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Does mobile technology help in improving mental health?

Does mobile technology help in improving mental health? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

As part of a recent study on mobile technology, when a user told Cortana that he/she wanted to commit suicide, the program redirected the user to a web search page while Siri replied with information from a National suicide hotline. S-Voice offered some human touch and responded “I want you to be OK, please talk to me,” but didn’t offer any other outside help.

To questions with respect to depression, these programs only responded with “I’m sorry to hear that” and “It breaks my heart to hear that.”

 

In this study conducted by Northwestern University, Stanford University and the University of California-San Francisco, researchers surveyed the responses of Google Now, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s S Voice to assess questions related to mental health issues or abuse. The results were incomplete and inconsistent responses from these conversational agents. Though most of the people rely on Smartphones to access their health data or information about medical conditions, addressing mental health issues through mobile technology hasn’t made much headway.

 

This study in itself is enough to suggest that tech companies as well as the healthcare sector need to ramp-up their efforts to research about mobile tools for addressing mental health issues. Researchers from the University of Manchester and Lancaster University said that “Previous research has indicated that interventions delivered in this format are acceptable for people with Serious Mental Illness (SMI). However, a comprehensive systematic review is needed to investigate the acceptability of online and mobile phone-delivered interventions for SMI in depth”.

Mobile apps are increasingly being used to track social interaction, moods, human behavior and speech & voice levels to help people suffering from mental issues. These apps can help to reduce instance of negative behavior and can be used as an alternative treatment method for people affected by depression and anxiety. Naturally, experts believe that these apps should be backed by clinical evidence to ensure effectiveness before release to consumers.

 

During the trial of a cognitive behavioral therapy app, Catch It, conducted by the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, the University of Liverpool’s Computer Services and the University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Science, researchers found a significant reduction in negative behavior amongst 285 participants in six weeks.

One of the report’s authors, Professor Peter Kinderman, said “This type of therapy cannot remove problems, but it can help people deal with them in a more positive way. It is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle,”

 

What concerns experts is the limited attention span of patients when using mobile technology to treat mental health issues. The key to improving these patients condition is to keep them engaged throughout the process and, a mobile tool might lack in that area due to the absence of human interaction. To be completely effective, patients would need to use these tools regularly on their own. Unfortunately, technology makes us impatient and shortens our attention spans. Moreover, Users of mobile health apps discontinue its usage after sometime of download confirming the low engagement level of most of the health apps.

 

To successfully treat mental health issues, the Healthcare sector would need to come out with engaging mobile solutions that make patients come back again and again for improved way of thinking to alter their behavioral patterns. While a human touch would still be required, because essentially mental health issues occur as a result of human relationships only, Smartphone apps can serve as a mode to gather passive data for mental health professionals who are unable to track their patients’ behavior.

One way or other, mobile technology is expected to play a significant role in the mental health segment.

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The World’s Most Famous Real-Life Cyborgs

The World’s Most Famous Real-Life Cyborgs | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it
Tiptoeing around humans with machine parts
People imagine cyborgs usually as mean creatures combining some human and superhuman features in a robotic body. Movie characters such as the Terminator, Darth Vader or the Borgs in Star Trek come to mind. But you do not have to go as far as Star Wars to get in contact with cyborg-like features or characteristics. According to the usual definition, a cyborg combines organic and mechanic body parts. Yet, some scientists stretch this understanding. They include people with cochlear implants, cardiac pacemakers or even contact lenses. In a way, it is valid: the human body is augmented with technology, and the two works together to improve human capabilities.
 
As technological innovations in the field of medicine and healthcare multiply day by day, it will be more and more usual to augment our bodies with the help of machines. It makes us faster, stronger or more sensitive to the environment. This means that the boundaries of “human-ness” are stretched raising serious ethical questions. Here, I introduce you real-life cyborgs, who show us the current boundaries of the coexistence of man and machine in one person. And they might also mark the way how to find a balance between the two.
1) Neil Harbisson

With an antenna implanted into his head, he looks like a giant ant led from behind by a piece of bread on a stick. Coupled with his light mop haircut he looks like the main character would in a Wes Anderson sci-fi if he ever directed one. Harbisson is actually an artist born with achromatopsia or extreme colorblindness meaning he could only see in black-and-white. At first, he received his specialized electronic eye, his “eyeborg” to be able to render perceived colors as sounds on the musical scale. He is capable of experiencing colors beyond the scope of normal human perception: Amy Winehouse is red and pink, while ringtones are green.

