressive ageing of the population and the increasing prevalence of major risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, the rate of stroke is predicted to double by 2020. The study's authors say this underlines the importance of controlling the risk factors responsible for the majority of strokes, "above all hypertension".
Prof Redon and his colleagues from Spain, Denmark, USA, France, Czech Republic and Italy, analysed stroke data from the World Health Organization (WHO) for 35 countries between 1990 and 2006. The countries were grouped according to WHO classifications into three demographic categories: group A, countries with very low child (under five years) and adult (15-59 years) mortality; group B, countries with low child and adult mortality; group C, countries with low child and high adult mortality.

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The researchers looked at the number of deaths from stroke in 2002, and they also analysed trends in these countries between 1999 and 2006.
In 2002 there was a total of 1,226,144 deaths from stroke, with more occurring in women than in men (739,000 versus 487,000 respectively), mainly because more women live to older ages than men; 60% of deaths occurred in people aged over 75 and only 4% in people under 55. Higher death rates tended to occur in countries in groups B and C, than in group A (e.g. Israel had 38 per 100,000 inhabitants, Russia had 274 per 100,000), although there were some exceptions to this; for example in group A, Croatia and Portugal had rates twice the average (169 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in Croatia, 168 per 100,000 in Portugal, compared to a group average of approximately 88 per 100,000). There were also wide variations in groups B and C; for instance, in group B the highest rate was 274 per 100,000 in Bulgaria, and the lowest was 57 per 100,000 in Azerbaijan.
When the researchers examined the trends over time, they found that in group A, deaths from stroke decreased sharply from 1990 to 2006 by approximately 40 per 100,000 of the population. In contrast, death rates increased by about 35-40 per 100,000 in group B, and by about 20 per 100,000 in group C.
The authors write in their paper: "The striking conclusion that emerges is that stroke mortality has entered a period of rapidly increasing inequality between countries. Countries which had attained low mortality rates reached in the latter part of the 20th century experienced further declines, while countries with moderate as well as high stroke mortality (Groups B and C in this report) at the start of the period being examined had a further unprecedented increase in this cause of death."
They continue: "If we assume that stroke mortality can serve as a proxy for average BP [blood pressure] in a population, the data presented here clearly demonstrate the necessity to adopt actions to increase the diagnosis, treatment and hypertension control in the countries where the burden of hypertension sequelae is still growing. Policies to increase the rate of BP control offer the best approach, while primary prevention strategies must also be implemented."
Prof Redon concluded: "We hope that this paper will be a call to action in the face of the huge impact of all over Europe."
More information: "Stroke mortality and trends from 1990 to 2006 in 39 countries from Europe and Central Asia: implications for control of high blood pressure". European Heart Journal. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehr045
Provided by European Society of Cardiology (news : web)
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New Book for National Stroke Awareness Month from Survivor

New Book for National Stroke Awareness Month from Survivor

Stroke Survivor Jeff Kagan Is Available to Discuss Stroke Recovery and His New Book "Life After Stroke, On The Road To Recovery"

ATLANTA, April 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Jeff Kagan had a stroke in 2004. He is a stroke survivor. He has been through the long recovery process and he wants to help you understand what to expect. He wants to help you prepare for the changes to come in your life, good and bad, and also prepare for recovery.
He learned so much about recovery by living through it, and he wants to help others understand what is coming next and that recovery will happen for them. There are also things to watch out for.
Whether you are a stroke survivor, caretaker, family or friend, there are questions you need answered. The same questions Kagan asked his doctors and counselors, but didn't get answered. He searched bookstores and online and could not find the answers.
So he decided when he recovered he would write a book and help other stroke survivors and their family and friends understand and make it through these confusing times.
After seven years of recovery, Jeff Kagan just wrote and published "Life After Stroke, On The Road To Recovery." Visit to read some of the book for free.
The book is available for sale at the publisher's website,, or, and other online bookstores.
Every stroke recovery is different, but the important thing to remember is everyone recovers to one extent or another. Jeff Kagan believes to get the best recovery you have to have the right mind set and attitude. You have to work hard for it, but recovery will happen if you do. He will discuss this important point among many others.
A stroke is not your fault. There are many young and fit stroke survivors. Recovery may not entirely be up to you, but Kagan believes your hard work and attitude can make the difference between a long and weak or a quicker and stronger recovery.
Jeff Kagan has appeared on Fox News, CNBC, CNN, PBS, ABC, NBC and CBS as well as dozens of other radio and television stations, newspapers and magazines, and on the Web.
He is available to discuss stroke recovery and National Stroke Awareness Month with the media.  more read...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Brain-Injured Individuals Learning to Embrace Life

