Health and Fitness

Those Blinded By Brain Injury May Still 'See' New Study Shows

Except in clumsy moments, we rarely knock over the box of cereal or glass of orange juice as we reach for our morning cup of coffee. New research at The University of Western Ontario has helped unlock the mystery of how our brain allows us to avoid these undesired objects. The study, led by Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience Mel Goodale, lead author Chris Striemer and colleagues in Western's Department of Psychology, has been published in the current issue of the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We automatically choose a path for our hand that avoids hitting any obstacles that may be in the way, " says Goodale. "Every day, we perform hundreds of actions of this sort without giving a moment's thought as to how we accomplish these deceptively simple tasks." In the study, a patient who had become completely blind on his left side following a stroke to the main visual area of the brain was asked to avoid obstacles as he reached out to touch a target in his right - or 'good' - visual field.

Payment Reduction Policy For 'Efficiencies' Could Limit Patient Access To Care, Says APTA

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging against the adoption of payment policies outlined in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report 1 released Monday that recommends the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reduce Medicare payments for physical therapists and other health care providers who perform multiple procedures on the same patient on the same day. Under this proposal, providers would likely be reimbursed for these services at a rate that is below the cost of providing the services to their patients. Such payment rates would severely hinder the ability for some providers to keep their practices open. If practices do close, there is a strong likelihood that patients will have limited access to physical therapy services and other necessary procedures, says APTA. According to GAO, provider fees may not always reflect "efficiencies" when certain services are performed together, such as reading a patient's chart once before performing multiple procedures.

APTA Supports President Obama's Call For Elimination Of Arbitrary Limits On Health Care Services

In his speech before Congress on Wednesday, President Obama called for the elimination of arbitrary limits on health care services that Americans can receive in a given year or in a lifetime -- a policy that the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) supports as the nation's leaders work to guarantee access to affordable health care for all individuals through health care reform. "We're pleased that President Obama has taken a stance against arbitrary financial limits on health care services, " said APTA President R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "For more than 10 years, APTA has worked with Congress to repeal the Medicare cap on outpatient physical therapy services that restricts access to rehabilitative services for America's seniors. It is time for Congress to deal with this serious health policy problem and repeal the therapy cap. To do less at this time of overall reform would burden the American public with still greater costs down the road the road by requiring yet additional legislation to protect patients from an arbitrary limit on therapy services.

Improving Safety Of Prosthetic Legs By Tripping Amputees On Treadmill

Again and again, 71-year-old Marjorie Brasier walked on the treadmill using an instrumented prosthetic leg, and again and again she tripped or slipped. Sometimes she recovered on her own and kept walking, while at other times the harness she wore was all that kept her from tumbling to the floor. Brasier's trips and slips occurred by design as part of a University of Rhode Island research study that seeks to improve the safety of prosthetic legs by developing a reliable and responsive stumble detection system. One of six clients of Nunnery Orthotic & Prosthetic Technologies to participate in the study, Brasier was hooked up to dozens of electrodes, wore shoes containing 99 pressure sensors, and 40 light-reflective markers on her body were tracked by eight cameras surrounding the room to collect the data necessary for the research. "When we become unbalanced, our neural system reacts quickly and sends a signal to help us recover, " said He (Helen) Huang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at URI.

Testing New Exercise Technique

A year ago, Michael Bemben, professor of health and exercise science in the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences, was invited to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to formally announce the partnership between the American College of Sports Medicine and Sato Sports Plaza of Japan. The partnership is an effort to facilitate independent research projects around the country to examine the efficacy of a new type of training technique. Bemben's lab at the university is currently only one of four labs outside of Japan that has been working with the KAATSU-Master training system, testing the effectiveness of reducing blood flow to exercising muscle. This technique allows for a reduction of the external loads that need to be lifted from a traditional high load of 80 percent of a person's strength down to 20 percent while maintaining all the benefits of the high-intensity programs. KAATSU-Master has been in development for more than 40 years in Japan and now is working on building research abroad regarding the many benefits and uses for the equipment.

New Drug For Hand Contracture Disorder Gets FDA Panel Support

An expert advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has voted unanimously to recommend federal approval of a new drug to combat the hand disorder known as Dupuytren's contracture, a debilitating condition where collagen progressively accumulates in the hand causing fingers to deform and limiting hand movement. The FDA advisory panel voted 12 to 0 on Wednesday to approve Xiaflex, which is made by Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Malvern, Pennsylvania, for the treatment of Depuytren's contracture. The FDA does not have to follow the recommendation of its advisory panels, but it rarely does not. If approved, Xiaflex, will be the only drug specifically targeting Dupuytren's disease, a progressive genetic fibroproliferative disorder which disrupts the normal production of collagen in the hand, resulting in abnormal amounts of collagen nodules in the palm. Eventually the collagen nodules build up into cords that stretch from the palm to the finger joints, causing the fingers to be bent and unextendable.

JRRD Publishes Single-Topic Issue On TBI And Clinical Practice Guidelines For Mild TBI

The current issue of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA's) Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development (JRRD) features 19 timely scientific articles on traumatic brain injury (TBI), based on work by VA researchers and colleagues from a variety of disciplines. The papers were commissioned for a "state of the art" conference VA held last year to advance research in this area. This issue also contains joint VA and Department of Defense clinical practice guidelines for mild TBI (mTBI). These guidelines include a screening tool and evaluation protocol for adult patients in any VA/DoD clinical setting at risk of a concussion/mTBI diagnosis. The intent of these guidelines is to reduce current practice variation and to provide facilities with a structured framework to help improve patient outcomes. These guidelines are available as part of the journal or individually. Henry Lew, MD, PhD, Chief of the PM&R Service, VA Boston Healthcare System, and chair of the TBI SOTA planning committee, served as guest editor for this special issue.

Link Found Between Prison Gambling And Crime, Substance Abuse When Offenders Re-Enter Community

Parolees with a gambling habit may resort to criminal activities and substance abuse when they are released from prison if there are few community supports to help them re-integrate, a University of Alberta study has concluded. Gambling is prevalent in prisons and the study found that even inmates not habituated to the pastime before incarceration can acquire a taste for it they're unable to shake when released. It's a fact that has worrisome consequences often associated with the commission of crime and substance abuse as parolees try to re-integrate into society. Research conducted by leisure researchers D.J. Williams and Gordon Walker, in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, examined the perceptions of 15 correctional officers in the states of Nevada, a gambling state, and Utah, where gambling is illegal, on offender gambling and its impacts on offender re-entry. Williams, who completed his doctorate in physical education and recreation prior to a post doctoral fellowship in gambling studies at the U of A, is the paper's lead author.

Physical Therapists Offer Tips For Falls Prevention In Aging Adults

As the nation observes Falls Prevention Awareness Day on September 22, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging older adults to schedule a balance and falls assessment with a physical therapist to reduce risk of falls and related injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of adults ages 65 and older fall each year in the United States. Falls are the leading cause of deaths due to injuries and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma for the aging population. "Too many people erroneously consider falls a normal consequence of growing old, " says physical therapist and APTA spokesperson Judith Daniel, PT, MS, GCS. "It's simply not true. There are evidence-based interventions that can help reduce their risk of falling and reduce falls-related injuries. A comprehensive examination that includes a balance assessment performed by a physical therapist can be effective in determining the factors that are contributing to an individual's loss of mobility, risk for falls, and/or decreased confidence.

Rare Cases Of Restored Vision Reveal How The Brain Learns To See

Results: By testing formerly blind patients within weeks of sight restoration, Sinha and his colleagues found that subjects had very limited ability to distinguish an object from its background, identify overlapping objects, or even piece together the different parts of an object. The patients gradually improved over time, and the new study suggests that dynamic information - that is, input from moving objects - is critical to the brain's ability to learn to segregate objects from their backgrounds (a task known as visual integration). Why it matters: Doctors have been hesitant to treat older patients because the conventional dogma holds that the brain is incapable of learning to see after age 5 or 6, but these findings support the idea of treating blindness in older children and adults. The results also offer insight into modeling the human visual system, diagnosing visual disorders, creating rehabilitation procedures and developing computers that can see. Methods: After three patients, ranging in age from 7 to 29, were treated for blindness, they were asked to identify shapes on a computer screen.

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