Harbisson has been living as a cyborg for more than 10 years already. He believes that humans have a duty to use technology to transcend themselves and that it will happen in the future. It will start with a third eye on the back of the head or an implanted sensor indicating whether there is a car behind you.

2) Dr. Kevin Warwick

He has been known as “Captain Cyborg” and teaches at the University of Reading as a cybernetics professor. Warwick has experimented with different electronic implants since 1998 such as installing a microchip in his arm which lets him operate lights, heaters or computers remotely. As dedicated as he is, Warwick also gave an implant to his wife, so that when someone grasped her hand the man was able to experience the same sensation in his. It is jaw-dropping and awkwardly scary at the same time.

He is the founder of Project Cyborg using himself as the guinea pig on a mission to become the world’s most complete cyborg. Beyond his work on himself, he is involved in AI research. He faced serious criticism in 2014 over claims that the “supercomputer” called Eugene Goostman passed the “milestone” Turing-test for Artificial Intelligence.

3) Jesse Sullivan

Sullivan worked as an electrical linesman when in May 2001, he suffered a life-threatening accident: he was electrocuted so severely that both of his arms needed to be amputated. This, however, led to him to become the world’s first “Bionic Man”. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago offered him to replace his arms with robotic prosthetics, which opportunity he gladly took. He was fitted with a bionic limb connected through a nerve-muscle grafting.

He has control over his limb with his mind: when he thinks about lifting an arm, for example, certain muscles in his chest contract instead of muscles in his original arm, and the prosthetic replacement interprets this contraction as an instruction to move in a certain way. Moreover, he can also feel temperature as well as how much pressure his grip applies.

4) Nigel Ackland

He worked as a precious metals smelter until his accident at his workplace involving an industrial blender. This led to a severe crush injury of his right forearm. He underwent six months of operations and infections before deciding to have a below elbow amputation.

Over the years, he tried several prosthetic types, but finally, he received a bebionic3 hand. With its help, he can independently move to grip even delicate objects. He controls the arm through muscle movements in his remaining forearm. The range of movement is truly extraordinary. He can independently move each of his five fingers to grip delicate objects, or even pour a liquid into a glass.

5) Jerry Jalava

The Finnish programmer had a terrible motorcycle accident when he lost his left ring finger. It was just a week after he bought his new motorbike that he accidentally hit a deer. Right after it happened, he lit a cigarette when he realized that he misses the upper half of his finger.

Then he decided against a traditional prosthesis and rather went for something “useful”: a 2GB USB port was embedded into his prosthetic. It doesn’t upload any information directly into his brain though. He is the perfect example of how you don’t need to be a robotics mastermind to become a cyborg…

6) Cameron Clapp

Until his life-changing accident, Cameron lived the life of the “California teens”: he loved to surf, skateboard and hang with friends. He was 15 when he wandered over to some railroad tracks near their house and passed out after drinking with his brother moved by the 9/11 tragedy what happened around that time. When a train passed, he, unfortunately, lost both of his legs plus an arm.

He got fitted with a couple of prosthetic legs controlled by his brain with the help of a microprocessor. Since then, he has become an athlete and an amputee activist. His advice to struggling patients? “Surround yourself with good people… good doctors, therapists, family, and friends. Set reachable goals, work hard and maintain a good attitude.”

7) Professor Steve Mann

The Canadian tech-crazy professor designed a headset that is outfitted with a number of small computers and through it, he can record and play video and audio. He was one of the, if not the first, cyborgs in the world. Mann definitely experimented first with wearable computing in high school in the 70s. At MIT he literally bristled with equipment, wearing 80 pounds of computing equipment to class.

Mann was allegedly also the victim of the world’s “first cybernetic hate crime” in 2012: he was at a McDonald’s restaurant in Paris with his family when three different McDonald’s employees attempted to forcibly remove his “Digital Eye Glass” from his head.

