Wisconsin residents who are living with the aftereffects of a serious spinal cord injury may be interested in news of a significant breakthrough in medical technology. A recently published article discusses an experimental treatment that has allowed one man to control a robotic arm by simply thinking about making the movements. This breakthrough could have life-changing effects for those who have been paralyzed in a car accident or other traumatic injury.
The breakthrough was achieved when a 30-year-old man who was paralyzed from the shoulders down worked with researchers to determine whether brain activity could be translated to a computer control system. Researchers first conducted a scan of the man's brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while the man watched video footage of arm movements. This enabled the researchers to identify which areas of the brain correspond to movement of the arms.
Next, they attached a postage-stamp sized electrode array on top of the man's brain. This was connected to wires that left the body and could be connected to a computer. As a result, the man was able to move computer graphics by simply thinking about doing so. He was later able to make intentional movements of a robotic arm by thinking about the act of moving his own arm.
This is very exciting news in the world of spinal cord injury research. Eventual applications of this technology could allow spinal cord injured patients to regain a degree of self-sufficiency, which greatly improves quality of life. However, highly advanced forms of medical technology are extremely expensive and out-of-reach for many. For individuals in Wisconsin who sustain spinal cord injury through a car accident caused by the negligence of another, a personal injury lawsuit can help recover the funding necessary to obtain this type of medical treatment.
Source: Nanowerk.com, "Spinal cord-injured man controls robot arm with thoughts," Feb. 9, 2013