ITS Weekly - 31 March 2017

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Headline of the Week: Paralysis Mitigation: Motivation for Interdisciplinary Programs and Makerspaces

A good friend continues to recover from a recent traumatic neck injury from tripping up some steps, landing on her chin and breaking her neck. Wednesday she shared in my Facebook feed an extraordinarily inspiring NPR story. It’s a story about a cyclist who accidentally crashed into the back of a stopped mail truck. The result of the incident for the cyclist was paralysis from the shoulders down.

A collaborating team of medical researchers developed a system that extracts and filters brain signals that would be associated with hand and arm movements and maps them to another electronic device that directly signals the arm and hand muscles and controls a supporting arm robot. In the demonstration video the tetraplegic subject of this pilot is able to eat and drink with this spinal cord by-pass system. It’s an extraordinary pilot. The researchers are optimistic about the future possibility for translation to clinical application.

Imagine what it takes to create breakthroughs like this. It takes a team of folks with the will to solve such problems. It takes funding. It takes a number of specialists and generalists that can contribute and collaborate across disciplines to make and integrate the various technologies. It sounds like the sort of folks that get their starts in liberal arts colleges.

It is exciting to think about how our students might contribute to such solutions in the years ahead coming from all sorts of disciplines. The availability of a new makerspace to enable development of fabrication skills and interdisciplinary programs such as neuroscience and data science seem on the right track.

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Suggested Reading/Viewing/Listening:

Paralyzed Man Uses Thoughts To Control His Own Arm And Hand

Video demonstration

BrainGate - Turning Thought into Action

Restoration of reaching and grasping movements through brain-controlled muscle stimulation in a person with tetraplegia: a proof-of-concept demonstration

ITS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the ITS Blog:

No Blog posts to share this week.

Notes from ITS Council

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ITS Weekly is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of Information Technology Services at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

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