Robotic arms: A new hope for spinal cord injury victims

Saturday March 2, 2013

Connecticut drivers know that motor vehicle accidents may lead to serious and even catastrophic injuries. When a person is in a motor vehicle accident, neck and spinal cord injuries are some of the most serious injuries that are suffered.

Spinal cord injuries may also occur due to constant and heavy loading and unloading work, falls, slip and falls and motorcycle accidents. Spinal cord injuries may result in paralysis, temporary or permanent disability or quadriplegia, which is paralysis of all four limbs.

However, spinal cord injury victims, left paralyzed by an accident, may have a new life with the latest invention called “robotic arms.”

The researchers implanted an electrode array on a 30-year-old victim’s brain. The paralyzed man suffered severe spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident seven years ago, where after he was left completely paralyzed and could only had movement above the shoulders. Even in this severe a case, the brain-computer interface allowed the victim to perform a simple function on the computer and move the robotic arm with his brain.

However, it is not as simple as it looks. Obviously, moving things using the mind is not easy. The man underwent considerable training to learn how to use the new device. Gradually, the man started identifying different signals associated with particular actions. For example, first, he mastered the up and down movement of the ball on a computer screen and then he slowly learned to control the three-dimensional movement using his brain.

It is understood that these technologies will not give him full function; however, it does give the person more physical freedom than he or she will experience without the machine. Also, it will take time before these technologies reach the general public because the technology is too expensive for many people.

Considering the heavy medical expenses, inability to work and long-term care needs associated with spinal cord injury, the accident victim may wish to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. The compensation awarded may include medical expenses, therapy and rehabilitation costs and lost and future expected wages.

Source: Science World Report, “Paralyzed Man Controls Robotic Arm by Thought Alone,” Catherine Griffin, Feb. 11, 2013

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