Infoscience

Journal article

Learning new movements after paralysis: Results from a home-based study

Body-machine interfaces (BMIs) decode upper-body motion for operating devices, such as computers and wheelchairs. We developed a low-cost portable BMI for survivors of cervical spinal cord injury and investigated it as a means to support personalized assistance and therapy within the home environment. Depending on the specific impairment of each participant, we modified the interface gains to restore a higher level of upper body mobility. The use of the BMI over one month led to increased range of motion and force at the shoulders in chronic survivors. Concurrently, subjects learned to reorganize their body motions as they practiced the control of a computer cursor to perform different tasks and games. The BMI allowed subjects to generate any movement of the cursor with different motions of their body. Through practice subjects demonstrated a tendency to increase the similarity between the body motions used to control the cursor in distinct tasks. Nevertheless, by the end of learning, some significant and persistent differences appeared to persist. This suggests the ability of the central nervous system to concurrently learn operating the BMI while exploiting the possibility to adapt the available mobility to the specific spatio-temporal requirements of each task.

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