All too often do we forget to celebrate the little things in life – like having the ability to freely move our bodies. For some, that’s not an option as they’re confined to a bed or wheelchair for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, new technologies are beginning to give freedom to those who have all but lost it.
The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC announced this week that its researchers have made a breakthrough in giving mobility back to some one suffering from quadriplegia. The subject, Jan Scheuermann, found herself suffering from spinocerebellar degeneration in 1996 at the age of 36. Two years later, her body had succumbed to full quadriplegia.
In 2011, Scheuermann saw a video from UPMC that featured a quadriplegic man from Texas moving objects on a computer screen with his mind as part of a research study. She immediately signed up and was accepted into the research study in early 2012. After that, she had two quarter-inch square electrodes placed on her brain on the spots that control right and left hand movement.
Early tests proved promising as Scheuermann would think about closing her hand, and the resulting imagery on the computer she was hooked up to would register a response. After only a week, she was already controlling a robot arm and giving high fives to the researchers. All of the previous trials led up to the below occasion when she was able to feed herself chocolate:
Fans of sci-fi and cyberpunk will tell you that this is some of the most exciting medical technology that humanity is working on at the moment. It’s the beginning of a cyborg revolution that can bring mobility back to thousands of people who have lost the use of their natural limbs. Scheuermann’s story is incredibly inspiring, and it’s these kinds of stories that will help quicken the pace of new medical breakthroughs that will better the quality of life for all of us.