Posts tagged with "Movement"

A change of heart? Tiny wearable sensors will help expectant moms track fetuses’ heartbeat, movements

August 23, 2019

About 2.6 million women and their loved ones experience the pain and loss of a stillbirth each year, according to The World Health Organization. Now, researchers have developed a device that will give expectant mothers more “control” over and knowledge about their pregnancies—in real-time, with a tiny, non-invasive fetal heartrate monitor, which they claim is more accurate than anything else yet on the market.

The thump, thump of a baby’s heartbeat is a milestone in any pregnancy. Researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey,  have conducted a pilot study in which a sensor—worn on the mother’s abdomen—records vibrations when her baby’s heart beats or when the fetus squirms and kicks. 

. “Almost a third of stillbirths occur in the absence of complicating factors,” said Negar Tavassolian, director of the Stevens Bio-Electromagnetics Laboratory.”Our device could let a pregnant woman know if her fetus is compromised and she needs to go to the doctor.”

Many stillbirths are preceded by variations in fetal movement and heartrate, so affordable, lightweight monitors that detect vibrations generated from a heartbeat could be worn continuously in the final weeks of pregnancy to ensure that distressed fetuses receive prompt medical attention. The work is reported in the early access issue of IEEE Sensors Journal.

Tavassolian and first author Chenxi Yang, a graduate student at Stevens, teamed up with Bruce Young and Clarel Antoine, two OB-GYNs at New York University-Langone Medical Center to test their sensors. In experiments on 10 pregnant women, they found the device could detect fetal heartrate with about the same accuracy as fetal cardiotocograms (f-CTG), which measure the baby’s heart electrical activity (ECG) together with mother’s uterine contractions—and is considered the current standard for fetal monitoring.

A vibration monitor offers important advantages over existing tools based on ECG or Doppler ultrasound technology, which require specialized knowledge to use, and can be bulky and expensive. One leading monitor system currently on the market weighs more than 11 pounds and has a battery life of four hours; by contrast, the Stevens team’s sensors are barely a fifth-of-an-inch long, weigh next to nothing, and can run off a 3-volt battery for more than 24 hours.

The new monitor poses no risk to the fetus—a concern with ultrasound monitors, which can heat tissue if used continuously for long periods. The Stevens team’s monitor simply detects existing vibrations, like a doctor listening with a stethoscope. “Our monitors are completely passive, so there’s no health concern,” Tavassolian said.

Vibration monitors can also offer an objective measure of fetal movement, which is currently assessed simply by asking moms to count the times their baby kicks. Combining heart-rate and movement data could provide vital insights into fetal health, surpassing anything that’s currently available, Yang explained. “That’s the big plan — to fuse these different modalities into a single device,” he said.

The current device uses commercially available sensors, but the long-term goal is to patent and market a custom-built device.

Research contact: @FollowStevens

Can you boost your memory by walking backward?

May 9, 2019

Lost your car keys? Trying to remember exactly where you saved the instructions your boss gave to you this morning? Instead of retracing your steps, you might want to try literally try backtracking—walking backward to jog your memory, according to a report by Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

A study published in the January issue of Cognition found that people who walked backward—or imagined they were walking backward, or even watched a video simulating backward motion—had better recall of past events than those who walked forward or sat still.

Why? That’s still something of a mystery, says Dr. Daniel Schacter, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. But he thinks it is possible that people associate going backward with the past and this somehow triggers a memory response.

“We know it can’t have anything to do with how they’ve encoded the information,” says Dr. Schacter. After all, people weren’t walking backward when they stored the memories tested in this study. It may take future studies to shed additional light on the issue. “But I found the results intriguing,” he says.

Researchers decided to test the effect of backward movement on memory because numerous past studies have found links between motion and memory. They recruited 114 people to take part in six different memory experiments. In the experiments, they showed participants a video of a staged crime, a word list, or a group of images. They then asked the participants to walk forward, walk backward, sit still, watch a video that simulated forward or backward motion, or imagine walking forward or backward. The participants then answered questions related to the information they saw earlier.

In all cases, people who were moving backward, thought about moving backward, or saw a video depicting reverse motion were better able to recall the information they had been shown earlier, compared with those sitting still. In five of the six experiments, memory was better when people moved backward than when they moved forward. On average, the boost in memory lasted for ten minutes after people stopped moving.

In the staged crime experiment, for example, participants watched a video of a woman, sitting in a park, who has her bag stolen. Researchers tested how well people could answer 20 questions about the simulated crime, depending on the direction they moved or if they sat still. They found that people who walked backward were significantly more likely to answer more questions correctly, regardless of how old they were or other factors.

The findings suggest that this motion strategy might be a means of helping people better recall past events.

Dr. Schacter says backward motion could one day be added to existing techniques already in use to boost memory. One such method is called a cognitive interview. The interviewing technique helps people to recall details of a recent event, for example, if they witnessed a crime. “What interviewers are trying to do is get as much accurate information as they can without inducing a false memory,” says Dr. Schacter. They do this by metaphorically walking the person through the event forward and backward. It’s possible that literally walking backward may do something similar in the brain, he says.

Using backward motion could potentially augment the cognitive interview or be used as a separate technique, he says. One key question that remains to be answered, however, is whether the technique would promote accurate recall of everyday events, says Dr. Schacter. “It’s really too early to say whether there would be practical applications,” he says.

The study authors said that future research will look to uncover not only why this technique seems to improve memory recall, but also whether motion-based memory aids could help elderly adults or people with dementia.

In the meantime, will walking backward help boost your short-term memory? “This study would suggest that there are some circumstances where this might be the case,” says Dr. Schacter. “It may be worth trying.”

Research contact: @HarvardHealth