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Spinal cord injury victims may benefit from neural research

A serious accident can cause individuals in West Virginia to lose their ability to move their limbs. However, scientists are working on trying to perfect a prosthetic hand that is fully functional, which may benefit some individuals suffering from spinal cord injury. The process involves modeling neural control by using a computer.

The brain of a human has billions of individual cells, called neurons, that together are responsible for sending electrical messages. These messages result in human movements. Researchers are currently using computer-based programs to simulate neurons located in the spinal cord; these scientists have found that the simulated neurons are able to control a prosthetic hand in the same manner that humans control their own bodies.

The goal essentially is to understand basic aspects of human nervous systems. By doing so, scientists should eventually have the ability to reproduce basic human functions, such as finger motions, using science. Right now, it is challenging for engineers to create artificial hands that are effective at manipulating objects. The research being completed, which is a mix of engineering and biology, may lead to advanced prosthetics that truly are dexterous manipulators.

Not being able to move one's hand or pick up objects as the result of a spinal cord injury can be life-changing. The injured victim has the right to file a personal injury claim against any party who is believed to have negligently caused his or her injury, such as the driver of a vehicle causing a car accident that results in injury. A judge will determine the victim's monetary damage claims once the allegedly at-fault party's liability has been sufficiently established in a West Virginia civil courtroom.

Source: usc.edu, "Perfecting a fully functioning prosthetic hand", Katie McKissick, Oct. 7, 2014

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