New technology may help people suffering from paralysis reprogram their brains to improve motor skills, say researchers according to findings of a recent study .
Functional magnetic resonance imaging and a "cyberglove" record brain changes during motor activities and allow patients to redirect motor commands. Stroke or traumatic brain injury results in neurons taking over for the damaged ones. But until now, scientists were not sure which neurons compensated for the damaged ones or how the brain cells learned their new jobs.
For the study 17 healthy adults were asked to wear a synthetic glove with fiber-optic cables on their dominant hand. The glove translated hand movements into signals, which were sent to a computer. Researchers then used fMRI to observe which areas of the brain controlled the participants' hand movements as they aligned a cursor on the computer screen with 50 different targets. The fMRI technology identified signs that neurons in a specific area of the brain were processing and giving commands to the body.
Thus researchers say once they are able to understand which part of the brain network does what, they will be able to tailor physical therapy approaches to an individual's brain deficit.