Much of the research going on regarding quadriplegia and paraplegia is studying how technology and the human body can work together to overcome the effects of a spinal cord injury. Some of that research is trying to help restore movement and sensation in the body. Other scientists are bypassing the body entirely, and trying to create a reliable connection between machines and the human mind.
A dramatic example of this is the story of a paralyzed woman who recently controlled a flight simulator using her thoughts — with the help of electrodes implanted in her brain.
The woman has been living with quadriplegia since 2003, due to a disease. Doctors later implanted electrode grids in her brain, each of which picks up signals from individual neurons and relays the signals to a computer. In turn, the computer identifies the firing patterns that have been associated with various observed or imagined movements.
The woman had previously used this form of “mind reading” to operate a prosthetic arm. Recently, she did the same in a Joint Strike Fighter Simulator. Using the simulator, she successfully “piloted” an F-35 fighter plane and a single-engine Cessna.
The study behind the woman’s remarkable achievements is being conducting by a combination of university researchers and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the team revealed its latest findings at a think tank’s Future of War forum. However, it is possible that this technology will someday be used for non-military purposes.
For now, these advanced technologies are out of reach of most people in Los Angeles who are living with paralysis. They may be left with serious challenges because someone else acted negligently.