Good day and welcome to Health Tech Weekly, the show on technology that helps create a healthier you! I’m your host Jamie Davis, the Podmedic. Before we get into this week’s health tech item, make sure you head over to our site at HTWeekly.com for links to everything covered in this episode, contact information and more.
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Mind Over Matter
In this episode of Health Tech Weekly, we look at some of the incredible advances on the horizon with prosthetics and communication with paralyzed individuals. The holy grail for this type of research is to find a way to interface directly with the brain. Researchers have been experimenting with ways to move computer cursors around the screen to different targets using our minds! If you can move a cursor purposefully, then it’s just a question of writing the software to change the cursor movement to movement of an arm or leg prosthetic device.
Up ’til now, the accuracy has been hard to nail down but Stanford University has released news that they have created a new algorithm called ReFIT that is much more accurate than any to come before, in some cases approaching the speed and accuracy of a manually moved cursor. While still being tested with Rhesus Monkeys, the data is very promising.
Most of the research in this area has been focused on recording brain wave data while performing a series of prearranged tasks and then looking at the recording to try and parse out what part of the brain waves represent that motor function. The Stanford ReFIT system worked by analyzing eye movement in real time, aiming for a target and moving the cursor towards the target in much the same way we use hand/eye coordination to perform tasks. The software learns as it begins to acquire targets and becomes more proficient.
The test subjects had to mentally move the cursor to the targets in order and hold it there for half a second before moving on. The ReFIT algorithm achieved 75 – 85% of a real arm movement’s speed and accuracy. Exciting stuff, right? The opportunities this type of research offers to all of the wounded veterans and paralyzed individuals out there are significant. I don’t think it will take that long for the paralyzed will walk again.
Grant Funding at Work
This research has been funded to date by numerous foundations including the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation, National Science Foundation, and DARPA. Human clinical trials for the cursor movement algorithm are being planned and hopefully will begin soon.
That will wrap up this episode of Health Tech Weekly. Make sure you follow up over at out website, HTWeekly.com, for more information on this and all of our episodes. There are additional resource links, links to trusted resources for living a healthier lifestyle and more. If you have a comment on this week’s episode please get back in touch with me either over at HTWeekly.com in comment links for each article or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m your host Jamie Davis, the Podmedic. I’ll be back soon with more health technology for you. In the meantime, remember that, even with technology and advanced medications, improving your health still takes small, simple steps that over time all add up to a healthier you. Why don’t you take a healthier step today?