IMRIC and You
Follow the news and meet the people behind IMRIC's innovative medical research.
Sunday, April 13th, 2014 | 8:05am
I wanted to share this blog post from Ilyse Levine-Kanji that I read this past week. I thought it gave an inside view on life with Autism.
This is a post by Ilyse Levine-Kanji, a former employment discrimination lawyer who now devotes her time to caring for her two sons, Sam (15) and Troy (13). For more of Ilyse's advocacy work on behalf of people with autism, check out ilyselevinekanji.com
One of the most frustrating things about autism is that so little is known about the disorder.
When my son Sam was diagnosed at 26 months in 2000, we were told that a primary hallmark of autism is social disinterest and the desire to be alone. Sam is now 15 years old. While his social interactions are often quirky and unexpected (to say the least!), Sam has a deep desire to connect with others. Sam is always willing to go to the grocery store or run errands with me, primarily because he’s excited to see who we will run into. People joke that Sam acts like “the mayor,” greeting everyone he sees by name and with an enthusiastic fist bump. (Again, we were told that people with autism have trouble recognizing others, which also hasn’t been true for Sam.)
What is accurate is that Sam has tremendous difficulty communicating. He speaks in full sentences, but it is often a struggle for him to communicate his thoughts. One way that Sam compensates for this difficulty is by painstakingly planning out what he is going to say to someone before he sees him or her. Sam has many rehearsed scripts in his head that he pulls out depending on the person. One of his favorites is telling jokes that might be specific to a certain profession or situation. For instance, I think each of our town’s police officers now know the answer to Sam’s joke, “Why did the police officer go to the baseball game?” (Because someone was stealing 2ndbase).
Sam’s astounding memory helps him remember to whom he has told each specific joke or story so that he doesn’t repeat himself.
To read more click here.
To learn more about Autism research at IMRIC click here.
Monday, March 24th, 2014 | 4:43pm
This past Friday I ran my fourth Half Marathon. To play the numbers game, this is after giving birth to my second child and at the age of 30. When I was 20 I started running, but my 20-year-old self would never believe that I could finish (or for that matter start) a Half Marathon.
I am writing this blog post to once again stress that not only can I do it, but anyone can choose a healthy lifestyle and start living that way now. I am always surprised how impressed people are with me for running the race. That’s because I think we are all up for the challenge. I am not saying that everyone can run a Half Marathon. But I tell my friends that they can walk 10 minutes a day, and watch how that can turn into 45 minute strolls in a month. What’s important is to just get yourself out there, instead of doubting yourself and not committing at all.
I will be honest and say that I thought this would be my last Half Marathon. This time around I didn’t enjoy the training as much and my body (after the two kids) just didn’t feel the same. But as I ran kilometer after kilometer (21.2 to be exact), I remembered how much fun a race is. It is incredible to run with thousands of other people and together finish a race, a challenge, a goal that seemed so distant, together.
At the beginning of the race we ran through a tunnel. That’s what’s cool about a Marathon, you run the streets, there are no cars and no traffic lights, or narrow sidewalks to worry about. As we ran through the tunnel, all the runners started to scream. It was awesome. It was freeing. It was loud. I screamed too. My voice blended in with the others and we stepped in stride if only through the darkness for a few hundred meters. And then, as they say, we “saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” and I realized my healthy journey has only yet begun.
Whether or not I run another Half, or 10k, or Full Marathon, or swim, or Zumba, I have made a life choice to be healthy. That is my motivation to get out of bed and workout even on the coldest days, or to encourage my children to do the same. And I hope I can also motivate you to do the same. Challenge yourself with a healthy life choice too.
If you do start running this is a great app.
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 | 7:27am
The Smartphone just got a little smarter with the EyeMusic App, developed and created by IMRIC’s Prof. Amir Amedi. The App is an innovative SSD (Sensory Substitution Device). SSDs provide representations of visual information and can help the blind "see" colors and shapes. To get an idea of what a SSD is, you can watch Graduate Student Ella’s vlog. Ella is a researcher in Prof. Amedi’s lab. In her vlog, Ella gives an insightful explanation and hands-on experience of SSDs and their functions. In a nutshell, SSDs are able to scan images and transform the information into audio or touch signals. The people who use SSDs are trained to understand the different sounds, enabling them to recognize the image without seeing it. Thus, blind people can see through sound.
Prof. Amedi and his team have created the EyeMusic that transmits shape and color information through a composition of pleasant musical tones, or "soundscapes." What is even more remarkable, this is one of the first SSDs to incorporate the use of color. Prof. Amedi stressed that the use of enabling color to musical timbre can lead to more complex shapes in the future.
And if we we’re looking into the future, then an additional hope of the EyeMusic would be for it to become a tool for neuroscience research. "It would be intriguing to explore the plastic changes associated with learning to decode color information for auditory timbre in the congenitally blind, who never experience color in their life. The utilization of the EyeMusic and its added color information in the field of neuroscience could facilitate exploring several questions in the blind with the potential to expand our understanding of brain organization in general," Prof. Amedi explains.
Now it’s your turn, download the App and check it out for yourself! Seeing believing!
Sunday, January 19th, 2014 | 7:03am
You’ve probably uttered the saying, 'out of body experience', at least once in your life…maybe already once this year, but what if you actually did have an ‘out of body experience’? Our own Prof. Amir Amedi had the opportunity to make that saying more of a reality during a recent conference.
After giving the keynote speech on merging of the senses in sighted and blind, Prof. Amedi became part of the experiment in Researcher Prof. Olaf Blanke’s Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience. There he took part in a virtual ‘out of body experience (OBE).’ Blanke’s research focuses on the merging of the sense in relation to the body; the virtual OBE that his lab has created shows how the brain can be tricked and how sensing one's own body can have a powerful influence on sense of self and physical location.
Check out Prof. Amedi’s photos he shares with us, as well as the video explanation. We look forward to following Prof. Amedi to all his conferences and seeing what exciting research goodies he takes part in along the way.
The TED Talk
Sunday, November 17th, 2013 | 8:27am
This past week I have noticed so many incredible videos online about cancer. The stories that we once only heard about in secret from our closest friends and family are now being put in the spotlight of social media. And while these stories are often painful and have sad endings, it is important that we continue to share them.
The personal side of cancer also sheds light on the vital basic research side, not as colorful but just as important. The researchers are working hard to investigate and come up with better medicine and hopefully down the line, a cure. For us, the people outside of the lab, we have to do our part and stay informed and updated. Videos like these help us to share, educate and promote new studies and breakthrough science.
Take a moment to watch these short clips and share this post with your friends and family, inside the lab and outside too.