A new tongue-control wheelchair may prove to be a great help for quadriplegics.
Quadriplegia, which is also sometimes termed as tetraplegia, is a type of paralysis that is caused by illness or injury, and results in total or partial loss of use of all the human limbs.
Usually quadriplegics, or patients suffering from quadriplegia, use a powered wheelchair to keep them moving around. To execute basic functions, patients have to control the wheelchair by blowing into a plastic straw. However, with the latest technology, the patients can actually efficiently control the wheelchair, using just their tongue.
The technology also referred to as the Tongue Drive System, requires a patient to get a magnetic stud implanted in their tongue. Once the implanting process is complete, patients can use the muscle of their tongue as a joystick for moving their wheelchair. Sensors from the stud communicate the tongue's position to a headset that is placed on the patient's head, which will in turn relay one of the six basic functions to be performed by the wheelchair.
Moreover, the latest technology will also allow its users to communicate not just with their wheelchair, but other gadgets as well. Users can perform certain activities such as surfing the computer, use a cell phone, turn on or turn off a television, and more.
"One of the main advantages of the tongue is that it is directly connected to the brain through cranial nerves, as opposed to the rest of the body," said Maysam Ghovanloo, an associate professor in the school of electrical and computer engineering at Georgia State Institute of Technology and the creator of the system. "Everything from the neck down is controlled through the spinal cord, so if the spinal cord is damaged, everything below that level becomes paralyzed... But even people with the highest level of spinal cord injury, they maintain their tongue motion."
The Tongue Drive System still requires regulatory approval but once approved, the technology will enable quadriplegics to perform multiple tasks just with the movement of their tongue.