Brain & S C Injury Home Repairs

Brain injury and/or Spinal Cord injury patients frequently require home revisions and repairs. When they are initially released from the hospital usually their primary residence has physical obstacles. Additionally, as time goes on, frequent changes will have to occur in their environment as their abilities and needs evolve.


Brain injury or spinal cord injury patient living in a place with stairs will need a ramp for ease of access. The ramp structure must meet local codes to allow ease of entry and exit from their residence. This is one of the types of assistance Carpenter’s Hands provides cost free for disadvantaged individuals residing in Jefferson County. This ministry is primarily comprised of Christian volunteers. They realize that they can not solve the major world issues on their own. However they can reach out and solve one individual’s problem. This approach ensures having a positive impact on someone’s life and well being. They only ask for a display of appreciation in the form of a Simple Smile and Thank You.

John Luther is the Director of Operations for Carpenter’s Hands. John is responsible to select, plan, schedule and execute all of the projects this organization schedules. He accompanies a team of  volunteers, varying in composition depending on the day of the week and extent of the project. John remains to direct and assist them throughout the duration of the project to ensure its completion fulfills the needs of the client.










Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury Patients Ramps


I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with some members of the Carpenter’s Hands  at one of their projects. They were constructing a ramp for an individual suffering from Parkinson. He required a cane plus walker to stabilize himself as he slowly moved around his home.

This client also suffers from Post Polio syndrome, which affects individuals who contracted Polio when they were young. When Post Polio individuals enter their late 50’s, their muscles begin to slowly weaken and break down. This makes it exceedingly difficult to utilize their legs as they age.

The combination of Parkinson with Post Polio means it is inevitable that he will shortly end up relying on a wheelchair to get around. This individual currently requires assistance from a friend or the fire department to get up and down his front steps. In the near future a wheelchair ramp will be a mandatory requirement with the proper sloping angle and turn around space.

Carpenter’s Hands plays a critical role in the everyday quality of life for an individual in need. Irrespective of their financial ability to afford the needed building changes to their home.










Construction of the Entry landing with sufficient room to  accommodate a wheelchair and  helper.



Adding the ramp with a slope so it can effectively handle a wheelchair










Reinforcing the ramp structure to stabilize and allow the addition of rails


Once the ramping is completed, the rails are pickup from a cabinet shop that donates them to the ministry. This organization relies on volunteers to build the projects from the community. They do need monetary donations and/or building materials to continue providing their services.







During a break in construction, one of the volunteers told me about a small project they initially undertook. This project evolved into something far more critical and extensive as they began working on it:

 Carpenter’s Hands was contacted by a 99 year old woman, who was unable to close the front door of her home. When they arrived at her home, they saw that she was living in a Coal Miner’s Camp House. These were constructed in the late 1800’s in Mulga and Ensley, Alabama. The homes were a mass development of identical construction. Four rooms, with a fireplace in the center of the home to provide heating. She had been born in this home and lived her entire life here. The interior of the home was immaculate and her yard displayed the pride she took of maintaining the property.


Miner’s Home Mulga, Alabama

Due to her inability to close the door, she had backed the front room couch up to it. In an attempt to keep intruders out, she had been sleeping on that couch for the last couple of years.




Miner’s Home Camp Ensley, Alabama

Although she had lived in this well maintained property, she was concerned.  There were elements in the area that gave her an uncomfortable feeling. As the team began to remove the siding around the door , they were confronted with extensive termite damage. They decided to determine the extent of the termite infestation and ended up exposing the entire front of the home. What they found was that the termites had eaten away the entire support structure except for two 2×4’s. So the roof was on the verge of collapsing down, which would totally demolish the home.

Carpenter’s Hands made a decision to delay the other projects currently on their schedule and completely rebuild the front of the home. To the individuals involved in this ministry the cost and physical labor were secondary considerations. When viewing the need of this one individual – a 99 year old woman living alone in the home she was born and raised in. As they expressed to me, ‘We know we can have very little impact on the major problems in the world, but we can have a positive impact on one person’s issues, so we try to solve one problem at a time.’

To contact: Carpenter’s Hands a ministry of Canterbury United Methodist Church

Inject-able Brain Implant Mapping



A simple inject-able brain implant is now all it takes to wire up a brain’s neurons. A diverse team of physicists, neuroscientists and chemists has implanted mouse brains with a rolled-up, silky mesh studded with tiny electronic devices, and shown that it unfurls to spy on and stimulate individual neurons.

The inject-able brain implant has the potential to unravel the workings of the mammalian brain in unprecedented detail. “I think it’s great, a very creative new approach to the problem of recording from large number of neurons in the brain,” says Rafael Yuste, director of the Neuro­technology Center at Columbia University in New York, who was not involved in the work.

If eventually shown to be safe, the soft mesh might even be used in humans as an inject-able brain implant to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, concussions and issues arising from Traumatic Brain Injuries, says Charles Lieber, a chemist at Harvard University on Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the team. The work was published in Nature Nanotechnology on 8 June.

How brain Cells Translate

Neuroscientists still do not understand how the activities of individual brain cells translate to higher cognitive powers such as perception and emotion. The problem has spurred a hunt for technologies that will allow scientists to study thousands, or ideally millions, of neurons at once, but the use of brain implants is currently limited by several disadvantages. So far, even the best technologies have been composed of relatively rigid electronics that act like sandpaper on delicate neurons. They also struggle to track the same neuron over a long period, because individual cells move when an animal breathes or its heart beats.

The Harvard team solved these problems by using a mesh of conductive polymer threads with either nano-scale electrodes or transistors attached at their intersections. Each strand is as soft as silk and as flexible as brain tissue itself. Free space makes up 95% of the mesh, allowing cells to arrange themselves around the inject-able brain implant.

