A new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine reports on the development of an experimental device that can allow those who are paralyzed to drive their wheelchairs simply by a flick of their tongue in the direction they want to go.
Researchers led by Maysam Ghovanloo of the Georgia Institute of Technology developed the device that is technically a magnetic stud that is pierced into the tongue.
Ghovanloo first developed the device as a magnet that was glued to the tongue but after it repeatedly kept falling off, Dr Anne Laumann of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University came up with the idea of piercing it in order to anchor it to the tongue.
The device acts as a joystick for people who are paralyzed from neck down. The researchers tested the device on 11 paralyzed people and taught them how to use it to pilot their wheelchairs through an obstacle course and to operate a computer. "The learning was very, very fast. There was a huge improvement in performance from the first session to the second", Ghovanloo said.