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Hope for those severely injured in a pedestrian accident

One of the most serious types of injury that an individual can be subjected to involves trauma to the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can lead to the loss of function of entire portions of the human body, and many individuals experience a simultaneous loss of autonomy. For those in Alaska who have suffered a spinal cord injury during a pedestrian accident, a new rehabilitation tool may offer hope in regaining sensation.

A group known as the Walk Again Project has created a prototype of an exoskeleton that has received positive results with a small group of volunteers. The exoskeleton looks a little like a superhero suit, with a large number of wires and electronic leads visible on the exterior. An electrode cap is connected to the wearer's scalp, which allows for the transfer of brain activity to receptors within the suit.

When the wearer thinks of initiating movement, that signal is relayed to the controls governing the leg portion of the exoskeleton suit. The legs then move, and the wearer receives feedback through sensory stimulants built into the arm portion of the suit. As such, a series of events is coordinated in which the wearer is able to control forward movement by using his or her brain to signal the exoskeleton. Participants in the Walk Again Project report have all shown signs of recovery, including perceived tactile sensation.

While the exoskeleton is still in the early stages of development, the device and others like it could one day prove instrumental in the process of spinal cord rehabilitation. As with any technological innovation, access to such tools can be prohibitively expensive. For those in Alaska who suffered spinal cord injury as a result of a pedestrian accident, a personal injury lawsuit may be an effective means of securing the funding necessary to participate in this type of therapy.

Source: nextbigfuture.com, "Exoskeleton helps spinal injured walk and reactivates nerves in some", April 20, 2015

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