New Device Delivers Sound Through Tongue to Let Deaf People Hear (VIDEO)

While we naturally think that we hear with our ears, it is really the brain that converts sound waves into what we perceive as sound. Our most distinctive organ also has a lot of plasticity, being able to adapt its regions to perform tasks normally not assigned to them. Blind people, for example, often have the part of the brain responsible for vision working to more precisely interpret audio and create a better mental picture of what’s around. This principle is what led researchers at Colorado State University to attempt to use the tongue as a medium for passing sound to the brain in deaf people.

The researchers developed a flat shaped neurostimulator with a bunch of electrodes in a grid at one end. It’s connected wirelessly via Bluetooth to an earpiece that captures sound. The system processes the audio signals received by the earpiece and converts them into electrical pulses that are delivered through the stimulator. The user simply presses his tongue against the electrodes on the mouthpiece and feels tingling or vibration. The idea is that this sensation, really sound interpreted another way, can be translated by the brain into perceived audio if given proper training.

There’s much work to be done to prove the technology and make it practical. Currently, the researchers are mapping out the tongue’s nerves and studying how volunteers respond to the electrical stimulation. They’re trying to figure out whether the device will work uniformly for all people or whether it will need to be individually customized. The researchers hope that this technology will become a new option competing with cochlear implants and that it may help overcome hearing loss for a wide variety of people.

Colorado State: Words in the mouth: CSU device lets you hear with your tongue…

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New Non-Invasive Galvanic Vestibular Stimulator Helps Parkinson’s Patients Improve Balance

parkinsons-stimulatorSymptoms of Parkinson’s disease have been a challenge to get under control, as existing drugs and implantable neurostimulators often don’t work as well as was hoped. Scientists at University of Gothenburg in Sweden with some help from NASA have developed and are testing a new device that electrically stimulates the vestibular system to help improve balance and manage other symptoms of Parkinson’s.

The device essentially delivers a targeted electric noise signal via electrodes to a nerve in the ear responsible for balance. The technology was first tested on rats and demonstrated effectiveness to improve the animals’ balance and motor function. Now the device was tried with ten Parkinson’s patients who were not aware of when the signal was being delivered. The new results are quite promising, with patients having improved balance and overall reduction of symptoms.

The research team is already preparing the next generation of the device that will be considerably smaller and can be easily carried in a pocket. It will be tested in a longer study to determine whether the therapeutic effects continue to last and whether there’s any noticeable unwanted side effects.

From the study abstract in Brain Stimulation:

Patients did not detect when SVS [stochastic vestibular stimulation] was active, but SVS increased nausea after LDOPA in two patients. Mixed model analysis demonstrated that SVS improved balance corrections after a backward perturbation and shortened the postural response time. In static posturography there was significant interaction between effects of SVS, medication and proprioceptive input (standing on foam vs. on hard support) and SVS decreased the total sway-path with eyes closed and off medication.

As expected, LDOPA improved the UPDRS-III scores and MT. There was an interaction between the effect of SVS and LDOPA on UPDRS-III partly because of reduced UPDRS-III scores with SVS in the off-medication state.

Study in journal Brain Stimulation: Effects of Stochastic Vestibular Galvanic Stimulation and LDOPA on Balance and Motor Symptoms in Patients With Parkinson’s Disease…

More: Portable stimulator being tested on Parkinson patients…

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Ultrasound beats Xray for skull fracture

Skull SkullFracture SkullFracture1This asymptomatic 7 month old had fallen on New Year’s and the parents noted a dent in the head. There did seem to be a contusion in the Left fronto-parietal area with maybe an associated “dent”.

The child was normally squirmy (and very happy) so the area of interest would swim in and out of the edge of the screen during scanning. I finally got two reasonable pictures which seemed to correlate with the X-ray I ordered afterwards.

Editor’s note:

Lloyd tells me the Xray was read as having no fracture just a suture line.  The ultrasound showed a 1.7mm displacement consistent with a tiny fracture.

If you use the presence of a skull fracture to help decide if further imaging or close observation is necessary in head injured children then POCUS offers a rapid method of assessment that is likely superior to plain film.  No ionizing radiation and easy to focus on the area of injury.  As with all clinician performed ultrasound, the idea is to gather additional information that can help with risk stratification but in the end, it is another data point that must be combined with the entire clinical picture.

Medtronic Releases MiniMed 640G with Advanced Glucose Control


Medtronic has unveiled its new MiniMed 640G System, an advanced blood glucose sensor and insulin delivery combination that in some ways mimics a healthy pancreatic response. Specifically, this is the world’s first system that will stop pumping insulin when glucose levels are predicted to drop below a set baseline, preventing hypoglycemia, and then resume once they climb back up.

Black_Front_CGM_mmolThe device can be worn day and night, is waterproof down to 12 feet if you’re snorkeling, and can be individually programmed to set alerts, alarms, and when to deliver and stop delivering insulin. The meter also allows the patient to deliver a bolus of insulin remotely and discreetly as needed.

The MiniMed 640G is rolling out worldwide except in the U.S., starting with Australia as the first country where diabetic people will have access to this product.

More from Medtronic:

The system includes the Enhanced Enlite(TM) sensor, which continuously monitors glucose levels with accuracy and comfort. It also incorporates a new insulin pump design to provide convenient diabetes management with a simple user interface, full-color screen, waterproofing and remote bolus.

In addition, the MiniMed 640G System exclusively uses the Bayer CONTOUR® NEXT LINK 2.4 blood glucose meter to provide highly accurate blood glucose testing, automatically transmit blood glucose results into the Bolus Wizard(TM) calculator to help ensure that patients do not have a manual entry error, and to calibrate the Enhanced Enlite sensor.

Link: MiniMed 640G brochure…

Press release: Medtronic Launches MiniMed 640G System, Breakthrough in Artificial Pancreas Technology, Outside the U.S…

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