One of the challenges facing people that are paralyzed is that their independence is compromised in some way. There may be some West Virginia residents excited to know that initial tests have been successful for a new technology that could help paralysis patients regain at least some of their independence. For the first time in about seven years, a man that suffered a paralyzing spinal cord injury gave a high five to his friend, and he did it with the power of his mind.
During a functional MRI, the man focused on the thoughts necessary to move his right arm and right hand. This allowed an electrocortigraphy (ECoG) grid that is only as big as a postage stamp to be implanted on his brain. It is this interface that allows the man's thoughts to be transferred to the computer. The computer then sends instructions to the robotic arm.
Simply put, a computer interpreted the thoughts of the man and transferred them to a robotic arm. It took several days of focusing his thoughts to the computer before a test could be undertaken with a robotic arm. It appears that the preparation was worth it as evidenced by the successful test. If the technology can be further refined, it could potentially give many people some sense of independence despite their injuries.
It could be some time before this technology will be available to patients. Even when it is available, it may not be right for everyone. When someone is suffers a spinal cord injury as the result of the negligent actions of another party, the injured party has the right under West Virginia law to file a personal injury claim against the party or parties responsible. Any settlement or court verdict may need to take future healthcare needs into consideration, including the possibility of technological advances that may help the injured party regain part of the life they lost.
Source: nanowerk.com, "Spinal cord-injured man controls robot arm with thoughts," Feb. 9, 2013