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Improving Brain Injury Diagnoses By Going Mobile

On today's program: New technology could make scanning for neurological disorders easier; an East Liberty theater spotlights black stories; the Allegheny Land Trust wants to preserve the land where a country club used to be; the return of the federal death penalty could affect the man accused of killing 11 at Tree of Life; and PennDOT recognizes people who don't identify as male and female.

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Dr. Kevin Kelly is a neurologist with Allegheny Health Network.

Local research makes brain scans mobile
(00:00 — 12:23) 

When diagnosing and treating brain injuries, neurologists often use an electroencephalogram (EEG) to scan for activity. The process usually requires trained technologists place electrodes on the scalp with goopy glue, but Allegheny Health Network neurologist Dr. Kevin Kelley says a simpler method is possible.

His BrainView device recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

“The portability is just really an advantage,” says Kelley, describing the gear (similar to a swim cap secured with a strap across the chin). “We’re able to take the whole device in a tiny suitcase with connecting cables.”

The project is currently in Phase 1, during which Kelley and his team are working on measuring how much more usable the equipment is to novices who have never operated an EEG before. He hopes the device could help smaller facilities and hospitals who might not have as much funding for specialists or equipment.

New Horizon Theater puts black perspectives on stage
(13:39 — 17:18)

Since 1992, the New Horizon Theater has spotlighted African American history and narratives through theatrical productions in East Liberty. Joyce Meggerson-Moore has lead the theater for more than two decades and likes to call it “the theater with heart.” Meggerson-Moore spoke to WESA’s Elaine Effort about how her work running the theater dovetails with her professional work in community mental health.

From a golfing green to green space
(17:30 — 22:10) 

The Allegheny Land Trust wants to preserve the former Churchill Valley Country Club as a green space. The club closed in 2013, and now the local nonprofit wants to purchase and convert the 148-acre property into an area for recreation, hiking, running and bird watching. 90.5 WESA's Rachel Gobep spoke to Land Trust officials about the proposed project.

The feds resuming capital punishment could affect Robert Bowers
(22:13 — 34:13)

The federal government is set to resume capital punishment nearly 20 years after it was set aside. U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the reinstitution last week, bringing into question the fate of federal prisoners like Dylann Roof, who is convicted of killing nine people in a Charleston, S.C., church shooting, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers who was found guilty of actions that killed two people. WESA legal analyst and University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris says this could also impact the fate of Robert Bowers, the man accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in October. 

Harris, who hosts the Criminal Injustice podcast, says that if Bowers is convicted, his punishment would depend in large part on the U.S. Attorney's office in Pittsburgh before heading up the chain of appeals in the legal system. 

PennDOT introduces gender neutral ID option
(34:17 — 38:30)

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced an option to have a third, gender neutral “X” marker for state-issued driver’s licenses. This includes those who are transgender, nonbinary or gender-nonconforming. The state hopes to roll out the program by next year. 90.5 WESA's Katie Blackley shares how some Pennsylvanians are reacting. 

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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