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ABI to be recognised in new domestic abuse legislation

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Specialist advisors could be assigned to victims of domestic violence

New statutory guidance will recognise that survivors of domestic abuse may have sustained an acquired brain injury (ABI) for the first time, it has been revealed.

Consideration of brain injury will be made as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill, currently being debated by the House of Lords.

Domestic abuse protection orders – designed to protect victims from all forms of domestic abuse – will now consider ABI as part of the range of needs any survivor may have.

Where police are attending a call out to a domestic incident in the community, they could be accompanied with, or shortly after visited by, an Independent Domestic Violence and Abuse Advisor who would be able to offer expert support to the survivor, including in relation to ABI.

This commitment from the Government will also introduce new standard questions to ensure all prisoners in England will be screened for ABI sustained through domestic abuse from April 2021.

Both initiatives – which will have impact in terms of protection and support – are the translation of five years of research highlighting the link between domestic abuse and brain injury among female offenders, culminating in lengthy discussions with the Government, NHS and Criminal Justice Acquired Brain Injury Interest Group.

The research, from The Disabilities Trust – who have campaigned on this issue alongside UKABIF and Chris Bryant MP – found that nearly two-thirds of women (64%) at HMP Drake Hall had a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

From the women identified through the brain injury service at HMP Drake Hall, 62% reported they had sustained their brain injury through domestic violence.

Research has shown there is a clear link between life trauma, offending and poor health outcomes for women in prison, and this was reflected in the histories of women with TBI involved, with The Disabilities Trust reporting many were subject to prolonged periods of intense violence that was often directed towards their head while they were unconscious.

Furthermore, a third of the women reported sustaining their brain injury before their first offence with the average age of first brain injury reported at 25. Statistics show that incidence of female head injury has increased by 24% since 2005/6.

Whilst the physical symptoms may be obvious, brain injuries can also result in behavioural, cognitive and emotional consequences, which can be considered hidden, but can affect someone for the rest of their lives.

These symptoms include poor memory, lack of concentration or difficulties multi-tasking, poor impulsive control, aggression, irritability, but also mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression.

The new statutory guidance was welcomed by those who campaigned for its introduction.

Chris Bryant MP said: “This is a journey that started with research from The Disabilities Trust and I’ve been delighted to work with them and a range of individuals and organisations including the UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum to ensure these important initiatives change practice and improve the support survivors receive both in the community and in prisons.”

“This is a very successful outcome following many months of discussions with the minister and NHSE,” said Chloe Hayward, executive director of UKABIF.

“We are delighted that those with brain injuries caused by domestic violence are highlighted in the revised guidance.

“The work of the Criminal Justice Acquired Brain Injury Interest Group was able to give co-ordinated, evidence-based input to meetings ensuring they were attended by those with expertise and experience in this field.”

Irene Sobowale, chief executive of The Disabilities Trust, added: “As a leading charity actively providing neurorehabilitation within prisons in England and Wales, we are delighted to have succeeded in campaigning to ensure that brain injury sustained through domestic abuse is highlighted for survivors in the community and in the criminal justice system.

“We hope that this change will ensure that survivors with a brain injury can be provided with effective support to address all of their needs including the often-hidden disability of a brain injury. This result builds on research from the Disabilities Trust working with partners and Government to achieve this.”

Neuropsychology

Video gaming ‘can increase cognitive ability in children’

Above-average time spent on video games can lead to an increase in IQ over time, a new study reveals

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Children who spend an above-average time playing video games can increase their cognitive ability, a new study has revealed. 

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have studied how the screen habits of children correlate with how their cognitive abilities develop over time. 

While they found that watching television or being on social media had neither a positive or negative effect, video gaming increased their intelligence more than average. 

On average, the children spent 2.5 hours a day watching TV, half an hour on social media and one hour playing video games. 

The results showed that those who played more games than the average increased their intelligence between the two measurements by approximately 2.5 IQ points more than the average. No significant effect was observed, positive or negative, of TV-watching or social media.

Over 9,000 boys and girls from the United States took part in the study, which saw them perform an array of psychological tests aged nine or ten to determine their cognitive abilities. 

The children and their parents were also asked about how much time the children spent watching TV and videos, playing video games and engaging with social media.

Just over 5,000 of the children were followed up after two years, at which point they were asked to repeat the psychological tests. This enabled the researchers to study how the children’s performance on the tests varied from one testing session to the other, and to control for individual differences in the first test. 

They also controlled for genetic differences that could affect intelligence and differences that could be related to the parents’ educational background and income.

“We didn’t examine the effects of screen behaviour on physical activity, sleep, wellbeing or school performance, so we can’t say anything about that,” says Torkel Klingberg, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet. 

