Friday, January 27, 2012

Chomedey’s Jewish Rehab is helping make malls friendlier for Physically Challanged

Chomedey’s Jewish Rehab is helping make malls friendlier

From the left, CRIR scientific director Dr. Eva Kehayia and Kimberley Singerman, coordinator of clinical education and research, are assisting in the development of new technologies designed to help the physically and cognitively challenged
Researchers affiliated with the Chomedey-based Jewish Rehabilitation Hospital are developing innovative new technologies with the potential to make shopping easier for the elderly and the handicapped, and which may one day be used on a global basis.
The JRH specializes in rehabilitation issues involving sensory, motor and cognitive skills. It is also one of the research components of the Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire en réadaption de Montréal (CRIR).

Working on projects
While the JRH exists primarily to provide treatment to patients with health problems, research conducted at the hospital has led to a number of projects which have the potential to improve patients’ lives.

The CRIR’s “living lab” project, in which the JRH is actively taking part, is using one of Montreal’s best-known interior shopping centres, Place Alexis Nihon, as the testing ground for a number of fledgling technologies which are being designed for the physically and cognitively challenged.

As anyone with long-range vision might agree, the concept of making malls and other high-traffic public places more accessible has the significant potential to open up access to a niche of consumers that most retailers and service providers haven’t paid much attention to until now.

As the CRIR and the JRH are conducting some of the only active R & D in this area of interest, they could end up being the ones that others eventually seek out for knowledge and the technology that could result in patents. Over the next four years, Place Alexis Nihon (which is owned by Canmarc REIT, the same company that owns the Centre Laval mall) will be hosting the CRIR researchers.

Under development
Among the various articles, tools and devices they will be testing with the help of their clients are: transmitters and receivers that can tell visually impaired persons what stores and services are available and how they can get there; special cameras that can detect human traffic movements so that problem areas can be located; computer software to help the cognitively-impaired get around efficiently in a “virtual” grocery store; and “smart” wheelchairs programmed to transport a person from one store to another in a mall while avoiding obstacles.
“My guess is that eventually, once these changes become visible at Place Alexis Nihon, other malls in Montreal and around Canada will become more accepting,” Eva Kehayia, scientific director at the CRIR, told the Laval News during a special research presentation held at the JRH on Jan. 17. According to Kehayia, the act of placing technologies like these in just one mall at first “will probably instigate other similar initiatives.

“I have no doubt that a lot of technology and innovation will come out of this,” she added, noting one particular technology being developed by co-researcher Philippe Archambault will help guide wheelchairs with the help of GPS.

GPS’s limitations
One of the problems to be overcome at this stage is that existing GPS technology is dependent on satellite signals that can only be received if there is a line of sight. While that’s usually no problem for a GPS unit exposed to the sky through the windshield of a car, the researchers have to figure out a way to apply the technology in an enclosed mall.

So far, the CRIR has managed to attract the interest of at least one company that is interested in developing some of the researchers’ virtual reality ideas. The product – software that duplicates a grocery store and allows its users to navigate in a retail environment – will allow patients to train and become familiar with the actual store setting before they go there. It’s now being adapted to function in conjunction with the IGA supermarket at Place Alexis Nihon.

Kehayia said she has “no doubt that patents will be obtained” for this and other technologies being developed by the CRIR in conjunction with the JRH and the other Montreal-area rehabilitation institutions that are also involved. She said that at the moment they have 16 projects in development. According to Kehayia, the researchers are very optimistic about their prospects. Their work only started last September after several hundred thousand dollars in funding came through from the Quebec government last May.

A Pilot Study of Brain-Computer Interface (BCI)-Driven Orthosis for Rehabilitation

The Joint UNC-NCSU Rehabilitation Engineering Center Pilot Grant Program Makes First Two Awards

The Rehabilitation Engineering Center announces the awards of two pilot grants totaling $50K to facilitate collaboration between UNC and NCSU faculty for attaining larger grants, and to foster collaboration between undergraduate engineers at NCSU/UNC and Health Sciences students at UNC. These two grants will foster advancement of clinically relevant rehabilitation engineering research.

