March 30, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009
New research published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that action-based video games can improve vision. It is believed that human’s visual acuity cannot be improved significantly to differentiate among shades of gray. However, Professor Daphne Bavelier, of the University of Rochester, has shown that with much practice video games packed with action can improve this ability by up to 58 percent. This type of improvement is typically only seen with corrective lenses.

These action games appear to facilitate the processing of visual information and with practice visual improvements can be maintained for many months without continued gaming. Bavelier claims that playing action games can reduce visual crowding, which is the main factor restraining visual perception.

The study observed the contrast sensitivity of 22 students separated into two groups. The first group played 50 hours of Unreal Tournament 2004 and Call of Duty over 9 weeks, whereas the second group played 50 hours of Sims 2 over 9 weeks. Although Sims 2 is quite visual, it lacks the visual-motor coordination. Results showed a 43% improvement in differentiating shades of gray for those in the first group who played the action packed video games, while those who played Sims 2 showed no improvement at all.

"When people play action games, they're changing the brain's pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it, and we've seen the positive effect remains even two years after the training was over."

Video gaming has certainly taken its share of grief over the years. Research typically points toward the negative aspects of gaming such as photosensitive epilepsy, headaches, hallucinations, nerve and muscle damages, social problems, behaviour problems etc.; however the multi-million dollar industry has evolved to work against such claims and provide more therapeutic games that aim to rehabilitate and improve physical and mental abilities. Could the use of action-based video games be yet another therapeutic tool? A tool that can correct vision without the use of glasses?

Action Video Games Improve Vision, New Research Shows


March 14, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009
Imagine a home that turned its lights on or off when needed, turned taps off when left on, warned you that appliances were not shut off or remained hot, or one that encouraged you to go back to bed at night if you were caught wandering the house. Believe it or not, the University of Bath has developed this futuristic ‘smart home’, which uses cutting edge sensor, electronics and IT capabilities to revolutionize the lives of dementia sufferers.

Two nursing homes in the UK are currently using this new technology and have been for a year with great success. These trial homes will provide the necessary insight required for the conversion of regular homes to smart homes for those living on their own with dementia.

Professor Roger Orpwood, the lead scientist behind the systems' development, assures the public that this new technology seeks to solve unique problems affecting people in a way that empowers and enables them to maintain control of their own lives rather than taking away individual control.

An easy to use ‘plug in and use’ type of device will certainly prevent excessive feelings of helplessness and improve the quality of life for those living with dementia by allowing them to remain more independent. In addition, monitoring normally performed by family members will be taken over by this new system. Consequently, the extra burden on family members will be replaced with feelings of security. As well, the costs of homecare will be vastly reduced.

“The key will be to tailor them to individual requirements and ensure that they act as much like a live-in carer as possible. For example, voice-prompts can utilise the voices of relatives or friends to deliver reassuring messages, as well as to influence behaviour. The systems are also designed to be monitored remotely via computer by healthcare professionals” says Professor Orpwood.

These high tech renovations sound like a dream come true for people living with dementia, but how much could this dream home cost? Expense is an important factor as people tend to be surviving on limited income at the age where dementia typically sets in. Additionally, let’s hope this system can be transferred effortlessly to a new home since many elderly people, although independent; prefer the comforts of a condo to a large home. Nevertheless, the benefits seem far greater than any downfall or limitation of this new invention.

New 'Smart' Homes For Dementia Sufferers


March 9, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009
The Institute of Psychiatry and the University of Nottingham has demonstrated, through MRI, that stroke damaged brain tissue can be rejuvenated in only 7 days simply by inserting a tiny scaffolding with stem cells connected to it into the brain.

Existing research suggests that stem cells tend to latch onto healthy brain tissue all the while leaving a void where the stroke damage occurred. Basically, this newly discovered technique allows the stem cells to fill the void where it could not before.

“Using individual particles of a biodegradable polymer called PLGA that have been loaded with neural stem cells, the team of scientists have filled stroke cavities with stem cells on a ready-made support structure.” This process ensures that the support structure latches on to the surrounding health tissue in order to repair stroke damaged area.

As a result, within only days the cells can travel from the scaffold to form new brain tissue that very quickly adapts with the existing brain tissue. Over only a short time, the particles of the scaffolding biodegrade leaving space for more tissue, fibers and blood vessels to fill the gaps and repair the damaged area.

This research demonstrates yet again the miracles stem cells can produce. From improving the quality of life for stroke victims, to enormous savings in disability related costs, to a release of strain on the health care system, to relieving family member responsibilities who are coping with stroke, to saving lives. The benefits of this research are endless and immeasurable.

  • A stroke is a brain attack. It occurs when a blood clot interrupts blood flow to the brain, or when a blood vessel ruptures. Cells in and around the stroke site become damaged and begin to die. Part of the brain stops working as a result.

  • Stroke is the No. 1 cause of adult disability in Canada and the third leading cause of death.

  • In the United States, stroke kills over 150,000 people a year. That’s about 1 of every 16 deaths. It’s the No. 3 cause of death behind diseases of the heart and cancer.

  • About 700,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 45 seconds.

  • Fifty thousand Canadians suffer from a stroke every year - one person every 10 minutes - and the incidence is increasing with Canada's aging population.

  • In the United States, about every 3 minutes, someone dies of stroke.

  • Of every 5 people who die from stroke in the United States, about 2 are men and 3 are women.

  • Stroke can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status. Approximately 300,000 Canadians are living with the effects of stroke.

  • For every 100,000 persons in the United States in 2004, about 50 people died of stroke. This is the age adjusted stroke death rate for the total population.

  • In Canada, one in five people who survive a stroke are at risk of another stroke or a heart attack within two years. And, after age 55, the risk of stroke doubles every 10 years.

  • Fewer than 50 per cent of stroke survivors return to work in Canada, leaving families with care giving responsibilities and the additional burden of lost income.

  • In adults, stroke is associated with risk factors such as smoking and high blood pressure.

  • Americans paid about $63 billion in 2007 for stroke-related medical costs and disability.

Stem Cells Replace Stroke-damaged Tissue In Rats
Stroke Recovery Canada
American Heart Association


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