Color & Control:

What we’re reading – A selection from Rehab’s editors

Addressing stigma in our health system.

In her annual report, Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada provides a snapshot of key public health trends and shines a light on one of the drivers of health inequities: stigma. Her report goes on to point out that stigma is associated with poorer physical and mental health outcomes. She talks about discrimination as a driver that often prevents those most in need from accessing services. Tam’s report does however offer a way forward saying, “We can build on our Canadian multicultural and inclusive way of life, while at the same time openly recognizing and naming racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other stigmas related to social identities. We can stop using dehumanizing language, examine our own assumptions, and implement policies and education programs, while also measuring our progress towards stigma elimination across the health system. By understanding the common drivers, practices, and experiences of multiple stigmas, we may find more collaborative and effective interventions.”

Algorithms predict seizure risk

Now there’s an Epilepsy Seizure Assessment Tool (EpiSAT) equally able or better than specialized epilepsy clinicians who use patients’ histories to identify periods of heightened propensity for seizures. Rice University teams used automated machine-learning algorithm to correctly identify changes in seizure risk—improvement, worsening or no change—in more than 87% of cases. This new finding demonstrates the benefits of a quantitative approach that can guide treatment.


Artificial neurons could fight chronic diseases

Researchers from the U.K.’s University of Bath have created artificial nerve cells that function exactly like biological neurons. Charged by one billionth the power of a microprocessor, these new “brain chips” could be implanted in patients to help fight neuronal-degenerating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and heart failure. Given their therapeutic potential, scientists have tried to replicate nerve cells for decades — which is partly why the Bath team calls their work “paradigm-changing.”

Source: Nature Communications

When autistic people commit sexual crimes

First-time sex offenders on the spectrum may not understand the laws they break. “How should their crimes be treated?” asks Melinda Wenner Moyer, in a poignant article that looks at the fact that many autistic people may have engaged in sexual behaviors without understanding the implications of their actions or the law.

People on the spectrum often have problems with social communication, awareness and experience. That, coupled with other hallmark traits associated with autism — including intense interests and repetitive behaviors, as well as sensory differences — can unwittingly cause problems when they start dating or exploring their sexuality.

For these reasons, some experts are calling for a change in how the criminal justice system treats autistic people. In addition to legal reform, people on the spectrum would also benefit from sex education, which they are much less likely than their neurotypical peers to receive, either at school or at home, according to one study.

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Improving range of motion after radiation therapy

Fat grafting after damaging radiation therapy – which previous studies have shown can reduce and even reverse fibrosis (scar tissue) buildup—also seems to improve the range of motion of the affected limb. Stanford lab teams found that fat can improve mobility as well as the skin’s vascularity, appearance and skin stiffness. It also reversed radiation-induced histological changes in the skin. The study findings are encouraging as they could offer patients novel treatment modalities for a range of conditions.

Source: Stanford University

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