Saturday, February 4, 2012

Top five regrets of the dying

A thoughtful and powerful article to share with everyone.  So true no matter where you are in life's journey.

Top five regrets of the dying

A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?
A palliative nurse has recorded the top five regrets of the dying. Photograph: Montgomery Martin/Alamy
There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

What's your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

Assistive Technology Internet Radio Station Launched

In January, 2012, the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads launched

This web site streams 24 hours a day, seven days a week and includes all kinds of information about technology designed to increase the independence of people with disabilities. Examples of content include episodes of our flagship podcast “Assistive Technology Update”, our weekly “Accessibility Minute” show and several excerpts of assistive technology training programs that we have produced.  Popular content includes our recent Assistive Technology Holiday Shopping Guide, iPad High School (an in-depth look at an Indiana High School’s program to replace textbooks with iPads) and a training on assistive technology for people with autism spectrum disorder.  Additionally, our full-day training events and other live events are streamed from time to time.

The station rotates among various programs, but each day, the most recent episode of “Assistive Technology Update” plays at 9am and 1pm EST.

Wade Wingler, director of assistive technology and host of “Assistive Technology Update” reports, “We have had tremendous response to our podcasts, but we realize that some folks want to listen to our content without going through the process of subscribing through iTunes or another podcatcher.  We hope that will be an easy way for people to learn about assistive technology and the valuable resources made available through the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Voicegrams transform brain activity into words

Nature | News

Voicegrams transform brain activity into words

Computational models decode and reconstruct neural responses to speech

The brain’s electrical activity can be decoded to reconstruct which words a person is hearing, researchers report today in PLoS Biology1.

Brian Pasley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues recorded the brain activity of 15 people who were undergoing evaluation before unrelated neurosurgical procedures. The researchers placed electrodes on the surface of the superior temporal gyrus (STG), part of the brain's auditory system, to record the subjects’ neuronal activity in response to pre-recorded words and sentences.
The STG is thought to participate in the intermediate stages of speech processing, such as the transformation of sounds into phonemes, or speech sounds, yet little is known about which specific features, such as syllable rate or volume fluctuations, it represents.

“A major goal is to figure out how the human brain allows us to understand speech despite all the variability, such as a male or female voice, or fast or slow talkers,” says Pasley. “We build computational models that test hypotheses about how the brain accomplishes this feat, and then see if these models match the brain recordings.”

To analyse the data from the electrode recordings, the researchers used an algorithm designed to extract key features of spoken words, such as the time period and volume changes between syllables.

Mind reading

A recording of some of the words heard by the subjects, followed by the voicegrams as reconstructed by two different computer models.
They then entered these data into a computational model to reconstruct 'voicegrams' showing how these features change over time for each word. They found that these voicegrams could reproduce the sounds the patients heard accurately enough for individual words to be recognized.
During speech perception, the brain encodes and interprets complex acoustic signals composed of multiple frequencies that change over timescales as small as ten-thousandths of a second. The latest findings are a step towards understanding the processes by which the human brain converts sounds into meanings, and could have a number of important clinical applications.

“If we can better understand how each brain area participates in this process,” says Pasley, “we can start to understand how these neural mechanisms malfunction during communication disorders such as aphasia.”
Pasley and his team are interested in the similarities between perceived and imagined speech. “There is some evidence that perception and imagery may be pretty similar in the brain,” he says.

These similarities could eventually lead to the development of brain–computer interfaces that decode brain activity associated with the imagined speech of people who are unable to communicate, such as stroke patients or those with motor neurone disease or locked-in syndrome.

Sophie Scott, a neuroscientist at University College London, who studies speech perception and production, says that she has some reservations about the accuracy of the voicegrams. She would also like to see the pattern of responses for non-speech stimuli, such as music or unintelligible sounds, for comparison. But the authors “did an amazing job of transforming recordings of the neural responses to speech and relating these to the original sounds,” she says. “This approach may enable them to start determining the kinds of transformations and representations underlying normal speech perception.”

Scientists trial 'mind reading' computer

Scientists trial 'mind reading' computer

16:00 AEDT Wed Feb 1 2012
A scan showing electrodes connected to patients used in the test. (University of California)
A scan showing electrodes connected to patients used in the test. (University of California)

It's long been the stuff of science fiction, but scientists say a "mind reader" may be closer than previously thought.

Neuroscientists from the University of California Berkley have invented a computer program which can decode brain activity and translate it into words.

It may be a breakthrough for those whose speech has been affected by stroke or degenerative diseases, but the technology has also raised concerns about the potential to eavesdrop on people’s thoughts.
A recent trial of the technology saw researchers from the university test 15 people who were already undergoing brain surgery to treat epilepsy or brain tumors.

The patients each had 256 electrodes put on the surface of their temporal lobe, which processes speech and images, and then listened to men and women speaking individual words including object and place names.
A computer program analysed the brain activity and reproduced the word they had heard, or something very similar, at the first attempt.

Robert Knight, professor of psychology and neuroscience, said many could benefit from the technology in the future.

"This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig's [motor neurone] disease and can't speak," he was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.

"If you could eventually reconstruct imagined conversations from brain activity, thousands could benefit."
While the breakthrough may seem concerning to some, British neurological expert Professor Jan Schnupp from Oxford University has played down the potential for the technology to read unwilling subjects' thoughts.
He claims for now at least, it will only apply to those willing to have surgery.

"Perhaps luckily for all those of us who value the privacy of their own thoughts, we can rest assured that our skulls will remain an impenetrable barrier for any would-be technological mind hacker for any foreseeable future," Professor Schnupp told the Daily Mail

Monday, January 30, 2012

TSA Helpline for Travelers with Disabilities

TSA Helpline for Travelers with Disabilities
Post date: January 30, 2012

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced the launch of TSA Cares today, a new helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions, prior to getting to the airport. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787 2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint.

“TSA Cares provides passengers with disabilities and medical needs another resource to use before they fly, so they know what to expect when going through the screening process,” said TSA Administrator John Pistole. “This additional level of personal communication helps ensure that even those who do not travel often are aware of our screening policies before they arrive at the airport.”

Since its inception, TSA has provided information to all travelers through its TSA Contact Center and Customer Service Managers in airports nationwide. TSA Cares will serve as an additional, dedicated resource for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying.

When a passenger with a disability or medical condition calls TSA Cares, a representative will provide assistance, either with information about screening that is relevant to the passenger’s specific disability or medical condition, or the passenger may be referred to disability experts at TSA. TSA recommends that passengers call approximately 72 hours ahead of travel so that TSA Cares has the opportunity to coordinate checkpoint support with a TSA Customer Service Manager located at the airport when necessary.
Every person and item must be screened before entering the secure area of an airport and the manner in which the screening is conducted will depend on the passenger’s abilities and any specific equipment brought to the security checkpoint.

TSA strives to provide the highest level of security while ensuring that all passengers are treated with dignity and respect. The agency works regularly with a broad coalition of disability and medical condition advocacy groups to help understand their needs and adapt screening procedures accordingly. TSA holds quarterly meetings with this coalition to inform them about current training and screening procedures used in airports. TSA recently hosted a teleconference with members of these groups to announce the long-standing plans to implement TSA Cares for travelers and inform them of the upcoming launch.

All travelers may ask to speak to a TSA supervisor if questions about screening procedures arise while at the security checkpoint. The hours of operation for the TSA Cares helpline are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST, excluding federal holidays. After hours, travelers can find information about traveling with disabilities and medical needs on TSA’s website.

All travelers can contact TSA using Talk To TSA, a web-based tool that allows passengers to reach out to an airport Customer Service Manager directly, and the TSA Contact Center, 1 866-289-9673 and, where travelers can ask questions, provide suggestions and file complaints. Travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to contact TSA Cares or can e-mail