Co-Principal Investigators

Chang S., Nam Ph.D., Industrial and Systems Engineering, NCSU

Richard Goldberg Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering NCSU/UNC-Chapel Hill

Title: A Pilot Study of Brain-Computer Interface (BCI)-Driven Orthosis for Rehabilitation

This project aims at determining the ability of stroke patients to volitionally modulate their sensorimotor rhythms and operate a brain-actuated hand orthosis with additional somatosensory feedback through a newly established interdisciplinary collaboration between UNC-CH (Biomedical Engineering) and NCSU (Industrial and Systems Engineering) research teams. Subjects equipped with a BCI-orthosis system perform hand grasping, hand opening, wrist extension, and wrist bending by imagining movements of left hand, right hand, both hands, and both feet, respectively, while receiving visual and haptic feedback. We expect that haptic feedback in addition to visual feedback about the current state of brain activity improves performance of the BCI driven orthosis and that this motor imagery-based BCI training with sensory feedback can be utilized to support the process of cortical reorganization required for clinical improvement in impaired motor function. Results of the present study will help us better understand neural mechanisms of a BCI-orthosis operation. Findings from this study will also allow us to conduct long-term rehabilitation studies with stroke patients who have severe motor impairment using a BCI-driven prosthetic connected to a motor imagery-based Wolfpack BCI system we developed.

Notion in Motion: Wireless Sensors Monitor Brain Waves on the Fly

Notion in Motion: Wireless Sensors Monitor Brain Waves on the Fly

Electroencephalography used to require a person to sit still while a computer tracked the brain's electrical impulses. A newer technology untethers this research

eeg, brain, interface, game "TIP OF THE ICEBERG": NeuroSky, Inc.'s brain-computer interface shown here just scratches the surface of what is possible thanks to advances in mobile electroencephalographic brain-wave detection technology, says University of California, San Diego's Scott Makeig. Image: Courtesy of Neurosky, Inc.
A fighter pilot heads back to base after a long mission, feeling spent. A warning light flashes on the control panel. Has she noticed? If so, is she focused enough to fix the problem?

Thanks to current advances in electroencephalographic (EEG) brain-wave detection technology, military commanders may not have to guess the answers to these questions much longer. They could soon be monitoring her mental state via helmet sensors, looking for signs she is concentrating on her flying and reacting to the warning light.

This is possible because of two key advances made EEG technology wireless and mobile, says Scott Makeig, director of the University of California, San Diego's Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience (SCCN) in La Jolla, Calif. EEG used to require users to sit motionless, weighted down by heavy wires. Movement interfered with the signals, so that even an eyebrow twitch could garble the brain impulses.

Modern technology lightened the load and wirelessly linked the sensors and the computers that collect the data. In addition, Makeig and others developed better algorithms—in particular, independent component analysis. By reading signals from several electrodes, they can infer where, within the skull, a particular impulse originated. This is akin to listening to a single speaker's voice in a crowded room. In so doing, they are also able to filter out movements—not just eyebrow twitches, but also the muscle flexing needed to walk, talk or fly a plane.

EEG's most public face may be two Star Wars–inspired toys, Mattel's Mindflex and Uncle Milton's Force Trainer. Introduced in 2009, they let wannabe Jedi knights practice telekinesis while wearing an EEG headset. But these toys are just the "tip of the iceberg," says Makeig, whose work includes mental concentration monitoring. "Did you push the red button and then say, 'Oops!' to yourself? It would be useful in many situations—including military—for the system to be aware of that."

That kind of "mental gas gauge" is just one of many projects Makeig is running at the SCCN, which is part of U.C. San Diego's Institute for Neural Computation (INC). He also combines mobile EEG with motion-capture technology, suiting volunteers in EEG caps and LED-speckled spandex suits so he can follow their movements with cameras in a converted basement classroom. For the first time, researchers like Makeig can examine the thoughts that lead to movement, in both healthy people and participants with conditions such as autism. Makeig calls the system Mobile Brain/Body Imaging, or MoBI. It allows him to study actions "at the speed of thought itself," he says.

EEG does not directly read thoughts. Instead, it picks up on the electrical fields generated by nerves, which communicate via electricity. The EEG sensors—from the one on the Star Wars games to the 256 in Makeig's MoBI—are like microphones listening to those microvolt-strength neural signals, says Tansy Brook, head of communications for NeuroSky Brain–Computer Interface Technology in San Jose, Calif., makers of the chip in the Star Wars toys and many other research, educational and entertainment products.

For one project, Makeig is collaborating with neuroscientists Marissa Westerfield and Jean Thompson, U.C. San Diego researchers studying movement behavior in teenagers with autism. They put the teens, wearing the EEG sensors and LEDs, in Makeig's special classroom. Then, they project a spaceship on the walls. The kids have to chase the spaceship as it darts from one point to another. Although the results are not yet in, Westerfield suspects that people with autism, compared with those who are non-autistic, will take longer to process where the spaceship has gone and readjust their movements toward it. "If we had a better idea of the underlying deficits…then we could possibly design better interventions," such as targeted physical therapy for the movement problems autistic people have, Westerfield says.

