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Computer Learning, Electrical Stimulation Offer Hope for Paralyzed

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University of Florida professor Warren Dixon says electrical stimulation can be combined with computer learning technologies to help people regain precise, life-like control of paralyzed limbs. Dixon's research is still in the early stages, but so far his progress indicates that computer-aided electrical stimulation could help people who suffer from the effects of strokes and spinal cord injuries.

Dixon says stroke victims who work at regaining the ability to walk often unconsciously drag their toes, causing them to trip and stumble. He plans to develop a pacemaker-sized device that would deliver the right stimulation to the calf at the right time in a person's gait to lift their toes and help them walk more naturally. The device could be customized to each person's weight, activity, and diet, and also could act as a kind of robotic therapist for patients by guiding them in the proper action while slowly reducing its electrical input.

Dixon says the device also could improve electrical stimulation as a whole, which currently tends to cause rough, full movements that lack the subtle bends and twists that make a major difference in movement control and variation. He is working on adaptive learning techniques that will give a computer the ability to learn from a patient's actions and reactions and adjust its stimulation accordingly.

From University of Florida News
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