Aug 19

Measuring the Wobbliness of Scuba Divers

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In order to maintain balance, our body needs a number of structures to be working correctly. We need to know what the joints are doing, so that our muscles can make any necessary adjustments to keep us upright. We also need the signals from those joints to travel up the brain without interruption and then to be interpreted correctly. The signals from the brain have to go back down again and the muscles must be able to make any necessary corrections to maintain our posture. Additionally, the balance detectors located in our ears must also be working.

Most of the time though, we have another back-up source of information which we use to maintain balance, even if the above mechanisms are faulty – we keep our eyes open! So we instantly see if our balance is incorrect and adjust accordingly.

Balance testing and divers. 

Divers with decompression illness (DCI) can sustain an injury to the balance pathways. Sometimes these injuries can be subtle and the diver affected wouldn’t necessarily know he or she had a problem – because with the eyes open a balance problem wouldn’t be immediately apparent. Dive doctors test for this possibility by the use of the Sharpened Romberg Test. This test is performed with the eyes closed, so the compensatory visual mechanism is eliminated. But balance is a difficult skill. Even healthy individuals find themselves a bit wobbly with their eyes closed!

What are we doing at DIVE2014 (Birmingham NEC, October 2014)?

At the Dive Show (DIVE2014) from 25th/26th October 2014, I will be working with DDRC Healthcare inviting people to undertake a test with us on Stand 1436. We will ask participants to place one foot in front of the other, fold their arms across their chest, close their eyes and try to maintain balance for as long as possible. In order to measure the amount of wobble, we will ask volunteers to place a few sticky markers to their clothing. This will allow us to use a computer programme to measure the amount of postural sway – or in layman’s terms ‘wobble’!

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What will we be doing with the findings? 

Postural sway, or ‘wobble’ reflects instability. There’s a large natural variation between individuals, even in health. The data we gather will help us understand this natural variation. This will help diving doctors make their judgements about when people may have returned to their pre-DCI state.

What does the test result mean to individual divers? 

Apart from DCI there are lots of reasons why an individual may be wobbly in this test. The most common one is the natural variation between individuals! If you attempt the test and find you are more wobbly than expected, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong. We won’t be attempting any on-the-spot diagnosis on our Dive Show volunteers!

For fun, we will make a note of the details of any willing participant who remains upright for 60 seconds, and analysis of their video will reveal the person with the least amount of ‘wobble’. The winner will receive a prize from DDRC!

For more information on DDRC Healthcare’ research work linked to the health of divers, including there most recent survey which focuses on Dental Health & UK Divers, visit http://www.ddrc.org/divingresearch/ 

By Sam Harding (DDRC Healthcare Chamber Team) and Dr Simon Williams (DDRC Healthcare Doctor)

Feb 12

Existence of benefit finding and posttraumatic growth in people treated for head and neck cancer: a systematic review

Sam has recently had a systematic review published in the open access journal PeerJ.  It is FREE for anyone to download.  Below is the abstract giving you an overview of the work, and it you have any questions then maybe the full article will be of interest.

Background. The impact of head and neck cancer (HNC) in long-term survivors differs widely among individuals, and a significant number of them suffer from the negative effects of disease, whereas others report significant positive effect. This systematic review investigated the evidence the implications of treatment for HNC and subsequent development of Benefit Finding (BF) or Posttraumatic Growth (PTG).
Purpose. To understand how differing medical, psychological and social characteristics of HNC may lead to BF/PTG and subsequently inform post-treatment interventions to encourage positive outcomes.
Method. In February 2012, five databases including Pubmed, and Psych Info, were searched, for peer-reviewed English-language publications. Search strings included key words pertaining to HNC, BF, and PTG. One thousand three hundred and sixty three publications were identified, reviewed, and reduced following Cochrane guidelines and inclusion/exclusion criteria specified by a group of maxillofacial consul-
tants and psychologists. Publications were then quality assessed using the CASP Cohort Critical Appraisal tool.
Findings. Five manuscripts met the search and selection criteria, and were sourced for review. All studies were identified as being level IIb evidence which is a medium level of quality. The majority of studies investigated benefit finding (80%) and were split between recruiting participant via cancer clinics and postal survey. They focused on the medical, psychological and social characteristics of the patient following completion of treatment for HNC.
Conclusion. Demographic factors across the papers showed similar patterns of relationships across BF and PTG; that higher education/qualification and cohabitation/marriage are associated with increased BF/PTG. Similarly, overlap with disease characteristics and psychosocial factors where hope and optimism were both positively correlated with increased reported BF/PTG.

