The Iron Man movies have made Exoskeleton Suits a popular idea. However, Exoskeleton Suits don’t only have to be for fighting and the military. With the use of computer assistance, an Exoskeleton Suit can serve the purpose of a physical therapists’ that works 24×7.
Here is my idea:
1.) We know that brain plasticity is possible.
2.) We know that re-training the brain does not come easily (otherwise brain specializations like pattern recognition achieved over of millions of years of evolution could easily be wiped out). In fact, there is the 10,000 hour rule. Which says that to master some special skill requires 10,000 hours of dedicated practice. “Mastering a skill” is just another way of saying the brain has been “re-trained” and has developed new specializations.
3.) There is scientific proof this occurs as MRI’s have been used to look at the brains of concert violinist’s and it is clear that they recruit new areas of the brain, that would not be associated in order to master their skill.
4.) Now look at a typical CP patient who has suffered an anoxic brain injury and damage to the basil ganglia. The issue for these patients is metering of movement. They can start their muscles, but have a difficult time to modulate movement. The result is compensating strategies of either extension or contraction. Movements appear uncontrolled. Ask them to pick up a cup of water and what is likely to happen is the cup of water will end up on the floor. Because of this, frustration sets in quickly, typical PT and OT therapy becomes a lesson in frustration and defeat. Before long, therapy time becomes an hour to avoid… hardly the recipe to achieve the 10,000 hour rule to master a skill!!
5.) Enter the Exoskeleton Suit. If an intelligent Exoskeleton Suit can be built, then therapy can become a 24×7 activity. With an intelligent design, no longer will a simple movement like grasping a cup be a frustration, it will be a success. With success, comes confidence and motivation. The intelligent design will allow the Exoskeleton Suit to provide just enough assistance to ensure successful movement, however, with each passing day, the amount of assistance the suit is providing can be scaled back, ever so slowly, such that the user does not even realize that with each passing day they are doing more and more of the work themselves.
6.) Before long, maybe just weeks, it is my opinion that the patient would have retrained the brain through plasticity and the motion regulating function of the basil ganglia would have been taken over by some other area of the brain.
Looking at all the possible thearpies, the Intelligent Exoskeleton Suit, is the #1 priority for the Bright Foundation. We believe it can be the key to a full and speedy recovery.
We request that any others interested in this idea to please contact us.