Brainwave Research: Advances in Rehabilitation for the Paralyzed
Research advances and recent studies indicate that brainwaves may be able to control and even improve muscle function and movement in those that have been paralyzed. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, approximately 12,500 Americans sustain a spinal cord injury every year, making the need for improved rehabilitation a necessity. Currently, there are nearly 300,000 people living in the U.S. with disabilities due to spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries in which the nerves were completely severed will likely not be able to benefit from brainwave therapy; however, most people with spinal cord injuries only sustained bruised or fractured vertebrae damage.
The Function of the Spinal Cord
The nerves that make up the spinal cord are what control the signals that the brain sends to the different parts of the body. Therefore, an injury to the upper spinal cord may result in a partial or total loss of function in the arms as well as a loss of feeling. Advances are being made in the field of brainwaves as related to muscle movement. Someday, scientists and doctors hope to be able to improve this form of treatment to a degree that it can encourage axon growth in the central nervous system (spinal cord). With a greater understanding of how cells work with each other comes a greater understanding of how to improve cell growth and restoration.
Making Waves in Rehabilitation
In 2014, the first kick of the FIFA World Cup went to Juliano Pinto, a 29 year old paraplegic. That’s right, Juliano had been paralyzed from the waist down after a car crash in 2006. His kick was made possible by a program, led by Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, which essentially fitted the participants with a robotic exoskeleton that responded to brain waves. Though bulky and costly, the exoskeleton symbolized new advancements in technology that could greatly increase the quality of life for paraplegics and others struggling with spinal cord injuries.
More recently, in September 2015, a 26 year old man paralyzed in both his legs was able to walk twelve feet while using a system that was controlled by his brain waves. Adam Fritz, paralyzed for five years after a spinal cord injury due to a motorcycle accident, was fitted only with a special cap that read his brain signals and a harness that helped support his body weight and prevent falling. Essentially, the cap sent electrical signals from his brain to a device that stimulated nerves in the man’s legs, which then caused muscle movement. The device, a brain-computer interface functional electrical stimulation (BCI-FES) system, was developed by a team of biomedical engineers, neurologists and other scientists at the University of California, Irvine, led by Zoran Nenadic and An H. Do. Weeks of preparation and training included teaching Adam to use his brain waves in a virtual environment to make an avatar walk as well as extensive physical therapy focused on strengthening his legs. After his initial success and with a little more practice, Fritz was able to walk through the course without a harness.
While the system only provides for basic walking movements, the team hopes to further refine the technology. Their non-invasive system is promising for those undergoing rehabilitation for less severe spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and strokes. Eventually, the team hopes to develop invasive systems, such as brain implants which would not only enable walking, but could enable feeling in the patients' legs again as well.
Pursue Compensation for Your Spinal Cord Injury!
If you are living with a spinal cord injury, there may be hope for you in the field of brainwaves and cell research. Talk to your doctor about possible treatment options. In the meantime, if your injury was caused by the negligence or wrongful actions of another, you may be able to recover compensation that could cover the cost of treatment.
Learn more by contacting a Houston offshore injury attorney at our firm today!