Apr 07

Representing the BPS

Yet another busy month has passed for us all, but I thought I would take this time to write a short piece about a couple of events, at which I represented the British Psychology Society (BPS).

Exeter University Psychology Society Careers Event

Midweek on what turned out to be a wet, and chilly March day, Exeter University Psychology Society organised a careers fair.  They invited myself and a number of colleagues to cover the various areas of psychological practice.  I was there to, as mentioned, represent the BPS, but also to talk about work in the field of Health Psychology.  Other speakers included; Dr Andy Allen, Dr Craig Knight, Dr Varuni Wilamasari, Dr Barry Cripps, Amy McAndrew and Josie Bannon.  Our brief was to talk about our experience and knowledge of how to get into our field and what it is like to work in it.

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  • I aimed to enlightened the students on topic of Health Psychology.  It is a rapidly expanding but relatively new area of psychology which promotes well-being
  • Educational Psychologist, Dr Andy Allen, talked about the experience of working in both the public and private sector, and gave advice on cross-sector working
  • Dr Craig Knight, an Occupational Psychologist, talked about his work to help businesses maximise the potential of their office spaces by using his expertise in the effects of office layout on productivity and efficiency
  • Dr Varuni Wilamasari, a lecturer at Exeter University and an Occupational Psychologist, discussed how psychology can be implemented into practical settings by showing how her knowledge is applied to decision making
  • Sports Psychologist, Dr Barry Cripps described his extensive career working with athletes across many disciplines
  • Amy McAndrew, an Exeter PhD student gave practical advice on applying for an MSc or a PhD and funding opportunities available to students
  • Joise Bannon, introduced the audience to Wellbeing practitioners. A job involving using low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy to help those with mild or moderate depression and outlined the differences between a wellbeing practitioner and a clinical psychologist.

Following each of us giving a 5 minute presentation we were individually set upon by the assembled students to in the form of a lively question and answer session with students raising questions about aspirations, opportunities in the field and the career processes needed.  All the speakers gave enthusiastic and insightful talks about working in psychology.  It also provided an great opportunity for the undergraduates to clarify thoughts about potential careers.  I personally found it a really great experience. It allowed me to talk on a topic about which I am passionate to people that were interested and asking insightful questions.  This in turn challenged my understanding of the students basic level of knowledge and expectations that they carry during their years of study.  Fingers crossed this will be first of an annual event at this University.

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The second event I helped support was the;

South West Undergraduate Psychology Conference

Bath University Psychology student helpers

Bath University Psychology student helpers

Each year the South West Branch Committee of the BPS sponsor and help organise an undergraduate student conference for the seven universities based in the region (Bath Spa University, Open University, University of Bath, University of Bristol, University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, and the University of the West of England). The conference is an opportunity for students and their lecturers to share experiences, research, discuss ideas, feedback and network with each other and particularly with practising psychologists. The universities take it in turns to host the event and this year it was the University of Bath’s turn.

Dr Michael Proulx

Dr Michael Proulx

So at 10:30 on a grey and drizzly Saturday approximately 120 students and staff convened at the conference venue.  Welcomed with much needed warm drinks and cookies by a group of Psychology students, it became clear from the level of chatter that we were in for a very interesting and engaging day of research dissemination. With the 21 poster presentations hung, we split into streams to watch the first of the 24 oral presentations.  Each oral presentation consisted of a 10 minute talk, supplemented with PowerPoint or Prezi, and a subsequent 5 minute question & answer opportunity. Mid-way through the presentation schedule, lunch provided the opportunity to view posters, chat to authors and network with peers.  The presentations resumed until 15:45 when we were treated to a keynote presentation by Dr Michael Proulx. He gave a fascinating presentation covering his work examining some of the fundamental issues in cognition through the study of multiple sensory modalities. This focused on how developments in psychology and engineering are allowing significant advancements to be made in augmenting hearing devices and subsquently aid visual impaired people.

Clichéd as it maybe, once again, the students’ contributions were of a remarkably high standard. This made it difficult for the judges (academic representatives from the attending universities and the author) to decide upon the BPS ‘Best Poster’ and ‘Best Oral Presentation’.  We ended up selecting 2 posters and 5 oral presentations for commendations. In no particular order, poster commendations:

  1. Alessandro Firetto (University of Plymouth) Out of Sync. The effects of social exclusion through music synchrony
  2. Natalya Smith (University of Bath) Anxiety and gender: how do they affect chronic pain patients’ outcomes following a pain management programme?

Oral presentation commendations:

  1. Tamsyn Hawken (University of Bath) Exploring earthquake related distress: A qualitative analysis
  2. Claire Mason (University of Bath) Project REACH; A study into the risky health behaviours of childhood cancer survivors
  3. Claire O’Reilly (University of Exeter) Evidence for an understanding of string-pulling in an Alaskan coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos sitkensis)
  4. Jennifer Riddell (University of Bristol) Axes of time representation in English and Mandarin speakers
  5. Carys Weeds (University of Bristol) Just noticeable differences in sharpness

Winners of the best poster were: Bathany Isaacs, Zeena-Britt Sanders, Haline Schendam & Viktoria Vianeva (University of Plymouth) Behavioural Congruency and electrical brain potentials dissect knowledge, decision and action contributions to implicit memory

Winner of the best oral presentation was: Rebecca Griggs (University of Bristol) The effects of expectancy information on cephalic phase responses to food

The abstracts for these presentations and the others from the conference can be read in the summer edition of the South West Branch of the BPS review.  Next year the conference will be held on the 22nd March at the University of Exeter, but if you want to know more or wish to be directly emailed about this event please contact me at samh@jbsh.co.uk.

So, those were a couple of events I attended in March, both engaging and exciting and I am looking forward to doing more to help undergraduates develop themselves and the field of Psychology.

Dec 22

Bleedin’ vs Leading edge

For the last few days I’ve been playing a new game on my phone. Nothing exciting there really, games have been on phones since Snake (Sam was a master on her old Nokia 6110). The game itself isn’t that original either, basically it’s capture the flag. So why the title?

Several years ago I was the Business Manager for an education technology charity in Bristol called Futurelab. One of their flagship projects, completed before I joined, was very much touted as an example of leading edge technology in learning situations.

Savanah involved teams of school kids, running around their playing field pretending to be lions on the African Savanah. They had to capture territory, attack other animals for food, and so forth. All this was achieved with HP PDA’s, GPS units in rucksack, and a not inconsiderable army of tech support from HP Labs in Bristol who camped out in the school to manage the field trial! An amazing idea, but even if the legal challenges over copyright and who actually owned the idea could have been sorted out – it was a looong way from being implementable, let along a profitable proposition back in late-2002. This was bleeding edge, proof-of-concept stuff.

Flash forward 10 years, and I’m running (ok, mostly walking) around Bristol city centre as part of a team, trying to capture territory, attacking the other team’s bases, collecting energy, and so forth. Location by GPS (check), real time updates (check), massively complex backstory (check, no I’ve not paid much attention to it, but then I’m not sure the kids playing Savanah really paid that much attention to the accompanying natural history lesson). So far, so 2002.

However, this is on my fairly  standard Android smart phone. I don’t have a rucksack with batteries & ancillary equipment; and the game is being played on a global level, has real time chat with team mates, a funky Alternate Reality Map overlay, and is freely available (though its closed Beta at the moment).

Screen shot from Google Play

Welcome to 2012, welcome to Ingress!

But hang on – if it’s free, where’s the business model? Well Niantic Labs are part of Google, so just as the game is being played on a global level, so the business model is part of a larger strategy.

Players are uploading photos of real world places trying to get them nominated as ‘portals’, giving Google masses of additional data to crunch into a 3D view of the world at street level. Most of the teams have set up local groups within one of the two global factions dictated by the game; and most of these are on G+. I’ve not used G+ so much since, well, ever.

Of course we’re also sending our locations back to the big G (under coded ID’s, but since you use your Google ID to get a game ID it’s a 1-2-1 look up), so Google has more info on where the popular places are (most of the portals are in city centres). Plus it knows we like AR games, mobile devices, etc, so I expect to see a shift in ads being served to me shortly. It’ll be interesting to see if the different factions report seeing different ads! :)

Would I pay for in-game gear? Possibly. Running out of ammo just as you’re about to capture the other team’s flag, could trigger a purchase (depending on price point obviously). Being able to upgrade a flag to capture most of Bristol might be worth splashing the Google Wallet about.

At the moment, there’s little incentive spend as there’s no defined ‘end-game’ or winning state. So there’s no sense of urgency, however, that could change with a couple of lines of code.

What ever Google’s longer term plan is (if there even is one at this point), its going to be fun seeing what happens; and playing along obviously!

So: Resistance or Enlightenment – you choose!

And if you’re not sure about the bleedin’ title – watch this!

Dec 10

Next generation engineers

What happens when 110 Year 4 & 5 Primary School children meet a 1,000 mph car?

Last week I was lucky enough to give a talk at a local (Bristol, UK) Primary School about the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (Bloodhound SSC) project. I signed up as a 1K supporter pretty much as the scheme launched (Aug 2009) and as an Ambassador shortly after that. Having done a couple of STEM / Bloodhound Ambassador events and activities, this was my first Primary School and first solo talk.

The pupils at the school had been making their own cars and were keen to know more about how Bloodhound SSC is being made. As a mechanical engineer by first degree, it was an excellent opportunity to talk with the children and pass on some of my passion for engineering!!

One of the great innovative technologies being used with Bloodhound SSC is the use of composite fibres in the monocoque shell that houses Andy Green & the HTP (High Test Peroxide) tank. While a primary school probably doesn’t have access to carbon fibre and autoclaves, they do use papier-mâché (which is a composite material) – so I could legitimately say they were using the same basic engineering technologies as Bloodhound SSC!

I also had the opportunity to show a video of some of the high speed machining that Hanson’s are undertaking for the space frame. While there was no direct link to what they’re doing in the classroom, I wanted to show them actual metal cutting and the preparation needed before you slam £25k of spindle into aircraft grade aluminium.

I had a couple of key things to communicate (mainly around what engineers do, and the level of teamwork and cooperation needed in modern engineering challenges), plus lots of facts & figures about the car itself.  I had to decide what to start with to engage with the children, and keep them engaged for 30min. The animation of Bloodhound SSC racing a Eurofighter is great for this – it’s high tempo and has lots of reference points that helped keep momentum through the talk.

Bloodhound SSC – by a Year 5 student

I followed this with some background details on the car, fortunately the Education Team at Bloodhound SSC make all this stuff available for Ambassadors. We just need to pick it up and flesh out the narrative, and make it appropriate to the audience. At each point when I started to talk about fabricating the structure, or the composite shell – I could pull up a video from BHTV (Bloodhound Television) to illustrate what I was talking about.

I ended the presentation with the video of the rocket test in Newquay on 3 Oct 2012. A really great high point to end on!

After about 30min presentation, I was then bombarded with questions; such as “Why was there all that water when they were cutting the metal bits out?”, and “Why does Andy Green wear a crash helmet?”

Communicating effectively is critical to success in any field; engineering, business, primary school teaching. Having a clear message, sound facts, and a simple presentation really helps tell the story, whether it’s an investor pitch or a class of 8-10 year olds!

That’s (part of) what I do; clarify objectives & ambitions, into plans & narratives, that can be communicated & acted upon.

[In the slide deck below, the blank slides linked to the Bloodhound / Eurofighter race (not officially available), BHTV Episodes 1, 15 and 17]
[slideshare id=15575330&doc=bloodhoundschoolevent-121210124940-phpapp02]