Restoring mobility through brain signals after spinal cord injury

According to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, there are around 6 million Americans that presently live with some level of paralysis. A significant number of individuals living with paralysis in the country, including Pennsylvania, suffered an accident that injured their spinal cord. In such accidents, less than 1 percent of individuals ever fully recover.

Car accidents are a very large cause of these spinal cord injuries. In the wake of such an event, an individual’s life is radically and permanently altered. However, there are great advances currently underway in aiding individuals living with paralysis. Currently, there are around 300 labs working on technology related to brain-computer interfaces.

This is the art of mentally controlling and manipulating devices and artificial limbs through brain signals. According to the founder of one lab working on this technology, “We can literally influence the wiring of the brain, rewiring the brain, so to speak, to allow them to make new neural connections, and hopefully to restore movement to a paralyzed arm.”

While use of this technology would require a user to wear an EEG cap to measure brain signals, there is already technology in the works for things like a rehabilitation exoskeleton which could allow a person to move limbs left immobile by paralysis. The implication of technology like this and other similar devices in the works would obviously have huge ramifications for car accident victims left paralyzed, and other individuals similarly rendered with limited mobility due to paralysis for various reasons. Such devices could hugely impact an individual’s quality of life and autonomy.

Source: CNN Health, “Brain-controlled devices may help paralyzed people,” Elizabeth Landau, Oct. 17, 2012



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