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.

Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy asked his Senate colleagues the questions millions of Americans have after a mass shooting.

Another school shooting. Another mass murder of innocent children. They were elementary school kids this time. There were 18 children killed—so far—this time.

The fact that I can say "this time" is enraging, but that's the routine nature of mass shootings in the U.S. It happened in Texas this time. At least three adults were killed this time. The shooter was a teenager this time.

The details this time may be different than the last time and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that. But there's one thing all mass shootings have in common. No, it's not mental illness. It's not racism or misogyny or religious extremism. It's not bad parenting or violent video games or lack of religion.

Some of those things have been factors in some shootings, but the single common denominator in every mass shooting is guns. That's not a secret. It's not controversial. It's fact. The only thing all mass shootings have in common is guns.

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Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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