Musical glove improved sensation, motor skills in patients with spinal cord injury

Patients with limited feeling or movement in their hands due to a paralyzing spinal cord injury experienced improved sensation and motor skills with the use of a wireless, musical glove, according to a press release from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Researchers enrolled individuals who had experienced a spinal cord injury 1 year prior and had limited feeling or movement in their hands. Participants were randomly assigned to practice playing the piano for thirty minutes three times a week either with the Mobile Music Touch glove, which would send vibrations to their hand and tell them which fingers to tap, or without the device. Those who wore the glove also wore it at home for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, feeling only the vibrations.

To measure improvement, participants performed a variety of common grasping and sensation tests at the end of the study. Overall, study results showed that participants who wore the Mobile Music Touch system performed significantly better vs. participants who did not. Tanya Markow, a PhD graduate, said the vibration from the glove might be triggering activity in the hand’s sensory cortex, leading to firing in the brain’s motor cortex and renewing brain activity that became dormant after the spinal cord injury.

“Equipment used for hand rehabilitation may seem monotonous and boring to some, and doesn’t provide any feedback or incentive,” Thad Starner, PhD, of Georgia Tech, said in the release. “Mobile Music Touch overcomes each of those challenges and provides surprising benefits for people with weakness and sensory loss due to spinal cord injury. It’s a great example of how wearable computing can change people’s lives.”

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