Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, have created a device called Mobile Music Touch (MMT), a wireless, musical glove designed to improve sensation and motor skills for individuals with paralyzing spinal cord injury (SCI). Appearing to be a workout glove with a small box on the back, the MMT is used with a piano keyboard and vibrates a person’s fingers to indicate which keys to play. 

The Georgia Tech researchers, along with researchers from Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, performed a study that focused on people with weakness and sensory loss due to SCI. Tanya Markow, a PhD graduate and the project’s leader, worked with individuals with SCI who had limited feeling or movement in their hands. For 8 weeks, participants practiced playing the piano for 30 minutes, three times a week. Half of the study participants used the glove, while the other half did not. 

The participants also wore the glove at home for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, feeling only the vibration of the device. At the end of the study, they performed a variety of common grasping and sensation tests to measure their improvement. The researchers found that those who used the MMT performed better than those who learned the piano normally.

“After our preliminary work in 2011, we suspected that the glove would have positive results for people with SCI,” Markow says. “But we were surprised by how much improvement they made in our study. For example, after using the glove, some participants were able to feel the texture of their bed sheets and clothes for the first time since their injury.”

Markow concludes that the vibration from the MMT glove might be triggering activity in the hand’s sensory cortex, which can lead to firing in the brain’s motor cortex. Thus, the increased motor abilities could be caused by renewed brain activity that sometimes becomes dormant in individuals with SCI. 

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology