Robots that can read and respond to brain waves will eventually help stroke patients regain movement, using new neural interfaces that can re-train damaged motor pathways. Neuroscientists have made great strides in brain-machine interfaces that can respond to a person's thoughts -- a new generation will drive a non-invasive robotic orthotic, retraining the patient's own body.
Robots can be much more helpful than people. We're not talking about Roxxxy or that 'bot that serves up kebabs, but a robot therapist developed at MIT that has improved upper body motor skills in chronic stroke survivors even if the stroke occurred years previously. And -- to address the concerns of the day -- it did so without significantly increasing health care costs, and could in fact drastically reduce the cost per patient in the future.
For victims of strokes, serious face injuries, or degenerative muscular diseases, losing the ability to blink threatens to compound their condition with corneal ulcers, or even eventual blindness. To help save the eyesight of people with damaged facial muscles, surgeons at the University of California-Davis Medical Center have developed a bionic eyelid implant that restores blinking ability with an artificial muscle.
A few weeks ago we wrote about the naked mole rat, a repugnant little subterranean creature possessing a unique immunity to cancer. Now it turns out that the hardy little rodents are resistant to strokes as well, a finding that may help researchers figure out better treatments for brain injuries arising from heart attacks and strokes.