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Iranian Professor Invents Tongue Drive Wheelchair System

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A new assistive technology developed by an Iranian assistant professor of the Georgia Institute of Technology could help individuals with severe disabilities lead more independent lives.

The new system, which uses a small magnet, will allow the disabled persons to drive their wheelchairs using only the tips of their tongues.

To operate the Tongue Drive system, potential users only need to be able to move their tongues. Attaching a small magnet, the size of a grain of rice, to an individual's tongue by implantation, piercing or tissue adhesive allows tongue motion to direct the movement of a cursor across a computer screen or a powered wheelchair around a room.

The researchers of the institute maintain that the new device can be easily planted under the tongue of the disabled persons.

Ghovanloo, who started working on this project about three years ago at North Carolina State University, said, "We 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."

He added that tongue movements are also fast, accurate and do not require much thinking, concentration or effort.

Ghovanloo completed his electronic engineering studies at University of Tehran and obtained his master’s degree in medical engineering from Amir Kabir University of Technology. Then he moved to the United States and obtained a master’s degree followed by a doctorate in electrical engineering from University of Michigan.

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