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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

With mind-reading speller, free-for-all conversations that are silent and still

Researchers have come up with a device that may enable people who are completely unable to speak or move at all to nevertheless manage unscripted back-and-forth conversation. The key to such silent and still communication is the first real-time, brain-scanning speller.
 
The new technology builds on groundbreaking earlier uses of fMRI brain scans to assess consciousness in people described as being in an unconscious, vegetative state and to enable them to answer yes and no questions. fMRI (or functional magnetic resonance imaging) is typically used for clinical and research purposes to track brain activity by measuring blood flow.

"The work of Adrian Owen and colleagues led me to wonder whether it might even become possible to use fMRI, mental tasks, and appropriate experimental designs to freely encode thoughts, letter-by-letter, and therewith enable back-and-forth communication in the absence of motor behavior," said Bettina Sorger of Maastricht University in The Netherlands.

The new evidence shows that the answer to that thought question is yes. Sorger's team came up with a letter-encoding technique that requires almost no pre-training. Participants in their study voluntarily selected letters on a screen, which guided the letter encoding; for each specific character, participants were asked to perform a particular mental task for a set period of time. That produced 27 distinct brain patterns corresponding to each letter of the alphabet and the equivalent of a space bar, which could be automatically decoded in real-time using newly developed data analysis methods.

In each communication experiment, participants held a mini-conversation consisting of two open questions and answers. Everyone the researchers tested was able to successfully produce answers within a single one-hour session.

The results substantially extend earlier uses of fMRI, which allowed individuals to answer the equivalent of multiple-choice questions having four or fewer possible answers, by enabling free-letter spelling. That could make all the difference for people who are completely paralyzed and unable to benefit from other means of alternative communication, Sorger says.

Ultimately, she says their goal is to transfer the fMRI technology they've developed to a more portable and affordable method for measuring blood flow, such as functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).


Links:

Neuroscience: The mind reader




Adrian Owen

Call for Proposals for Assistive and Accessible Mobile Applications for 2012-13




Wireless RERC project directors
Image Source: Wireless RERC website
The Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (Wireless RERC), creator of access to wireless technologies to people with disabilities, is inviting developers to submit proposals to obtain financial support for creating assistive and/or accessibility apps for popular mobile platforms like iOS, Android, Blackberry 10, and Windows Phone.

The Wireless RERC's app development budget is approximately $90k, and the idea is to support the development of four new apps per grant year. The app will be released through every platform's appropriate channel (App Store, Google Play, etc.) or through Wireless RERC's App Factory. If the app is successful, the developer may be offered additional funding to add more features or to create the app for an additional platform.

Proposals will be evaluated on the following parameters:

§ The app addresses an important accessibility or assistive technology need. 
§ The app is unlikely to be developed in the commercial marketplace. 
§ The app is technically feasible and the technical capacity required for development is readily demonstrable by the developer. 
§ The projected lifetime of the app justifies the investment. 
§ The projected lifetime of the app justifies the investment.The app complements and does not duplicate other apps in the marketplace or under development.

For the 2012-13 grant year, proposals need to be submitted by 15 September, 2012, and the final apps need to be delivered by August 10, 2013.

To read more details about the Call for Proposals, visit the website here.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Interactive Webinars on the Health Care Law




The HHS Partnership Center continues to host a series of interactive webinars discussing the benefits and provisions of the health care law, the Affordable Care Act.

All webinars are open to the public and include a question and answer session where you can ask HHS staff any question you may have about the health care law. Please submit questions you would like to have answered on the webinar to ACA101@hhs.gov.

To participate in one of the webinars, please select your preferred dates from the list below and submit the necessary information.



National Webinars




August 28, 2:00 pm ET – The Health Care Law 101 (in Spanish)

September 13, 12:30 pm ET - The Health Care Law 101 (in English)

September 25 at 2:00 pm ET - The Health Care Law 101 (in Spanish)



Regional Health Care Law 101 Webinars

August 8, 11:00 am ET – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont (HHS Region 1)

August 8, 2:00 pm CT, 1:00 pm MT – Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas (HHS Region 6)

August 20, 2:00pm ET – Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (HHS Region 2)

August 20, 3:00pm CT, 4:00pm ET – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin (HHS Region 5)



Below are notices to advertise the webinars in each HHS Region.





You are invited to an:


To RSVP for the Webinar, please click here

To participate by conference call dial Toll-free: 1-877-568-4108
Access Code: 359-632-902, Pin #



Hosted by

HHS Regional Director, Dr. Jaime Torres

The HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships



Please send questions in advance to ACA101@hhs.gov

If you are in another state, please see our webinar schedule here:






You are invited to an:

Interactive Webinar on the Health Care Law,

The Affordable Care Act

August 8 at 11:00 am Eastern Time

This webinar is designed for faith and community leaders in the following

States: (HHS Region 1)



Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont

To RSVP for the Webinar, please click here

To participate by conference call dial, Toll-free: 1-877-568-4108
Access Code: 406-837-812, Pin #

Hosted by HHS Regional Director, Christie Hager

and the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Please send questions in advance to ACA101@hhs.gov

If you are in another state, please see our webinar schedule here:




You are invited to an:

Interactive Webinar on the Health Care Law,

The Affordable Care Act



August 8 at 2:00 pm Central Time, 1 pm Mountain Time



This webinar is designed for faith and community leaders in the following States: (HHS Region 6)



Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas

To RSVP for the Webinar, please click here

To participate by conference call dial Toll-free: 1-877-568-4108
Access Code: 726-605-865 , Pin #

Hosted by HHS Regional Director, Marjorie Petty

and the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Please send questions in advance to ACA101@hhs.gov

If you are in another state, please see our webinar schedule here:






You are invited to an:

Interactive Webinar on the Health Care Law,

The Affordable Care Act



August 20 at 3:00 pm Central Time/4:00 pm Eastern Time

This webinar is designed for faith and community leaders in the following

States: (HHS Region 5)



Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin



To RSVP for the Webinar, please click here

To participate by conference call dial 1-877-568-4108
Access Code: 925-066-778, Pin #

Hosted by HHS Regional Director, Kenneth Munson

and the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Please send questions in advance to ACA101@hhs.gov

If you are in another state, please see our webinar schedule here: