France Votes To Ban Models Under A Certain Body Mass Index

A new law passed in France on Friday that bans excessively thin fashion models, and imposes fines and possible jail time on the agents and fashion houses who hire them.

The legislation, which was approved by French parliamentarians, states that agencies found employing models considered too thin could be fined up to 75,000 euros (approximately $83,000 USD) and face six months in prison.

SW: 280 lbs (February 2014)
CW: 155 lbs (June 2015)

As you can imagine posting this pic is a huge step out of my comfort zone for me.

I lost 125 lbs this past year so I thought it might be time to try one of those ‘bikinis’ this summer, haha, never owned one before since I always tried to hide my body with as much fabric as possible. 

I’m still not confident about my body but I’ve come far and my life became so much happier and easier.

The day after tomorrow I’m gonna get my breast lift, I’ll try to update you as soon as possible!

In the meantime please don’t be rude about my appearance I know I’m not perfect and I never will be but I hope to motivate and support others out there who go through the same journey as I did. 

Feel free to hit me up with any questions xxx

Lots of love

Monkeys Steer Wheelchairs With Their Brains, Raising Hope for Paralyzed People

Best known for his experimental exoskeleton that helped a paralyzed man kick the opening ball for June’s World Cup in Brazil, Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis presented the latest “brain-machine interface” findings from his team’s “Walk Again Project” at the Society for Neuroscience meeting.

“Some of our patients say they feel they are walking on sand,” says Nicolelis, describing pilot research in which eight paralyzed patients walked using a robotic exoskeleton that moved in response to readings of the patients’ brain waves. “We are actually fooling the brain of patients to think it is not a machine carrying them, but they feel they are themselves walking forward.”

Insights into the brains of paralyzed patients are helping to drive the technology as well as leading to new discoveries, says neuroscientist Eberhard Fetz of the University of Washington in Seattle. Roughly 130,000 people yearly suffer spinal cord injuries worldwide, and for more than a decade, researchers have sought to help these patients using robotic interfaces with the brain. After years of advances, efforts such as the exoskeleton are moving into the earliest stages of medical testing in patient volunteers.

“For patients, they are probably not coming fast enough,” Fetz says. “But brain-machine interfaces are giving us results producing a basic understanding of neural mechanisms. That is going to happen in parallel with developing these as tools to benefit patients.”

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Child fitness falls further than feared: Not obesity-related

Child fitness levels are falling at an even faster rate than first feared – and this time there is evidence it has nothing to do with obesity.

Following up on their 2009 study which showed child fitness declined by 8% over the previous ten years, researchers at the University of Essex have reported an even larger drop in fitness in schoolchildren. This time, however, they found the children who they tested were actually thinner than those measured in 2008.

Lead researcher Dr Gavin Sandercock explained: “Our findings show there is no obesity crisis in the schools we went to as less than 5% of pupils were obese and the average BMI is now below 1998 values. This would be good news if BMI was all we had measured, but our fitness tests tell a different story.”

Researchers Build Brain-Machine Interface to Control Prosthetic Hand

A research team from the University of Houston has created an algorithm that allowed a man to grasp a bottle and other objects with a prosthetic hand, powered only by his thoughts.

The technique, demonstrated with a 56-year-old man whose right hand had been amputated, uses non-invasive brain monitoring, capturing brain activity to determine what parts of the brain are involved in grasping an object. With that information, researchers created a computer program, or brain-machine interface (BMI), that harnessed the subject’s intentions and allowed him to successfully grasp objects, including a water bottle and a credit card. The subject grasped the selected objects 80 percent of the time using a high-tech bionic hand fitted to the amputee’s stump.

Previous studies involving either surgically implanted electrodes or myoelectric control, which relies upon electrical signals from muscles in the arm, have shown similar success rates, according to the researchers.

Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, a neuroscientist and engineer at UH, said the non-invasive method offers several advantages: It avoids the risks of surgically implanting electrodes by measuring brain activity via scalp electroencephalogram, or EEG. And myoelectric systems aren’t an option for all people, because they require that neural activity from muscles relevant to hand grasping remain intact.

The results of the study were published March 30 in Frontiers in Neuroscience, in the Neuroprosthetics section.

Contreras-Vidal, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of electrical and computer engineering at UH, was lead author of the paper, along with graduate students Harshavardhan Ashok Agashe, Andrew Young Paek and Yuhang Zhang.

The work, funded by the National Science Foundation, demonstrates for the first time EEG-based BMI control of a multi-fingered prosthetic hand for grasping by an amputee. It also could lead to the development of better prosthetics, Contreras-Vidal said.

Beyond demonstrating that prosthetic control is possible using non-invasive EEG, researchers said the study offers a new understanding of the neuroscience of grasping and will be applicable to rehabilitation for other types of injuries, including stroke and spinal cord injury.

T he study subjects – five able-bodied, right-handed men and women, all in their 20s, as well as the amputee – were tested using a 64-channel active EEG, with electrodes attached to the scalp to capture brain activity. Contreras-Vidal said brain activity was recorded in multiple areas, including the motor cortex and areas known to be used in action observation and decision-making, and occurred between 50 milliseconds and 90 milliseconds before the hand began to grasp.

That provided evidence that the brain predicted the movement, rather than reflecting it, he said.

“Current upper limb neuroprosthetics restore some degree of functional ability, but fail to approach the ease of use and dexterity of the natural hand, particularly for grasping movements,” the researchers wrote, noting that work with invasive cortical electrodes has been shown to allow some hand control but not at the level necessary for all daily activities.

“Further, the inherent risks associated with surgery required to implant electrodes, along with the long-term stability of recorded signals, is of concern. … Here we show that it is feasible to extract detailed information on intended grasping movements to various objects in a natural, intuitive manner, from a plurality of scalp EEG signals.”

Until now, this was thought to be possible only with brain signals acquired invasively inside or on the surface of the brain.

Researchers first recorded brain activity and hand movement in the able-bodied volunteers as they picked up five objects, each chosen to illustrate a different type of grasp: a soda can, a compact disc, a credit card, a small coin and a screwdriver. The recorded data were used to create decoders of neural activity into motor signals, which successfully reconstructed the grasping movements.

They then fitted the amputee subject with a computer-controlled neuroprosthetic hand and told him to observe and imagine himself controlling the hand as it moved and grasped the objects.  

The subject’s EEG data, along with information about prosthetic hand movements gleaned from the able-bodied volunteers, were used to build the algorithm.

Contreras-Vidal said additional practice, along with refining the algorithm, could increase the success rate to 100 percent.

What Can Brain-Controlled Prosthetics Tell Us About The Brain?

The ceremonial opening kick of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Sao Paolo, Brazil, which was performed—with the help of a brain-controlled exo-skeleton—by a local teen who had been paralyzed from the waste down due to a spinal cord injury, was a seminal moment for the area of neuroscience that strives to connect the brain with functional prosthetics. The public display was a representative of thousands of such neuroprosthetic advances in recent years, and the tens of years of brain research and technological development that have gone into them. And while this display was quite an achievement in its own right, a Drexel University biomedical engineer working at the leading edge of the field contends that these devices are also opening a new portal for researchers to understand how the brain functions.

Karen Moxon, PhD, a professor in Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering Science and Health Systems, was a postdoctoral researcher in Drexel’s medical school when she participated in the first study ever to examine how the brain could be connected to operate a prosthetic limb. More than 15 years after that neuroscience benchmark, Moxon’s lab is showing that it’s now possible to glean new insight about how the brain stores and accesses information, and into the causes of pathologies like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

In a perspective published in the latest edition of the neuroscience journal Neuron Moxon and her colleague, Guglielmo Foffani from San Pablo University in Spain, build a framework for how researchers can use neuroprosthetics as a tool for examining how and where the brain encodes new information. The duo highlights three examples from their own research where the brain-machine-interface technology allowed them to isolate and study new areas of brain function.

“We believe neuroprosthetics can be a powerful tool to address fundamental questions of neuroscience,” Moxon said. “These subjects can provide valuable data as indirect observers of their own neural activity that are modulated during the experiments they are taking part in. This allows researchers to pinpoint a causal relationship between neural activity and the subject’s behavior rather than one that is indirectly correlative.”

The challenge faced by all scientists who study the brain is proving a direct relationship between the action of the subject and the behavior of brain cells. Each experiment is designed to chisel away at the uncertainty in this relationship with the goal of establishing causality—proof that the behavior of neurons in the brain is actually what is causing a subject to perform a certain action. Or, conversely, that a certain neural behavior is the direct result of an external stimulus.

Neuroprosthetics, according to Moxon, could be the way around this obstacle. This is because the prosthetic, as a stand-in for an actual body part or set of them, is also a vehicle for getting real-time feedback from the brain.

“Subjects can be viewed as indirect observers of their own neurophysiological activity during neuroprosthetic experiments,” Moxon said. “To move the prosthesis they must think both about the motor functions involved and the goal of the movement. As they see the movement of the prosthetic their brain adjusts in real time to continue planning the movement, but doing it without the normal feedback from the moving body part—as the prosthetic technology is standing in for that part of the body.”

This separation of planning and movement control was pivotal to Moxon’s research on how the brain encodes for the passage of time, which she recently reported in the Journal of Neuroscience. But this is just one example of how brain-machine-interface technology can be used to experimentally tease out and observe new certainties about the brain.

Moxon, who was recently elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers, suggests that in addition to the study of how neurons encode and decode information in real time, incorporating neuroprosthetics into experiments could also show how this coding process changes with learning and is altered in pathological conditions like the ones that cause epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

“While the past 15 years have witnessed tremendous advancements in neuroprosthetic technology and our basic understanding of brain function, the brain-machine-interface approach is still expanding the landscape of neuroscienctific inquiry,” Moxon said. “By circumventing classical object-observer duality, the BMI research paradigm opens doors for a new understanding of how we control our own brain function including neural plasticity—and this has the potential to lead to new treatments and therapies for epilepsy, Parkinson’s and other pathologies.”


@Pink’s speech at the BMI Pop Awards.


The Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm Is Getting More Nimble

Impressive. Snip from Motherboard:

Two years ago, the world mar​velled as Jan Scheuermann, a quadriplegic woman, moved a robotic arm using her mind. Her motions were awkward and clunky as she grabbed a chocolate bar full-fisted, like a baby, easing it towards her face for a nibble.

Now, she can not just grab a chocolate bar, she can pinch a piece, eat it, and give the thumbs-up, if it’s particularly tasty. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh spent tw​o years fine-tuning the technology and the computer algorithm that translates the electricity emitted from neurons firing in Scheuermann’s brain to the movements of the robotic arm. Now, instead of moving in just seven dimensions, the robotic hand can move in ten different dimensions.

Watch as Scheuermann demonstrates the new abilities, as she more nimbly—though still occasionally clumsily—picks up and maneuvers blocks and balls of different sizes around a surface.

[read more] [paper]

Presumed Guilty: The Public’s Perception of Childhood Obesity

By Bailey Webber–They are mocked by their peers, scolded by their parents, lectured by doctors, and even judged by their government. Again and again, overweight kids are in the line of fire.  The message is clear, “If you are overweight, you have done something wrong. It’s your fault.”  But, is it really?

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about this while filming the documentary The Student Body, which is about the government’s attempt to solve childhood obesity through state mandated “fat letters" based on BMI (Body Mass Index).  Over the past three years I’ve been immersed in this issue, speaking with medical experts, government officials, parents and student all across the country. This has led me to a deeper understanding of this complicated issue. But it has also led me to a particular thought that keeps me up at night.  

What if our concept of the cause of obesity in some kids is wrong?  What if for those kids, it’s not as simple as poor diet and exercise?  What if there are other forces at play, outside of the control of the child, that are just as impactful?  If this is the case, then we can also assume that the treatment is doomed to fail too, which seems to be happening so much of the time.  Worse yet, the child who is already struggling with obesity, now must deal the judgment, even punishment, that comes along with “doing something wrong.”

Some of the professionals I’ve interviewed seem to be wondering the same thing.  For instance, one physician and university professor suspects there is a disease process in the bodies of this new generation of kids, causing an abnormal weight issue.  She points out that this can even be seen in our most active students, our athletes.  But where is it coming from?  Could it be environmental?  Could it actually be something in our food?

Others who specialize in the field of nutrition and eating disorders have commented that we have to take into account the significant impact of genetics, economic issues and cultural influences. But if we have an attitude of treating all people with obesity the same way, addressing mostly diet and exercise, we are likely not to lose weight, but instead lose the battle! In fact, the past 50 years of this mindset has only caused us to become a more obese and unhealthy nation.

And of all the possibilities mentioned, none of them are within the control of the overweight child.  Still, our lawmakers (like the general public) are only hyper-focused on BMI and blaming the child for their poor diet and exercise when they have no idea of the individuals’ lifestyles. Similar to the way we may have treated kids who suffered from dyslexia, prior to understanding that there was such a thing, I wonder if a deeper understanding of obesity in the future will look the same way.  

As a society, we’ve come a long way in our understanding of other diseases and disorders.  Look at how we once treated people with learning disabilities, depression, and other diseases, prior to knowing that they even existed. Today, with more science and understanding, we have changed our attitudes and our methods of treatment. So, my question is, will obesity be the same way?  Experts I’ve talked to say that the science and research has come a long way in understanding this disease.  And yet the public recognition, understanding and perception of those suffering from obesity is lagging behind the science.

My hope is that in the near future, people will finally change their perception about the causes of obesity, stop pointing a judging finger at the kids who suffer from this disease and encourage more research into developing better cures.  Because, after all this time of shaming and blaming… what if we were wrong?

About this blogger: Bailey Webber is a student investigative journalist, writer and co-director of The Student Body - an inspiring new film being released this spring that explores the controversial issue of government mandated BMI testing of students and the ensuing ‘Fat Letters’.

For more on BMI, fat-shaming, and education:

Weighing Kids at School: Bad Idea

Bryn Mawr’s BMI Backlash

Body Peace of Body Wars: Seventeen’s BMI Calculator Says Underweight is “Healthy”

Victory! Seventeen Removes BMI Calculator from Its Website

Year of birth significantly changes impact of obesity-associated gene variant

Investigators working to unravel the impact of genetics versus environment on traits such as obesity may also need to consider a new factor: when individuals were born. In the current issue of PNAS Early Edition a multi-institutional research team reports finding that the impact of a variant in the FTO gene that previous research has linked to obesity risk largely depends on birth year, with no correlation between gene variant and obesity in study participants born in earlier years and a far stronger correlation than previously reported for those born in later years.

“Looking at participants in the Framingham Heart Study, we found that the correlation between the best known obesity-associated gene variant and body mass index increased significantly as the year of birth of participants increased,” says James Niels Rosenquist, MD, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Psychiatry, lead author of the report. “These results – to our knowledge the first of their kind – suggest that this and perhaps other correlations between gene variants and physical traits may very significantly depending on when individuals were born, even for those born into the same families.”

James Niels Rosenquist, Steven F. Lehrer, A. James O’malley, Alan M. Zaslavsky, Jordan W. Smoller, and Nicholas A. Christakis. Cohort of birth modifies the association between FTO genotype and BMI. PNAS, December 2014 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1411893111