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ADVANCE Outlook: OT

The Frontiers of Discovery

Published February 17, 2016 1:52 PM by Jon Bassett

Rehab robotics is all over the news these days. In just the past few months, research labs across the globe have announced major engineering breakthroughs designed to assist those with movement impairments to recapture their independence.

Scientists at the University of Melbourne in Australia announced the development of a matchstick-sized brain implant that, when inserted next to the motor cortex, can allow users to control a robotic exoskeleton just by thinking about it. Testing in patients with spinal cord injury could begin as early as 2017.

In September, The University of California Irvine announced that a 26-year-old man whose legs had been paralyzed for five years took his first steps by using a noninvasive brain computer interface (BCI) system. The man walked along a 12-foot course using an EEG-based device that takes electrical signals from the subject's brain, processes them through a computer algorithm, and fires them off to electrodes placed around the user's knees that trigger movement in the leg muscles.

And in the newest issue of ADVANCE, you'll meet the engineering team at the University of Texas at Austin behind HARMONY, a two-armed robotic rehabilitation exoskeleton that delivers data-driven therapy to patients recovering from spinal and neurological injuries.

"If we can marry the expertise and human knowledge with the technology, we have the ability to deliver things that humans cannot," said Ashish Deshpande, PhD, creator of the device. "We need to develop more of these technologies."

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