“But our results support the claim that screen time generally doesn’t impair children’s cognitive abilities, and that playing video games can actually help boost intelligence. This is consistent with several experimental studies of video-game playing.”

The results are also in line with recent research showing that intelligence is not a constant, but a quality that is influenced by environmental factors.

“We’ll now be studying the effects of other environmental factors and how the cognitive effects relate to childhood brain development,” says Prof Klingberg.

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Tech

GripAble praised by MP

Stephen Hammond MP hails its innovation and “extraordinary” success to date and potential

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The progress of GripAble has been hailed as “extraordinary” by its local MP, who praised its innovation and ongoing progress in transforming neurorehab and wider healthcare.

GripAble, the UK technology company digitising upper limb rehabilitation from hospital to home, welcomed Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon, to its international sales and distribution centre.

Mr Hammond visited GripAble’s office in Wimbledon to learn how private equity investment has helped it to scale its industry-leading data platform and therapy services and expand GripAble into Europe and the US, as well as how an international company has successfully stemmed from the local business community. 

During his visit, the MP met the GripAble team and listened to a presentation by GripAble co-founder and CEO Dr Paul Rinne, who shared the background to GripAble and its growth story to date, as well as plans and ambitions for the future.

Prior to becoming an MP, Stephen Hammond worked for a leading fund management company and multiple investment banks, so was particularly interested in the funding GripAble has received to date, including the recent close of its $11m funding round. 

With more than 8,000 individuals having already used the platform, GripAble has established itself as a leading technology in the remote-rehab space in the UK, recording 100,000 activity sessions and 27 million movement repetitions across its users.

Stephen Hammond MP said: “GripAble proves that innovative companies of the future that are building products that will transform healthcare can be based anywhere, but I’m particularly proud that GripAble has started out in Wimbledon. 

“It’s been wonderful to see the development of the company over the last two years since first meeting Paul, and I’m sure the developments over the next three years will be equally extraordinary, particularly with the backing of private equity investment.”

Dr Rinne said: “Today’s visit was a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase GripAble’s story and vision to a Member of Parliament and explain how private equity investment can help UK-based entrepreneurs take ideas from seed stage through to global scaling, and compete on the international stage. 

“The investment we have received will accelerate GripAble’s journey to delivering end-to-end patient rehabilitation and connecting millions to their own personal home-based clinic. 

“With the backing of investors such as IP Group and Parkwalk, we will benefit from a wealth of insight and experience that will support us in growing our platform in the US and expanding our clinical and commercial evidence base. 

“It is great to be able to work with such supportive investors that make our lives so much easier.”

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Neuropsychology

Social media break ‘can improve mental health’

A one-week break can deliver improvements in wellbeing, anxiety and depression, research reveals

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A week-long break from social media could lead to significant improvements in wellbeing, depression and anxiety, and could potentially be recommended as a way to help people manage their mental health. 

A new study has looked at the effects of taking a break from social media, which for some participants meant sacrificing up to nine hours otherwise spent on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. 

The results of the research, from the University of Bath, suggest that after just one week, these individuals saw their overall level of wellbeing improve, as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Over the past 15 years, social media has revolutionised how we communicate, underscored by the huge growth the main platforms have observed. 

In the UK the number of adults using social media increased from 45 per cent in 2011 to 71 per cent in 2021. Among 16 to 44-year-olds, as many as 97 per cent of people use social media and scrolling is the most frequent online activity.

Lead researcher from Bath’s Department for Health, Dr Jeff Lambert, explains: “Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night.

“We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects, so with this study, we wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week’s break could yield mental health benefits.

“Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact.

“Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it’s an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps.”

For the study, the researchers randomly allocated 154 individuals aged 18 to 72 who used social media every day into either an intervention group, where they were asked to stop using all social media for one-week or a control group, where they could continue scrolling as normal. 

At the beginning of the study, baseline scores for anxiety, depression and wellbeing were taken.

Participants reported spending an average of eight hours per week on social media at the start of the study. 

One week later, the participants who were asked to take the one-week break had significant improvements in wellbeing, depression, and anxiety than those who continued to use social media, suggesting a short-term benefit.

Participants asked to take a one-week break reported using social media for an average of 21 minutes compared to an average of seven hours for those in the control group. Screen usage stats were provided to check that individuals had adhered to the break.

The team now want to build on the study to see whether taking a short break can help different populations, such as younger people or people with physical and mental health conditions, who research shows can experience adverse effects at different times.

The team also want to follow people up for longer than one week, to see if the benefits last over time. If so, in the future, they speculate that this could form part of the suite of clinical options used to help manage mental health.

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