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First-of-its-kind project supports brain injury survivors in return home

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A first-of-its-kind house has been created for people with brain injuries, using the latest in technology innovation to support them in their return to living independently. 

The Link is a pioneering project designed to bridge the gap between acute medical settings and return home, or to allow for a period of independent living, which uses assistive, smart and strategy technology to enable residents to live autonomously thanks to the ‘hidden’ support within the building. 

The purpose-built house, in Snodland, Kent, is a unique innovation from BIS Services, which has been meticulously planned for over three years. It offers a solution to people who are set to move back into the community but want to live in somewhere that feels like home during their transition, rather than a multi-occupancy unit, while not compromising on levels of support.  

But while they are able to live independently, they have the benefit of round-the-clock subtle monitoring, with observations of skill, patterns of behaviour, independent motivation and initiation, all of which can be graded and reduced where appropriate, allowing for maximum safety whilst increasing positive outcomes. 

The Link has also partnered with Cambridge Brain Sciences for frequent delivery of cognitive assessment, hailed as an exciting development in terms of providing evidence of improved functional skills, as well as cognition.  

In addition to its range of holistic therapy services, including mindfulness therapy, hypnotherapy, art, music and horticultural activities, The Link has also established close links with the local Kent community, enabling opportunities for vocational placements and further education courses, to further assess skills and relevant goal setting.

And while the property is preparing to accept its first clients onto its 12-week residential placements at The Link, a second is already being planned elsewhere, to help even more people to be supported in this way. BIS Services plan to roll out the service nationally and they are currently sourcing the next perfect location.

The Link builds on the commitment of BIS Services to raise standards in cognitive rehabilitation provision, with it delivering person-centred care to people living with ABI through brain injury, neurological injury and mental health issues throughout the country. Transitional services will be available upon discharge with BIS teams to ensure seamless support packages. 

“This has been a dream project to work on. It’s a one of a kind which has been in the planning for over three years,” says Eky Popat, operations director at BIS Services. 

“We’ve put a huge amount of effort into the design of the house, making sure it feels like a home, rather than a clinical environment. Every little corner has been thought of, and the appliances and products are all absolutely what is needed, no stone has been left unturned. 

“In addition to the design of the house, we carried out a huge amount of research into how we could assess the impact of things like cold calling, internet usage, procedural learning, and how we can capture that data. That data supports whether a client can live independently, so our decisions are based on evidence and robust assessments. 

“It can be so challenging to manage the unpredictable nature of independent living in other settings, so we have worked hard to factor in how clients learn to deal with real life situations and emergencies. 

“We want to empower clients so they feel at home here, while also preparing for living independently with the assurance for them and their families that support is there if they need it.” 

In addition to the acquisition and development of the property, the use of technology marks another significant investment in the creation of The Link. 

“Brain injury is often called a hidden disability, and the support here is also hidden, we are using the very latest in technology to support our clients in a very modern way,” says Natalie Mackenzie, director at BIS Services. 

“We have some fantastic appliances throughout the house, which can all be used easily by clients but aren’t so expensive they are completely inaccessible to clients once they return to their own homes – we have made sure they are all affordable innovations which could be used as part of their future needs.

“We have smart devices throughout the house, including a smart fridge, the contents of which can be viewed while a client is out shopping to see what they need, as well as aiding with expiration, shopping list creation and so on, and a personalised shower system for people with hyper sensitivity or lack of sensation, which has auto shut-off to help with time perception, as well as prompts 

“We have Alexa throughout the house too, which further helps with prompts and reminders and can then be transferred easily into their own homes once their placement with us comes to an end. It of course works in tandem with the skilled staff that are trained in identifying cognitive deficits and their impact on function.

“It’s really cutting-edge and we’ve identified that it’s the little things that often matter the most, it’s a great opportunity for our clients. There is lots more in there as well, including a therapy room and other smart technology focusing on different cognitive domains. When coupled with our company specialism in cognitive rehabilitation, the clients really do have access to highly specialised features.

“We’ve supported clients in living independently for over ten years and it’s always a sticking point to find a property that meets the needs of some. They want and need the independence, but don’t want to be in a brain injury unit, so it’s brilliant we have been able to create something like this. We provide independence from the outset, which in turn will increase positive outcomes for the clients long-term” 

And with the successful creation of the first The Link comes plans for a second are underway, with aspirations for even further
roll-out. 

“The aim is to have several of The Link across England. We are so proud of the first and we’re already working on the second,” says Eky.  

“We’re so happy clients have the opportunity to be part of this, they deserve this opportunity to show their abilities to live independently. They can look back on this time here and be very proud of what they have done. We want to offer it even further through the opening of more houses, that is in the plan.” 

Further referral information can be found on the BIS Services website www.thebiss.co.uk 

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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