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Heroes

Scientists just made a major breakthrough that's going to help a lot of individuals with paralysis.

Researchers at Caltech have come up with a plan to help make usable robotic limbs a reality for people who are paralyzed.

For most of us, moving our arms and legs comes naturally. These movements, like nearly everything we do, begin in the brain.

Most people don't have to give much thought to these motions. Signals from the brain travel down the spinal cord to the limbs. That is, our brains send a signal down our spinal cords and into the legs to walk, and signals travel down the spinal cord and into the arms to help us grab or throw.


All clips via Caltech.

This is why people who experience severe injuries along the spinal cord are often fully or partially paralyzed.

For years, scientists have tried to give people with spinal injuries the ability to use robotic limbs.

The field is called neuroprosthetics and involves implanting electrodes into a person's brain. The brain's motion signals are transmitted to a computer, which then translates it into a command, sending the signal to the robotic arm or leg.

Most commonly, the implant has been placed into the motor cortex, the portion of the brain that controls motion.


Unfortunately, those signals haven't produced the results scientists were hoping for.

Because the motor cortex handles the mechanics of movement, and not the intent of movement, it results in the prosthetic moving with a delayed, jerky motion. An arm getting instructions to drink from a glass of water might spill some or all of it in the process.

This is because when we think about doing tasks like drinking from a cup or brushing our teeth, we don't think about each individual movement involved. Instead, we think about the action itself.

This video from Caltech explains a new approach that focuses less on the mechanics and more on the intent:

It turns out that it's all about location, location, location.

Caltech's new approach seeks to solve this problem by focusing on a different part of the brain.

This part of the brain is called the posterior parietal cortex, and its job is to envision an entire action, and from what their researchers have found, it might be the key to reducing the jerky, delayed motion.

So, with the implant in the motor cortex, a person would think this...


Refreshing!

And get this...

Very unhelpful, thank you, robot arm.

But with the implant in the posterior parietal cortex, a person would think this...

... and get this wonderful, smooth motion with absolutely no water spilling everywhere.

YAAAS, thank you, robot arm! Very helpful.

The team at Caltech put the theory to the test, placing the implant into a patient's posterior parietal cortex, and ... it totally worked.

Yes! The test subject was able to move the robotic arm using just the part of the brain that controls intent, was able to shake hands, and could even play "rock, paper, scissors" against another person.

In this game of "rock, paper, scissors," everyone's a winner.

Caltech's Professor Richard Andersen explains the test like this:

"When you move your arm, you really don't think about which muscles to activate and the details of the movement — such as lift the arm, extend the arm, grasp the cup, close the hand around the cup, and so on. Instead, you think about the goal of the movement. For example, 'I want to pick up that cup of water. So in this trial, we were successfully able to decode these actual intents, by asking the subject to simply imagine the movement as a whole, rather than breaking it down into myriad components."

While it'll be a while before this technology makes its way to the public, this is a huge step forward — and one of the coolest advances in science and medicine happening now.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

Joy

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As pumpkin spice swoops in and we start unpacking our cozy sweaters and cute boots, we can practically taste the seasonal change in the air. Fall is filled with so many small joys—the fresh, crisp smell of apples, the beauty of the leaves as they shift from greens to yellows, oranges and reds, the way the world gets wrapped in a warm glow even as the air grows cooler.

Part of what makes the beauty of fall unique is that it's fleeting. Mother Nature puts on a vibrant show as she sheds what no longer serves her, inviting us to revel in her purposeful self-destruction. It's a gorgeous example of not only embracing change, but celebrating it.

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Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


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