Tongue Drive System Validated In Clinical Trial

The Tongue Drive system created for use by individuals with high-level spinal chord injuries has been validated in a recent clinical trial. The Tongue controller uses a special magnet attached to the user's tongue with tissue adhesive.

As the user moves his tongue, the movement is captured by special magnetic field sensors mounted on a wireless headphone. The output is transmitted to a portable computer attached to the user's wheelchair.


(Tongue drive press release [Georgia Tech])

“This clinical trial has validated that the Tongue Drive system is intuitive and quite simple for individuals with high-level spinal cord injuries to use,” said Maysam Ghovanloo, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Trial participants were able to easily remember and correctly issue tongue commands to play computer games and drive a powered wheelchair around an obstacle course with very little prior training.”

Ghovanloo chose the tongue to operate the system because unlike hands and feet, which are controlled by the brain through the spinal cord, the tongue is directly connected to the brain by a cranial nerve that generally escapes damage in severe spinal cord injuries or neuromuscular diseases.

In this trial, participants maneuvered their wheelchairs through an obstacle course using just six tongue commands. However, the Tongue Drive system can potentially make use of a large number of complex tongue movements, each of which could represent a different command.

Fans of Alfred Bester's 1956 award-winning (and still astounding!) novel The Stars My Destination may recall that he used a similar idea: a dental switchboard that was tongue-controlled.

He pressed hard with his tongue against his right upper first molar. The operation that had transformed half his body into an electronic machine, had located the control switchboard in his teeth. Foyle pressed a tooth with his tongue and the peripheral cells of his retina were excited into emitting a soft light...
(Read more about Bester's dental switchboard)

Read more at the Georgia Tech Tongue drive press release; via Medgadget.

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