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USC 2014: The year in health technology

One in a series showcasing a year of university highlights

As the year draws to a close, we’re taking a look back at some of USC’s memorable stories from 2014. We start with a look at the way USC experts are using digital technology, robotics and neuroscience to improve our health.

A life rebooted

Keck physicians

Matthew Dunn, Inderbir Gill, Monish Aron, Mihir Desai and Chester Koh of Keck Medicine of USC. (USC Photo/Philip Channing)

When homeopathic treatment didn’t help Joseph LaStella’s kidney tumor, he turned to Monish Aron, a urologic surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC. The physician put his expertise at robotic surgery to work, and just a few weeks after surgery, LaStella was back on his bike and being an active father to his young son.

Your heart? There’s an app for that


Medical Illustration of a HeartOn the surface, it might not seem like much: a photo-sharing tool that lets people stamp their heart rate on a picture. But Biogram, the app developed by the USC Center for Body Computing and medical technology firm Medable, has the potential for sharing important data that could help experts learn what a normal heart rate looks like during a variety of activities.

Limbs like new

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Prosthetic hands in film and television, Illustration by Katherine Duffy. Provided by USC Viterbi Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Luke Skywalker’s artificial hand might seem like fiction, but USC Viterbi researchers are working on technology that could make such prosthetics feasible. Among the many challenges: determining how the human brain’s 86 billion neurons work together to tell the body what to do.

Health monitoring goes mobile

woman running

Self-monitoring technologies offer insights into a person’s daily life via mobile devices that collect data on exercise and movement. (Photo/Roadworks Girls)

The rapid increase in mobile health (mHealth) devices that track a person’s daily activity – exercise, movement, heart rate and more – can help more than just the individual. USC Dornsife’s new mHealth Collaboratory intends to find new ways to put that huge amount of data to work in monitoring how diseases progress and developing new treatments and drugs.

Watching and learning — from robots

imitative behavior with Nao robot

Representation of the “copycat game” between a child and the Nao robot (Graphic/courtesy of USC Viterbi)

A simple game of “copycat” can go a tremendous way in helping children with autism learn behaviors and become independent — especially if they’re playing that game with a robot. USC Viterbi researchers studied how children with autism reacted to humanlike robots in an imitation game, in which children were asked to copy 25 different arm poses; the robot let the child know if the pose was imitated correctly. The study indicated that similar robot-assisted efforts might have great success in helping autistic children learn to better interact with their peers.

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USC 2014: The year in health technology

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