8) Claudia Mitchell

Mitchell is the first woman to have a bionic arm and just as in the majority of the listed cases, her transformation into a cyborg life was also due to an accident. Although she spent four years in the Marine Corps she did not lose her arm during military service but in a motorcycle accident. She lost her left arm completely.

She told several newspapers that she used to peel bananas using both feet and one hand before she received her bionic arm. The robotic limb comes from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago just as in the case of Jesse Sullivan and was developed for $3 million. She cried when she first peeled a banana one-handed. 

9) Stelios Arcadio

He is also known as Stelarc. He is a performance artist who believes that the human body is obsolete. To prove this, he has had an artificially-created ear surgically attached to his left arm. In another show, he hooked up electrodes to his body to allow people to control his muscles through the Web.

He has his particular views how humans should look at technology and the symbiosis of the two. In an interview, he said that “we shouldn’t have a Frankensteinian fear of incorporating technology into the body, and we shouldn’t consider our relationship to technology in a Faustian way – that we’re somehow selling our soul because we’re using these forbidden energies. My attitude is that technology is, and always has been, an appendage of the body.”

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Operating Room Advances: 4 Tech Updates that are Revolutionizing the Surgical World

Operating Room Advances: 4 Tech Updates that are Revolutionizing the Surgical World | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

In recent years, the medical field has made astounding advances with the help of modern technology. These improvements have saved countless lives and made illnesses that could not be treated a mere few decades ago either curable or manageable. One of the areas of medicine that has most benefited from technological advancement is surgery. Here are just a few of the dozens of technologies that are changing the operating room and making surgeries safer and more successful. 

  
Surgical Robots

One of the most exciting breakthroughs of recent years has been the incorporation of robots into surgical procedures. Beginning with the Da Vinci surgical robot, more and more operating rooms have begun to use robotic systems to execute delicate surgeries. These robots are still controlled by human surgeons, but thanks to their greater degree of stability and ability to work in very small spaces, the robots can perform operations with a higher degree of precision than human hands are capable of achieving. Fully automated surgical robots for simple tasks like suturing incisions have also begun to make their way into the surgical theater. Many even believe that fully-robotic surgeries may one day be possible, albeit under human supervision. 

  
Electrosurgical Technologies 

Far from the comparatively primitive set of hand tools, stitches and sutures that surgeons once had access to, the modern operating room contains a plethora of complex pieces of electrical equipment. Among these pieces of equipment are electrosurgical tool, which use electrical energy to perform tasks such as making incisions of cauterizing wounds. While these technologies are of considerable usefulness, they also produce hazardous by-products in the form of smoke. To facilitate their increased use in surgery, smoke evacuation technologies have also had to be developed. Smoke pencils and other Smoke evacuation devices, in particular, are quickly becoming a standard tool in operating rooms because of their efficacy in eliminating this common environmental hazard.

Virtual Reality Surgical Planning

One side of surgery that most people never get to see is the planning phase, in which surgeons and support staff determine the best methods and approaches for operations on particular patients. This process can be long and labor-intensive, but the use of virtual reality for visualization has improved in considerably in the past couple of years. Surgeons can now use VR technology, coupled with patient imaging scans, to plan the exact route of the surgical process. This kind of planning is faster and, in many cases, more successful than more traditional methods, allowing for lower delay times prior to surgery and a more efficient operation in the actual operating room. 


Precision Brain Biopsy Needles

One of the most delicate biopsy procedures has always been the brain biopsy. Without extreme caution, a biopsy of brain tissue can cause disastrous complications. New so-called "smart needles," however, are making this procedure much safer for patients and much easier for surgeons. These needles incorporate imaging technology that allows surgeons to directly see blood vessels and other tissue. When combined with software that is capable of recognizing blood vessels, these needles can substantially reduce the risk of accidental vessel damage during a brain biopsy. Similar technologies have been created to reduce the risks associated with other internal procedures.

  

The rapid advance of computational and mechanical technologies in the last several years has greatly benefited surgeons and the medical professionals who assist them in the operating room. As these technologies continue to improve and become more accessible to hospitals, they have the potential to improve surgical performance and save many more lives. For these and other high-tech surgical instruments, the future is looking extremely bright.

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