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This Updated Pegboard Game Helps Stroke Victims Relearn Motor Skills

The Rapael smart pegboard from Neofect looks like an item you might find in an arcade. Power it up and it acts like one too: The digital device is outfitted with holes that light up in a variety of shapes and patterns. One setting functions like a stripped-down version of Whack-a-Mole, where the object is to fill the illuminated spaces with pegs before time runs out. Though the designers took inspiration from classic children's games, their pegboard is meant to provide life-changing therapy instead of simple entertainment.

As Mashable reports, the pegboard was built as a rehabilitation tool for stroke survivors. The inventors at the South Korean medical startup Neofect modeled the product after the old-school pegboards that are already used in many physical therapists' offices. The purpose of those original boards is to improve motor function in people recovering from neurological damage (like the kind sustained after a stroke) by having them complete dexterity tests. The smart pegboard takes this one step further by offering a gamified aspect.

By making physical therapy tools fun to use, the idea is that patients will be more engaged and more motivated in each exercise. In addition to the Whack-a-Mole activity, the pegboard is also compatible with games in the styles of Simon Says and Lite-Brite. A digital panel on the side of the board provides users with visual and auditory feedback so they can keep track of their progress.

About 795,000 people in the U.S. fall victim to strokes each year, and it can take survivors months to years to recover. Games have been proven to be beneficial to the rehabilitation process, but patients and doctors interested in purchasing Neofect's smart pegboard will need to pay a high price: The full version costs $2000 (the pegboard without the digital hardware is much cheaper at $50 for a small one). The device still needs to undergo clinical trials before it will be ready to hit the market.

[h/t Mashable]

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The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
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Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

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Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
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Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

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