Brain-Injured Individuals Learning to Embrace Life

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Acquired brain injury adults learn live with their handicaps with the help of Coastline's ABI Program.
It is a battle to live with an acquired brain injury, but a group of determined adults at Coastline Community College are not letting their handicaps get in the way of living life to its fullest.
Coastline’s Acquired Brain Injury Program has brought together students from around the country to California as they train with their designated succinct teams in hopes of restoring and minimizing any difficulties they have been experiencing since their injuries, said ABI Program coordinator Celeste Ryan.
Rigoberto Saenz clearly remembered what a good student he used to be before serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army. But after surviving several improvised explosive devices in 2006, Saenz became a different person.
“At first, I didn’t really notice anything change, but my wife started to notice that I was forgetting a lot” he said. “I was getting bad headaches and because I couldn’t remember things, I started to get angry.”
The program takes on a strong focus on emotional adjustment to brain injury, Ryan said. The limitations brain injured individuals recognize often lead them to frustration and depression and further pulls them into a life of alienation from friends and family, she added.
more read......

Paralyzed Woman's Neural Implant Still Firing After 1,000 Days

The implant allows the woman to accurately move a cursor on a computer by just thinking about it.
In 2005, researchers from Brown University in Providence, RI placed a silicon electrode array in the brain of a 50-year-old woman who had been paralyzed - unable to move or speak - since she suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s. The array, about the size of a baby aspirin pill, was able to read electric signals in her brain and allow her to pinpoint a cursor on a computer screen by imagining the movement of her hand. The implant worked well, but the scientists purposefully left the implant in the head of the patient referred to as S3 to test how long a device would last inside a human body. A paper released this week reported that, 1,000 days after the implant was installed, it still functioned relatively well, hopefully proving that long-term neural implants are no longer science-fiction. The question is: where can I get one?
"This proof of concept - that after 1,000 days a woman who has no functional use of her limbs and is unable to speak can reliably control a cursor on a computer screen using only the intended movement of her hand - is an important step for the field," said Dr. Leigh Hochberg, the director of the BrainGate project.
BrainGate is a combination of the hardware of the implant and the software that translates the electrical pulses of the brain to movement on a screen. The tests that S3 underwent were meant to approximate clicking on an application's menu bar, with some targets as small as an icon on your desktop.
"Our objective with the neural interface is to reach the level of performance of a person without a disability using a mouse," said John Simeral, another researcher on the team and the author of the paper.
The team admitted that not every neuron fired as well as it did when it was first installed, but the clinical trial at least proved that more permanent implants were possible. All of the problems were from mechanical or engineering design flaws, and could be corrected with further refinements. The tests being reported on now were actually conducted in 2008, and a full clinical trial is currently being organized by Dr. Leigh Hochberg and her team. We may eventually see these implants as an option for people who have no options.
The BrainGate project is amazing, not only because it shows that many of the gameplay elements we take for granted, say in Deus Ex or BioShock, could actually happen, but because of what it means for humanity. Synthetic body implants are usually considered for cosmetic reasons or to create a "super-soldier" from an already capable human being, but this BrainGate implant allows disabled people a human experience on par with the rest of us.
With this implant, Stephen Hawking would be able to play Myst - at least easier than he could now. And that's just awesome.
more read....