Spinal cord injuries are some of the worst injuries that can be sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Severe spinal cord trauma can cause a wide range of disabilities, including paralysis. In most cases, damage to the spinal cord will not heal on its own.
Researchers have long been searching for a way to restore some motor function to spinal cord injury victims. Now, it seems that a new computer technology may hold some hope for individuals with paralyzed limbs.
The technology, which is being developed by scientists at Northwestern University, is in the early stages of testing and is still a long way from being used in humans. It involves a “neuroprosthesis” with transmitters that are wired into the brain and into the muscles of the paralyzed limb. Essentially, this computer system replicates the nervous system, bypassing the damaged area of the spinal cord.
Researchers have successfully tested the device on rhesus monkeys, whose anatomy is very similar to a human’s. The monkeys have been able to perform a wide range of fine-motor movements that were once thought to be impossible, even with current cutting-edge technology.
This technology, though certainly far from becoming widely-available, could eventually provide a remedy for hundreds of thousands of spinal cord injury victims. Indeed, each year over 130,000 people sustain spinal cord injuries, half of whom wind up paralyzed from the neck down.
In the meantime, most catastrophic injury victims must undergo significant medical care in order to maintain their quality of life. This can be extremely expensive. In many cases, personal injury lawsuits can provide spinal cord injury victims with the money necessary to protect their health.
Source: Extreme Tech, “Researchers Create Brain-Computer Interface That Bypasses Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis,” Sebastian Anthony, April 20, 2012.