Technology

Paralyzed man drives using brain-controlled technology

FOUNTAIN, Colo. (KDVR) — German Aldana Zuniga was in a car crash in 2013 that left him with no mobility below the waist, and limited use of his arms and hands.

But on Wednesday, Zuniga was able to drive a race car at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain using brain-controlled technology. He had a safety driver by his side, just in case of an emergency.

“I never would have thought I would be able to do this,” Zuniga said.

He was able to control the throttle with his thoughts, and he could steer with his helmet.

All of this was possible thanks to Dr. Scott Falci, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center who runs Falci Institute for Spinal Cord Injuries and Falci Adaptive Motorsports.

“He’s got an electrode on the brain that can capture the electrical fingerprint of a thought,” Falci said.

That thought is then digitized and sent to a computer in the race car. 

“He controls all acceleration and throttle just by thinking. The rest of it he’s doing with our helmet, which detects movement for steering and he can brake in an emergency by sipping back on his straw which engages the brake,” the doctor said.

Zuniga told FOX31’s Kim Posey he is amazed by what he can do.

“Just to watch how you go through the track smoothly, and in response to what you think. It’s just incredible,” he said.

Zuniga is also excited about all the other opportunities this technology could create for people with limited mobility.

“The hope is to one day to walk again. Technology is advancing,” he said.

Zuniga is a participant that the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Miami Project to Cure Paralysis research.


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