People with spinal cord injuries may be able to benefit from new technology that is being developed by a Stanford research team. The researchers are working on brain-controlled prosthesis to help people with debilitating injuries recover some motor function. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the team permission to use people with spinal cord injuries to test a thought-controlled computer cursor.

Other research teams have also worked on brain-controlled computer cursors, but no team has been able to get as accurate as the Stanford group. In experiments they conducted with monkeys, the Stanford researchers proved that the monkeys could correctly tap a virtual target with a brain-controlled cursor 26 times in 30 seconds. When the monkeys used their real fingers, they could hit the target 29 times in 30 seconds.

To develop the thought-controlled cursor, the Stanford team studied the brain dynamics involved in a reaching arm movement. They analyzed the electrical patterns that formed in a sample of between 100 to 200 neurons while monkeys used their arms, hands and fingers to reach for a target. The goal of the researchers is to create a though-controlled keypad that will allow people with paralysis to operate an electronic wheelchair or use a computer.

Using assistive technology can help to improve a person’s quality of life after a spinal cord injury. Though it is often necessary for an injured person to live an independent life, the technology can be expensive. If the spinal cord injuries were caused by another person’s negligent or intentional actions, a personal injury attorney may be able to help the victim pursue a financial award for the resulting medical expenses and lost earning capacity.