By Stephanie Lachapelle for Medtech1
More than 11,000 Americans suffer spinal cord injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Atlanta, Georgia’s Shepherd Center and the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology have teamed up to develop a new wheelchair controlled by the patients tongue, called the Tongue Drive system.
According to Maysam Ghovanloo, assistant professor at Georgia Tech and head of this project, “One of the major advantages of the tongue is that it's directly connected to the brain. The tongue is unlike the rest of the body, which is connected to the brain through the spinal cord. A patient who has even the highest level of spinal cord injury can still move his or her tongue like me or you."
Cruise Bogle, a quadriplegic, was asked to participate in the first clinical trial while at the Shepherd Center. Bogle, 20, broke his C4 vertebra and was left paralyzed from the neck down after a skimboarding accident two years ago. During the trial Bogle learned how to move his tongue to generate the different commands for the chair, and then had his tongue fitted for a rice grain-sized magnet used to wirelessly control the chair. Movement of the tongue sends a wireless signal to sensors in a headset that cause the chair to move. Bogle was successful in completing an obstacle course of cones using the tongue-controlled chair.
"The wheelchair was pretty crazy. It was awkward at first to control a wheelchair with my tongue, but it got easier as I went on. It is amazing technology, and I can't imagine what else Georgia Tech will turn out in the coming years,” Bogle said of his experience.
Although the technology was developed for patients with spinal cord injuries, Ghovanloo adds that I can be used by patients with other conditions, like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) or by patients who are left with limited mobility after suffering stroke.
Read the article by CNN and watch videos of Bogle’s experience
Photo courtesy of CNN