In 2012, the team showed 22 that living cells grown in a dish can be coaxed to grow around these flexible scaffolds and meld with them, but this ‘cyborg’ tissue was created outside a living body. “The problem is, how do you get that into an existing brain?” says Lieber.

The team’s answer was to tightly roll up a 2D mesh a few centimeters wide and then use a needle just 100 micrometers in diameter to inject it directly into a target region through a hole in the top of the skull. The inject-able brain implant mesh unrolls to fill any small cavities and mingles with the tissue (see ‘Bugging the brain’). Nano-wires that poke out can be connected to a computer to take recordings and stimulate cells.

The Injectable Brain Implant

So far, the researchers have utilized the injectable brain implanted meshes consisting of 16 electrical elements into two brain regions of anesthetized mice, where they were able to both monitor and stimulate individual neurons. The mesh integrates tightly with the neural cells, says Jia Liu, a member of the Harvard team, with no signs of an elevated immune response after five weeks. Neurons “look at this polymer network as friendly, like a scaffold”, he says.

The next steps will be to implant larger meshes containing hundreds of devices, with different kinds of sensors, and to record activity in mice that are awake, either by fixing their heads in place, or by developing wireless technologies that would record from neurons as the animals moved freely. The team would also like to inject the device into the brains of newborn mice, where it would unfold further as the brain grew, and to add hairpin-shaped nano-wire probes to the mesh to record electrical activity inside and outside cells.

2014 Conference

When Lieber presented the work at a conference in 2014, it “left a few of us with our jaws dropping”, says Yuste.

There is huge potential for techniques that can study the activity of large numbers of neurons for a long period of time with only minimal damage, says Jens Schouenborg, head of the Neuronano Research Centre at Lund University in Sweden, who has developed a gelatin-based ‘needle’ for delivering electrodes to the brain. But he remains skeptical of this technique: “I would like to see more evidence of the inject-able brain implant’s long-term compatibility with the body,” he says. Rigorous testing would be needed before such a device could be implanted in people. But, says Lieber, it could potentially treat brain damage caused by a stroke, as well as Parkinson’s disease.

Lieber’s team is not funded by the US government’s US$4.5-billion Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, launched in 2013, but the work points to the power of that effort’s multidisciplinary approach, says Yuste, who was an early proponent of the BRAIN initiative. Bringing physical scientists into neuroscience, he says, could help to “break through the major experimental and theoretical challenges that we have to conquer in order to understand how the brain works”.


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Traumatic Brain & Spinal Cord Injury Effects

Traumatic Brain or Spinal Cord Injury can result in damaging neurons in the brain or spinal cord. When communication between the brain and spinal cord fails, paralysis occurs  affecting only the areas below the level of injury.

Messages are passed from neuron to neuron through small gaps between the cells, with the help of chemicals called neurotransmitters. To transmit an action potential message neurotransmitter molecules are released from one neuron across the gap to the next neuron this process continues until the message reaches its destination.There are millions and millions of connections between neurons within the spinal cord alone which connections are made during our body’s development.

NEUROTRANSMITTERS are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body.  They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.”  The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.  They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance. Neurotransmitter levels can be depleted many ways –  from stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, genetic predisposition, drugs , alcohol and caffeine usage.

There are two kinds of neurotransmitters – INHIBITORY and EXCITATORY.  Excitatory neurotransmitters are not necessarily exciting – they are what stimulate the brain.  Those that calm the brain and help create balance are called inhibitory.  Inhibitory neurotransmitters balance mood and are easily depleted when the excitatory neurotransmitters are overactive. 

Inhibitory Neurotransmitters

SEROTONIN is an inhibitory neurotransmitter – which means that it does not stimulate the brain.  Adequate amounts of serotonin are necessary for a stable mood and to balance any excessive excitatory (stimulating) neurotransmitter firing in the brain.  If you use stimulant medications or caffeine in your daily regimen – it can cause a depletion of serotonin over time.  Serotonin also regulates many other processes such as carbohydrate cravings, sleep cycle, pain control and appropriate digestion.  Low serotonin levels are also associated with decreased immune system function.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is often referred to as “nature’s VALIUM-like substance”.  When GABA is out of range (high or low excretion values), it is likely that an excitatory neurotransmitter is firing too often in the brain.  GABA will be sent out to attempt to balance this stimulating over-firing.

DOPAMINE is a special neurotransmitter because it is considered to be both excitatory and inhibitory.  Dopamine helps with depression as well as focus, which you will read about in the excitatory section.

Excitatory Neurotransmitters

DOPAMINE is our main focus neurotransmitter.  When dopamine is either elevated or low – we can have focus issues such as not remembering where we put our keys, forgetting what a paragraph said when we just finished reading it or simply daydreaming and not being able to stay on task.  Dopamine is also responsible for our drive or desire to get things done – or motivation.  Stimulants such as medications for ADD/ADHD and caffeine cause dopamine to be pushed into the synapse so that focus is improved.  Unfortunately, stimulating dopamine consistently can cause a depletion of dopamine over time.

NOR-EPINEPHRINE is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is responsible for our stimulation processes in the body.  Norepinephrine helps to make epinephrine as well.  This neurotransmitter can cause ANXIETY at elevated excretion levels as well as some “MOOD DAMPENING” effects.  Low levels of norepinephrine are associated with LOW ENERGY, DECREASED FOCUS ability and sleep cycle problems.

EPINEPHRINE is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is reflective of stress.  This neurotransmitter will often be elevated when ADHD like symptoms are present.  Long term STRESS or INSOMNIA can cause epinephrine levels to be depleted (low).  Epinephrine also regulates HEART RATE and BLOOD PRESSURE.