Neuroscientists and psychologists have been using EEG to eavesdrop on brain waves since 1926, and doctors employ it to study sleep patterns and observe epileptic seizures. During most of that time, subjects had to sit in an electrically shielded booth, "like a big refrigerator," says John Foxe, a neuroscientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. He calls Makeig's MoBI "technical wizardry" that will enable scientists "to watch the brain and how it works in much more realistic settings."

Wireless EEG has already had an impact on gaming. San Francisco–based Emotiv has since 2009 sold its EPOC EEG headset, which uses electrical signals to determine a player's emotional state—excitement, frustration and boredom each create a different pattern. Gamers using Emotiv's technology can also create mental "spells" to lift or push virtual objects, says Geoff Mackellar, CEO of Emotiv’s research unit based in Sydney, Australia. The EPOC is also regularly used in research labs and may have medical applications in the future, Mackellar adds.

Wireless EEG technology provides signals as clear as the wired version, Makeig says, and at about 3.5 kilograms his machinery is "luggable." (Emotiv's and NeuroSky's headsets, which use fewer electrodes, are lighter.) "Of course, we're not starting with ballet dancers doing The Rite of Spring," he admits, but the team has succeeded with joggers on a treadmill. One challenge they would still like to overcome is to remove the sticky, conductive gel that goes under each electrode. It can certainly be done—Emotiv's electrodes use only saltwater and NeuroSky's are dry.

Tzyy-Ping Jung, associate director of the SCCN, predicts the group will make a dry, 64-electrode system within a couple of years. He and Makeig envision the headset will help paralyzed people interact with the world, warn migraine sufferers of an impending headache, and adjust computerized learning to match a student's personal pace, among other potential applications.

"It's certainly something that everyone can have at home," Emotiv's Mackellar says.

Minnesota State Senator Gary Kubly has ALS and spoke on their first day in session using his iPad

Minnesota State Senator Gary Kubly has ALS and spoke on their first day in session using his iPad

Human moments dominate Minnesota Senate's first day
By Doug Grow | Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012
The Senate chamber, typically a place filled with the buzz of dozens of conversations, was totally quiet Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, was speaking, and the other 66 senators were trying hard to understand the words he was saying. There were sounds filled with passion coming from Kubly's lips, but the words were unintelligible.

Kubly was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) 18 months ago. The awful progress of the disease was painfully obvious for all to see and hear. Only a few months ago, Kubly was much easier to understand, and he could move around with the aid of a walker.
Now at the start of this new session — which will be Kubly's last — his colleagues strained to hear.
After he had uttered a few sentences, he pushed a button on an iPad. He had typed what he had spoken, and now the machine was doing the talking for him.

"I'd like to thank all the members and the staff for all they have done for me," the automated voice said.
He uttered/typed a few more phrases of appreciation, hit the button, and the automated voice flatly repeated them. There was a moment of silence — then, a long, sincere standing ovation.

It was one of those movingly human moments that brought everyone together.

Eyewriter, person with ALS, and a documentary

[REVIEW] Getting Up: The Tempt One Story [Slamdance 2012]


Street art. Gee-whiz tech. An indomitable human spirit. A commercial director’s eye for details. Getting Up, a documentary about how graffiti artist Tempt One gets back to making art after being stricken with a disease that leaves him virtually paralyzed, is an exceptional story crafted into an exceptional film.

Tony “Tempt One” Quan is one of the legends of the graffiti scene in Los Angeles. His lettering style is admired by fans and fellow artists, and his sense of community make him one of the lynchpins of the graffiti world. So when he was diagnosed in 2003 as having ALS, the debilitating condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease that leaves its victims paralyzed, it was a blow to the graffiti world.

Enter Mick Ebeling, entrepreneur, philanthropist and street art fan. When Ebeling hears about Quan’s condition, he decides to give some money to the Tempt One ALS Foundation and learn some more about the man. This begins a journey for the two men, with Mick working to recruit technologists and craftsmen for a project that with the goal of getting Tempt back to doing what he does: rock fresh and funky styles on walls.

Ebeling produced this documentary and his wife Caskey directed this picture. For a hair’s breath of seconds as Mick Ebeling enters the story, a fear crept over me that this was going to be some sort of Roman triumph of philanthropy. That fear was quickly put to rest by two factors. The first is Mick Ebeling. While he is critical as an agent of change in the story, the documentary is never about him. Mick may get screen time, but every beat of this story is Tempt’s.

