A socially aware medical condition is that of paralysed patients who have a serious brain or spine injuries that result in paralysis and loss of the ability to use limbs. Such patients sometimes have a chance of regaining their lost ability, but the vast majority need to hear the doctors say, ‘I’m sorry, but there is almost no hope!’ This, however, is changing due to our great developing technology.
A team in Duke University in North Carolina lead by the neuroscientist, Dr. Miguel Nicolelis experimented yet another fusion between technology and medicine through the ‘Walk Again’ project. Basically, they got some completely paralysed patients and asked them to play a video game where they have their own virtual self and ta-da! They felt like they actually had their lost limbs- so they could walk- and their sense of will enabled some of their nerves to start working again. It allowed some degree of muscle control and sensations. The idea is simple!
The answer to the question ‘Does it work?’ is a big fat yes though. This is because the idea did work for a few patients. Their brain activity (imagining that they are able to move their arm or leg) was converted into electric signals that powered brain-controlled robotics such as exoskeletons and robotic arms. This was done through 11 non-invasive electrodes that recorded brain activity.
But was is efficient? The answer is the opposite- No! This is because the sample size on which this experiment was conducted on was small- only 8 people! Out of these 7 people, only 4 people has upgraded from complete paralysis to partial paralysis. There were 5 who were paralysed for 5 years and 2 patients were paralysed for over a decade. The equipment and the man power needed is pretty expensive and it takes at least 4 months or more to even spot signs of improvement.
It is all not on the dark side! There is still hope as there are positive signs- people who stand evidence through this project that have found something that they thought they lost forever. So hail to another team who are working towards the light of something new and beneficial.