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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Implant breakthrough helps paraplegic man stand unaided

Now, this IS something!

Posted: 20 May 2011

Hit-an- run victim Rob Summers, a paraplegic, being moved into position on a treadmill. (AFP Source: AFP)
PARIS - In a world first, neurosurgeons in the US said on Friday electrodes implanted in the lower spine had enabled a paraplegic man to stand up unaided, move his legs voluntarily and, with help, walk on a treadmill.

The therapy marks an exciting advance in the quest to overcome crippling injuries of the spinal cord, they said.

"This is a breakthrough," said Susan Harkema, a professor at the Spinal Cord Research Center at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, who led the 11-member team.

"It opens up a huge opportunity to improve the daily functioning of these individuals...but we have a long road ahead."

The work, published online by The Lancet, was carried out on a young volunteer, now aged 25, who had been completely paralysed below the chest after a tragic hit-and-run accident in 2006.

Today, after 26 months of retraining of the leg muscles, followed by the pioneering surgery, the patient can reach a standing position and support his own weight for up to four minutes at a time.

Helped by a harness support and some assistance from a therapist, he can make repeated stepping motions on a treadmill. He can also voluntarily move his toes, ankles, knees and hips on command.

The patient, Rob Summers, said he was ecstatic.

"This procedure has completely changed my life," he said.

"For someone who for four years was unable to even move a toe, to have the freedom and ability to stand on my own is the most amazing feeling."

"To be able to pick up my foot and step down again was unbelievable, but beyond all of that, my sense of wellbeing has changed. My physique and muscle tone has improved greatly, so much that most people don't even believe I am paralysed."

Paralysis comes from damage to the spinal cord down which the brain sends electrical signals along nerve fibres to instruct limb movement.

The research focuses on nerve networks in the lower spine that are relatively autonomous -- they can follow through the commands for weight-bearing and coordinated stepping without input from the brain.

The mechanism works thanks to feedback from nerves in the muscles of the legs and feet that is sent directly to the spinal cord.

It is this sensory input that helps the individual to adjust his balance and speed of movement and level of weight-bearing in response to surfaces and inclines.

"The spinal cord can independently interpret these data and send movement instructions back to the legs -- all without cortical 1/8 cerebral 3/8 involvement," explained Reggie Edgerton, a professor of integrative biology and comparative physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The technique entailed giving Summers 26 months of locomotor training to get his leg muscles used again to the sensation of movement, thus reviving the feedback system.

Surgeons then implanted 16 electrodes in the lumbosacral spinal cord, connecting them to thick nerve bundles that largely control movement of the ankles, hips, knees and toes.

The unit then sends down electrical signals to mimic those sent down the spine by the brain in order to initiate movement.

With Summers, electrostimulation was part of sessions lasting up to 250 minutes.

The success has fired hopes that at least some individuals with spinal paralysis can use a portable stimulation unit to trigger the movements needed to stand up and bear weight.

With the help of a walker, it is hoped, such patients would maintain balance and execute some effective stepping.

There could be even greater secondary benefits, including perhaps the restoration of bladder and sphincter control and sexual response.

But only one person has so far had the treatment, out of five authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Summers, while completely paralysed below the chest, was rated a "B" on the US classification of spinal injury, as he did retain some feeling below the spot where the damage occurred.

So it is unknown whether the procedure will work on "A" patients, who have no sensation below the injury. In addition, Summers is young and was extremely fit before his accident.

Drugs are being developed to heighten the sensitivity and function of the spinal cord neural network, which could further enhance the technique.



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Implant breakthrough helps paraplegic man stand unaided

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Video gaming teens sleep less, says study

Kids, take note of this; it is for your own good to stay away, or limit, your videogaming!

Posted: 17 May 2011

Competitors play video games at an expo. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Spencer Platt)
WASHINGTON: Teens who play a lot of video games are likely to sleep less than the eight to nine hours a night recommended for the age group, researchers said on Monday.

Speaking via teleconference from the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, researchers said that an analysis of data on 16,000 teens also found that youths who reported sleeping less than seven hours a night did not get enough exercise, which could also impact their health.

And not getting enough sleep is detrimental for all - and has a particularly negative effect on teens, added Caris Fitzgerald, a psychiatry resident at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences who led the study,.

A poor night's sleep can bring on a slew of ill effects, including low energy, poor concentration, moodiness, a greater tendency to act on impulse and more suicidal thoughts.

Yet only 10 percent of US teens get the recommended hours of shut-eye, according to the study, for which Fitzgerald and her fellow researchers analyzed the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's 2009 Youth Risk Behaviour Survey.

Because teens have "accelerated demands for growth and memory retention, very vital things with regard to the teen in their overall success," getting sufficient sleep is even more important for them, Fitzgerald said.

But they also struggle to do so more than adults.

"When it comes to teens, they have a lot of factors that affect them, from an ever greater quest for independence reflected by later bedtime; to expectations from parents and peers - like texting in the middle of the night," said Fitzgerald.

Teens' circadian rhythms don't help them in their quest for sleep either.

Their body rhythms put them on a schedule where they like to stay up late and sleep in each morning.

"But unfortunately the rest of society is not on that schedule and school is still going to start at 8:00 am," Fitzgerald said.

The researchers were unable to conclude there was a cause-effect relationship between sleep and online gaming or sport, but Fitzgerald pointed to "some evidence that reducing media exposure and increasing physical activity could increase the amount teens sleep."

The study did have one piece of good news for teens: watching television does not appear to affect sleep time.

- AFP/de

Taken from; source article is below:
Video gaming teens sleep less, says study

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