The second factor is director Caskey Ebeling, whose skill as a storyteller has been honed through years of short film and commercial work. Ebeling uses the full palate of the modern documentary: found footage, interviews, and animated bridging sequences to create a narrative rhythm more engaging than most of what Hollywood can manage. It is not easy to live so close to a story– at one point the Graffiti Research Lab (GRL), a collective of artists and technologists, take over the Ebeling’s house– and retain the ability to tell the story in a way that engages someone who wasn’t there.

The sequence with the GRL marks the point where the story pivots from personal medical struggle into a kind of techno-art science thriller. Can a group of open source hackers build a device that helps a paralyzed man paint again? What happens when one of the world’s largest PC manufactures gets involved?
The fruit of the Ebeling/GRL collaboration is the EyeWriter, which was named as one of the top inventions of 2010 by Time magazine. The EyeWriter consists of a small camera attached to a pair of modified sunglasses. The camera track’s Tempt’s eye movements, and translates those into actions on a computer screen. Mick Ebeling introduced the device and the basics of Tempt’s story in a TED talk.

At it’s best technology and the principles of good design are extensions of the human will and spirit. Nothing speaks to the power of the human spirit quite like a man diagnosed with a disease that usually kills those stricken with it within two to three years not only holding on after seven years, but exerting such a passion for his craft that multiple communities come together to find a way to help him realize that passion.

When they do those results are shared with the world; the EyeWriter technology has already been adapted to help other paralysis victims overcome their limitations. Screening this film felt like a reaffirmation of what is best in humanity: the unwillingness to give up in the face of tragic circumstances, the ingenuity artists and engineers can deploy in the name of a good cause, and above all the importance of community.
Getting Up: The Tempt One Story. Directed by Caskey Ebeling, premiered as part of the 2012 Slamdance Film Festival. For more information about Tempt One, Mick Ebeling, and the Eyewriter check out the links above and Ebeling’s Not Impossible Foundation.

Activities of daily living in motor neuron disease: role of behavioural and motor changes

Activities of daily living in motor neuron disease: role of behavioural and motor changes

from the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience
  • E. Mioshia, b, ,
  • P. Lilloa,
  • M. Kiernana,
  • J. Hodgesa, b
  • a Neuroscience Research Australia, Barker St., PO Box 1165, Randwick, New South Wales 2031, Australia
  • b School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales, Australia


Impairment in the activities of daily living (ADL) in motor neuron disease (MND) has been little investigated. The contributions of both behavioural and motor changes on functional performance have not been explored. A postal survey in New South Wales, Australia, included assessments of ADL, behavioural change (carer-based) and MND severity. Eighty-two patients were subdivided into groups according to onset presentation: bulbar (n = 23) and limb (n = 59). There were significant differences in ADL performance between limb and bulbar onset groups depending on ADL task. Disability was also dependent on disease severity as measured by the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale – Revised (ALSFRS – R) score. Importantly, variance in ADL scores was dependent on both motor and behavioural factors. This study confirms the progressive disabling nature of MND, which is dependent on disease severity and shows qualitative differences depending on onset presentation. A model combining motor and behavioural changes explained 57% of variance on ADL performance, with important implications for clinical intervention.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

National Council on Disability Effective Communication Before, During, and After Emergencies

National Council on Disability Effective Communication Pre-Solicitation Notice

Effective Communication Before, During, and After Emergencies

The National Council on Disability is interested in evaluating effective communication for Americans with disabilities before, during, and after emergencies. Effective communication throughout all phases of emergency management (preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation) must be fully accessible to all people with disabilities.  NCD will document successful practices and identify facilitators and barriers to providing effective emergency-related communication.  A key piece of this research will include a thorough examination of the current state of affairs concerning the accessibility of emergency-related communication.  This analysis must address all phases of emergency management and be cross-disability and demonstrate sensitivity to diversity matters/issues that can impact outreach and response.  The research must include what is occurring in this area on both the national and state level. The estimated contract period is 10 months.

NCD will distribute its Effective Communication study Notice of Funding Opportunity to interested parties on February 8, 2012.  NCD will expect interested parties to submit their responses by March 7, 2012.  Copies of the Notice of Funding Opportunity will be available on and and may be requested by mail or picked up at NCD on or after the issue date of February 8, 2012.

For more information, contact Robyn Powell,, 1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850, Washington, D.C. 20004; 202 272-2004 or 202-272-2074 TTY.

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