As the World Cup in Sao Paulo gets started, there could be a paralyzed teenager in the spotlight. However, that same teen will not be seated in a wheelchair. If all goes according to the plans that are now being discussed, that paralyzed individual will be equipped with a special type of exoskeleton.
Duke University is looking-into the possibility of demonstrating its new mind-controlling devices at the 2014 FIFA Soccer World Cup. One of Duke’s neurobiologists, Miguel Nicolelis has developed a collection of extremely thin sensors, which are called microwires. The first of the sensors in that group were tested in rats and monkeys. The testing showed that each microwire has the ability to detect tiny electrical signals, similar to those that are produced by a human neuron.
Since creation of that first sensor, Dr. Nicolelis and his team of scientists and engineers have introduced some significant improvements. Thus, it now looks as if one paralyzed teen will be lucky enough to receive some intense training, and will then get to wear the University’s special exoskeleton at the Sao Paulo event. That exoskeleton responds to signals from the University’s specially-developed headpiece. The headpiece’s signals are sent-out under the controlling influence of messages from brain neurons. The microwires’ capabilities, as introduced into that same headpiece, will allow each of them to pick-up one or more of the messages that come from the brain.
If all goes according to the preliminary plan, one selected teenager will be able to walk onto the field and make the starting kick-off. That will demonstrate the extent to which the University’s equipment can function as a substitute for a set of paralyzed nerves. In that way, such equipment could make it possible for some of those men and women who strive to roll without limits to actually escape the wheelchair’s all-too-obvious limitations.
Sue Chehrenegar is a freelance writer with a great interest in any topic that relates to neurobiology. She has had contact with a whole string of different neurobiologists. She has also offered her assistance to a number of different friends who have had to rely on a set of rolling wheels, in order to get from place to place.