How to Fight Paralysis With Robots
It’s a scifi movie come to life: Robotic limbs are helping paraplegic patients regain full control of their bodies, and in some cases, their lives.
Since the 1970s, scientists have been experimenting with mechanical limb technology. With the advent of brain-machine interface (BMI), this technology progressed from science fiction to real life.
Just as we move our flesh-and-blood limbs,these BMI devices allow individuals to move robot exoskeletons just by thinking. Someone with little to no control of their legs could essentially wear mind-powered robot pants and then be able to walk again.
The BMI devices were originally designed to help people suffering from paralysis regain some sense of normalcy in their lives. New research suggests that BMI can lead to recovery.
Over the course of a year, researchers studied the effects of BMI on patients who suffered from complete paralysis. All participants regained some ability to feel sensation and contract
muscles in their lower limbs and even regained some bladder, bowel and sexual function as well.
Several participants improved so much that doctors revised their status from complete to partial paralysis. This means that long-term use of BMI devices could lead to paraplegic patients regaining some, perhaps even total, control of their bodies.