Virtual Reality and Physical Therapy…

After a serious and sometimes debilitating injury, virtual reality can sometimes motivate the patient into seeing what is possible. Over the past several years VR has been used for pain management and for PTSD. Researchers are finding that it may be a helpful tool for physical and occupational therapists. Most patients leave a session, go home and forget exactly what it is or how an exercise should be performed. Virtual Reality can help with not only showing how to do a certain exercise correctly but may also provide a little extra motivation. It is becoming more and more popular with younger practitioners who are well accustomed to gaming. At present it is expensive since most insurance companies will not foot the bill which can be as high as $180 monthly. Not all the programs are fun, some enable patients to practice real life skills such as dishing washing or shopping. However, a well-trained therapist in the use of VR should be on hand to oversee and make sure the patient is not overdoing or hurting themselves. Virtual Reality as a therapy is in its beginning stages. I can tell you from personal experiences with both shoulder and back injuries that I don’t think it can ever replace one to one contact with a practitioner but maybe be useful in addition to.

Sea Slugs that Decapitate Themselves…

The Nara Women’s University of Japan has a vast collection of Sea Slugs. It was noticed that on occasion the body of a sea slug would be lying next to its severed head. What was strange was the severed head was still moving around the tank and still munching on algae. What was determined by the scientists was that sea slugs will decapitate themselves if they feel their body has become infected by a parasite. The head wound took about a day to heal and a new heart about 3 days to grow. However, there was no new growth on the severed body, but it did react to stimuli for months before finally decomposing. Too bad Marie Antoinette wasn’t part sea slug.

Robots working in the O.R.

Replacing a joint has become so matter of fact. Baby boomers especially don’t think twice about replacing a knee, hip etc. if it means extending the amount of time that they are able to stay active. The first joint replacement, according to historians, was in 1890. It was a carved and machined piece of ivory which replaced the knee of a seventeen year-old. It was performed, by a German surgeon named Themistocles Gluck. Over the years, the material used has changed dramatically. Everything from metal, plastic, ceramics to titanium. In the decade, 1990-2000, new technology made plastics more durable. This eliminated wear and tear and eventual replacement of the joint again. Technology has progressed to the point where you enter an operating room and there may be a model of a bone implant superimposed on a 3-D model of the person’s joint. Robotic arms which are directed through a console are guided and controlled by the surgeon. The tiny robotic hands are able to bend and rotate with a greater range of motion. This enables the surgeon to operate by only making small incisions preserving more bone and soft tissue than a conventional open procedure. Less muscle damage translates to faster recovery. Greater accuracy can mean better alignment and balance after knee surgery and minimal leg difference after hip surgery. This also preserves the longevity of the replaced joint. Hopefully we will never replace the surgeon totally.

Why do you Look Familiar?

Our brains have the capacity to store and identify thousands of faces and retain a memory of them for years and years. The temporal lobe of the brain is responsible for face recognition which is why a person who suffers damage to this area has problems recognizing others. Most people will recognize a face they have come in contact with in the past even if they cannot remember the details of that person. Why is it that certain people can recall 1,000 faces while others have the capacity to remember as many as 10,000 faces? According to some small studies the average seems to be a recognition of 5,000. This is in spite of the fact that some people we see from the front, others at profile and some who have even changed their appearance. Current research is showing that it happens along the visual pathway on its way to the temporal cortex. This is where a group of neurons respond to body parts and faces. Some research is showing that there are six areas in this part of the brain called “Face Patches” which contain specific sets of neurons. What they are determining is that there is no particular preference for a particular face and that these particular neurons respond to certain features, appearance and shape. What it means is that as far as these face neurons are concerned, every face is the sum of separate parts and no one face is taken as a whole. In this way our brains do not have to store separate data on remembering each face but only certain features and dimensions which it rearranges every time it comes in contact with a familiar face.