Archives for posts with tag: Neuroprosthetics


Research, often underappreciated, is the foundation of medical decisions and the determining factor for whether devices and medications pass on to us as a population. Before we even hear about many of the amazing medical devices that are available to us, they undergo intense research to prove their safety and efficacy, and have to pass through national regulations to be distributed to the general population.

Research is the basis of the trends and decisions that we make in healthcare. In physical therapy, research is the basis of the treatments we provide. It makes for valuable, efficient treatment. Research proves the effectiveness of exercise for treating back pain, and provides the justification for why we prescribe specific exercises.

In the case of brain injury, this research is vital because subjects are not always able to describe their progress and limitations as they go through the healing process. A brain injury, especially when traumatic, leaves someone relearning to do the activities that we spent our childhood years developing: walking, talking, eating, expressing what they want and understanding commands. Time is very valuable during recovery, and it is important to begin effective treatment immediately before the results from the injury become chronic. With good research, there is more likelihood that effective treatment can be provided at an appropriate time.

KINARM Labs is a robotic platform developed for neuroscientists to conduct basic and clinical research for brain injury in the realm of cognitive, sensory, and motor deficits. This is novel and fantastic as it provides an option for both companies developing products and clinical research to learn more about their subjects. It is quite an amazing and involved research option for neuroscientists, with a multitude of research options to explore for researchers. There are two basic categories of available research platform: an Exoskeleton Lab and a hand-held bimanual End-Point Lab.

The Exoskeleton Lab helps to evaluate sensorimotor performance and voluntary motor control after a brain injury. This lab allows researchers to observe aspects of controlled movement such as joint motion. As the site states, this is a huge asset in the development of neuroprosthetics, where devices optimize the use of intact neural systems to help regain motor control of areas that have been injured.

The End-Point Lab is a graspable, hand-held robotics research platform which has sensors which helps to evaluate components important for upper limb control and coordination, visual research, and virtual reality as it relates to brain injury. One of the many great aspects of this lab is that it is bimanual, and thus the performance of an affected side can be compared to the unaffected side after injury.

It is difficult to fully describe all the aspects of this amazing platform. Go to their site to learn more. As healthcare technology expands its options and devices, it is vital for companies to remember that devices and programs available for clients must be based on research and knowledge.

Additionally, see the diagram below for a platform comparison:



Humans are visual creatures. Of all our senses we largely rely on sight, our cues for survival rely on it and much of our brain tissue is dedicated to the process. And while all prosthetics are complex, as recreating normal physiology is extremely difficult, the eye is something else. In order for us to view an image, signals are detected from the environment in our eyes, sent along via a nerve and then flipped and processed in the brain to form an image for us to view. This is happening constantly as we move our eyes. When there is an injury that obstructs this process, blindness occurs.

A developing category of prostheses called neuroprosthetics is finding a way to complement nervous system dysfunction and become the link between the brain, nerves, and the rest of the body. Within this category, bionic eyes are being developed to supplement neural injury leading to blindness. One such example is the development of bionic vision system from Monash Vision Group called the Gennaris.

Targeted for those with blindness or a severe visual impairment, Gennaris is a two part system of headwear with a camera and an implantable brain chip. While normally we rely on the retina in our eyes to receive images and then send signals to the brain via the optic nerve, Gennaris plans to bypass this process and send the signal straight to the brain from its camera into an implanted brain chip, which will then stimulate the visual cortex of the brain which processes images. This involves some retraining of the brain to adapt to this system, but for those that currently live in the dark this offers much hope.

The Monash Vision Group is still seeking funding to continue to develop this project for release in 2015, please contact them if you would like to contribute.