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.

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

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.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less

Over my own 20+ years of motherhood, I've written a lot about breastfeeding. My mom was a lactation consultant, I breastfed all three of my children through toddlerhood, and I've engaged in many lengthy debates about breastfeeding in public.

But in all that time, I've never seen a video that encapsulates the reality of the early days of breastfeeding like the Frida Mom ad that aired on NBC during the Golden Globes. And I've never seen a more perfect depiction of the full, raw reality of it than the uncensored version that bares too much full breast to be aired on network television.

The 30-second for-TV version is great and can be seen in this clip from ET Canada. The commentary that accompanies it is refreshing as well. We do need to normalize breastfeeding. We do need to see breasts in a context other than a sexualized one that caters to the male gaze. We do need to let new moms know they are not the only ones feeling the way they feel.


Keep Reading Show less
True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Kara Coley, a bartender at Sipps in Gulfport, Mississippi, got an unusual phone call on the job last week.

Photo courtesy of Kara Coley.

"Good evening," Coley answered. "Thank you for calling Sipps!"

A woman on the other end of the line asked, "Is this a gay bar?"

Sipps welcomes everyone, Coley explained to her, but indeed attracts a mostly LGBTQ crowd.



Keep Reading Show less
The Hill/Twitter

It was a mere three weeks ago that President Biden announced that the U.S. would have enough vaccine supply to cover every adult American by the end of July. At the time, that was good news.

Today, he's bumped up that date by two full months.

That's great news.

In his announcement to the nation, Biden outlined the updated process for getting the country immunized against COVID-19.


Keep Reading Show less