Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Proprioception - Finding Yourself?

In recent years I have put a lot of thought into the intricate connections between the brain and neural receptors.  In particular, when sensation (feeling) is limited or lacking, it can take quite a bit of effort to find the different parts of the body.  Movement is very challenging when your brain is not sure where it can even locate your limbs.
For this reason, at least for me, learning to walk again has involved visual coordination.  It is not uncommon to see people with spinal cord injuries using mirrors when they exercise or undergo therapy; this is to help them see what is where, so that they can try to connect what they are seeing with what they are doing.
The body’s ability to find or detect itself is referred to as proprioception (proprio- from the Latin proprius, “own;” -ception from the Latin capio, capere, “to take”).  If you can tell where your feet or arms are without looking, then your body’s sense of self-awareness is probably just fine.  With poor proprioception, you may have to help your limbs along by watching where everything is.  Keeping a light on or using a mirror can be important for regaining proprioception and retraining the brain.
Why is proprioception on my mind (pun intended)?  Because I’ve recently been watching as my brain and body really begin to reconnect.  The process has not been easy and certainly has not been intuitive.  Besides looking in the mirror or staring at your feet, there are other ideas for carefully encouraging proprioception or testing brain-body awareness: using textures to try to realign sensations (e.g., rubbing a cloth against your face and then your foot, or beginning at a place where you have functional sensation and working downward/ outward into those where you do not in order to create a continuous sensory pathway), gently putting warm or cool water against different areas on the skin, deliberately thinking through certain movements to remember and “feel” them, and researching muscle groups and mentally “mapping” them, to name a few.
Maybe proprioception is simply a new word for your vocabulary.  Whatever the case, it’s more important than we usually realize, and has more impact than the impression it can make on your Scrabble score!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Recovery Story, In Progress

This is one of the best types of story to post.  Casey Henderson suffered a neck injury while playing football, but it looks like he is now on his way to recovery.  He was able to surprise his team by standing and walking at their state title game.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Recovery Doesn't Have an Expiration Date

Six years after Andrew Meas was left with a spinal cord injury, training with spinal cord epidural stimulation (scES) has helped him to stand and flex his knees.  Most encouraging is the fact that he is now able to stand without use of the stimulator.  This research is being conducted by Susan Harkema at the University of Louisville (Kentucky) and demonstrates that there can be returns of function long after the two-year window often cited for recovery.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

NeoMano Robotic Glove

Here is an invention that could help many people with limited hand mobility.  The NeoMano, a robotic glove, is designed to be worn over the thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Through a two-setting controller, the wearer can use the glove to either grip or release.  NeoMano’s designers apparently hope to have the glove on the market sometime in 2018.
See more on the device below:
CNET: "NeoMano robotic glove helps paralyzed hands grip again"
MoneyControl: "CES 2018: A robotic glove to bring functionality back for paralysed patients"

Thursday, January 4, 2018

FES Bicycles and IPG

Whatever the level of SCI, it is always difficult to find ways to exercise after a spinal cord injury.  A popular idea for promoting lower-body activity is the use of an electrical-stimulation bicycle (FES bike, specifically).  Speaking from personal experience, this does not work for everybody.  If the injury affects or impairs response to e-stim, then FES is not a feasible or readily workable option.  This article follows up on a 2016 overground race that involved "implantable pulse generators" (IPG) to help participants power FES bikes.