Thursday 3 March 2016, 16:12 | By

In the News Feb 2016: Superheroes come in all sizes

CSL In The News


The recent Huffington Post article from CSL’s Ian Spero revealed how the weight of research around living well as we age, could be used to inform a formula for Agile Ageing.
And as over-65s in England are ‘living longer than ever before’, then sharing these findings is more important than ever. But what of those at the start of their lives? What’s happening for younger people living with life-limiting conditions? Well in our daily search for stories connecting creativity, health and tech-innovation, this particular story about ‘superhero kids’ definitely stood out…


Kids love 3-D

After Kate Ganim’s sister was born without a hand, she saw how limiting prosthetics could be. That was, until in 2014, according to this HuffPost article, “Ganim heard about Robohand, a company that makes 3-D-printed machined limbs, and decided to connect the dots”.

The result was KidMob, a design firm that now runs courses helping kids to rethink their disability, and themselves, while learning design skills along the way. The results are as unique as the kids themselves, varying from tech-focused pieces to ones featuring water pistols.

The course, the article continues, “teaches kids to tackle community-based issues with skills like 3-D modelling and printing, technical drawing and using power tools – [where] children missing limbs get to swap their bulky prosthetics for superhero cyborg arms they create themselves”.

Now we’re sure this idea of redesigning your body might appeal to quite a few people, but what about issues that people can’t see? How might new technologies help us rethink a life-limiting condition like depression? Well it seems that’s where virtual reality is coming to the fore…


‘Virtual therapy’

According to this recent BBC article, “a new therapy which involves a patient embodying themselves in a virtual reality avatar of a crying child could help with depression”.

The project, a collaboration between universities in London and Barcelona, allows patients to “wear a headset that projects a life-sized image, firstly of an adult and then of a child, [and] by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion”; the results of which project lead Professor Chris Brewin said had been “very powerful”.

The impact of VR is still being understood, but if computer games like Minecraft are any indication of their potential power, then it will be fascinating to see how it helps us understand ourselves, while tapping into our creativity.

Speaking of creativity, the recent dotMed Conference in Dublin showcased some inspiring examples of people within healthcare using creativity to challenge the status quo.


Venn diagrams show the way

Writing in eHospice, Dr Ros Taylor MBE of Hospice UK, gave a fantastic overview of the conference which “celebrates the interface between medicine, technology and the humanities”.

In it, we’re introduced to Professor John Greally, who has been led by data visualisation into a ‘very rich world of four-way collaborations with researchers, data visualisation experts, programmers and artists to transform big data from ambiguous evidence into something that can be decoded and understood.’

Other speakers discussed the power of social media to help us learn and build communities, how medicine can be seen as a ‘performance’ with medical school being where it is rehearsed, the educational and literary potential of comics, and the power of photography to show the physical toll on doctors after 24-hr shifts. We’ll be keeping our eyes of for the talks, which were filmed and should be up on their site soon.

Using a data ‘visualisation’ of our own, it seems a Venn diagram overlap of health, innovation and creativity might be very potent indeed. And the fact that the event was organised by doctors (rheumatologist Dr Ronan Kavanagh and medical journalist Dr Muiris Houston) prove it’s not just organisations like CSL who want to see more live discussion around its potential.

Probably one reason why this recent, and very eloquent article from Alain de Botton on the purpose of music caught our eye…


What is the point of music?

Well according to de Botton, writing recently in the Guardian, we should ask Peter Gabriel. De Botton writes that music should (and to quote Gabriel), “provide us with “an emotional toolbox” to which we can turn at different moments of our lives, locating songs to recover, guide and sublimate our feelings”.

He continues; “the great musicians – and Gabriel is among the very best – stock our emotional toolboxes with what we most need to endure life’s journey. Though they don’t always say it themselves, they are in the very best sense the therapists of our souls.”

And if you want to know how musicians like Gabriel do it, then take a moment to read this great article in the New York Times on how MIT tracked down the “neural pathways that react almost exclusively to the sound of music”.

The very area this Zika-fighting doctor in Jamaica was no doubt targeting when he “used his creative talents to deliver a public health message with a difference”. Enjoy!


So that’s it for February’s news review. Until next month’s, keep up with all the best stories landing in the centre of our Venn diagram, on the CSL twitter feed.