Dads is Partial Paralised need help with circuit

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by wobble, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. wobble

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 5, 2013
    Hi All

    I'm looking for some help!
    My Dad who for 65 plus years has been a very active person, but recently( 5 years ago had an operation which as a consequence of various complications has given him a partial paralysis of his lower leg.) has difficulty walking, he can move his legs, but cannot feel anything in the below the knee.
    Doctors are amazed he can still (just about) walk, his brain thinks he is constantly falling over, but somehow manages to walk in a fashion.

    What I'd like to do is make a pair of shoes/circuit that transfers a pulse/shock/impulse to an area on his upper torso. this i thought would give his brain (after learning the sensation) an idea when his feet are in contact with the ground. I imagined that the switch or pressure pad in a pair of those flashing kids trainers would start my project...but where do i go from there.

    I'd really appreciate any help or advice, i'm not sure if there is a more dedicated system that can be purchased or if we are going into new territory that might end up helping people with partial paralysis to be more mobile and have less of a risk of falling (which my dad seems to do quiet a lot)

    Hopefully Nathan
  2. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    I don't have any specific direction but what comes to the top of my head. My head thinks two sensors are needed, heel and toe, and they may be better sensed just above the knee to better help Dad's brain localize the signals to their physical location.

    Sensors could just be switches built into a shoe, or taped to the bottom to experiment. I would start with some sort of pressure device to send the signal, something like a solenoid that depresses a post to the skin. This could be in a wrap that gets vecro'ed around his leg.

    Just spit balling some ideas here to start this off.

    It is a good thing for you to help your Dad like this. And welcome to the forums!
    wobble likes this.
  3. wobble

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 5, 2013

    Thanks, Seems sensible to have 2 switches toe and heel. What sort of switch could be used! i'm not familiar with flat switches. but i suppose it needs to be a pressure pad/switch.
    And the solenoid idea is great, but would it use more or less power than a small electric charge to the skin like those used in TENs machines.
  4. DickCappels


    Aug 21, 2008
    Your idea sounds great.

    You might want to start by doing an exhaustive search to see what's already been done and what is being done now to accomplish the same thing you want to accomplish. It can save you a heap of learning the expen$ive way, and you might find some people who are working in the field that might value your input and participation.

    If we are allowed to just toss out ideas as the occur to us, here goes...

    I like ErnieM's concept but I would consider using pressure sensors rather than switches. The pressure measurement would be used to control the frequency of small vibrating transducers (probable range is a few Hz to perhaps 50 Hz) such that the frequency is a function of pressure. That would give your dad a sense of how his weight is distributed. I imagine that three sensors would be enough (one on the heal, and two to cover both sides of the ball of the foot).

    The placement and arrangement of the vibrating transducers as ErnieM described sounds good, but you would probably have to experiment with the arrangement of the transducers with respect to location on his leg and to each other to obtain the best results.

    That's my 2¢ worth.

    I think your project will attract a lot of volunteers since it is likely to actually be helpful to somebody.
    wobble likes this.
  5. tubeguy

    Well-Known Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Welcome.. Wonderful idea.
    What about a piezo sensor. They produce a voltage with an impact, but maybe that would work inside the bottom of the shoe, The toe - heel sensor sounds like a great ides.
  6. SPQR


    Nov 4, 2011
    This is VERY interesting and VERY imaginative.
    You are 100% correct about giving additional input to the brain. It is common that as we age our proprioceptors (sensors in joints and muscles that tell our brain where our limbs are) become less sensitive, and the brain loses important information.

    That information can be "replaced" by giving the patient's brain more input - and the best example is a cane.
    The brain learns that information provided by the hand (with cane in it) can improve a patient's gait and station.

    So "new" sensory input in this situation would be sound, touch or light.
    So you could make a sensor that sends a pulse to a device every time the foot is in position "X".

    So you might use an accelerometer, and when acceleration goes to zero for greater that 10-50 msec, a pulse is sent to a speaker, vibrating motor or light.
    After some "training" with it, the brain might be able to use that info to improve gait and station.

    I'll bet there has been some research done...I'll search a bit.

    Fantastic idea! Congratuations!

    Edit: I found some info. Go to Google Scholar and put in
    artifical proprioception electronic device

    Most of the hits will be for artificial limbs, but there are data out there regarding other electronic methods.
    I'll post some more ideas as they come.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  7. Metalmann

    Active Member

    Dec 8, 2012
    Admiration, for what you are trying to do, Wobble.

    Wish I could be of some assistance.:(
  8. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
    I hate to be a wet blanket but I think this is a horrible idea. You have no medical engineering training yet you want wire up your father. Not knowing the long term effects on his already horrible health issues.

    And I know other forum members are just trying to help but you really need to think about this issue before offering advice.
    Brownout likes this.
  9. wobble

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 5, 2013
    Hi all

    Thanks again, seems like we have really got some great ideas. I'm no electronics engineer, or a medical engineer.
    But i can assure you that I'm not here to get ideas about making a Frankenstien, far from it. He can think for himself and will ultimately be making any decision about using what ever we can come up with.

    SPQR: I'm sure there is already some research in this area and have just started to read some articles that you suggest. What a mind field (sorry for the pun).
  10. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
    Exactly, you are not qualified nor is your father qualified to determine the safety of what you are trying to accomplish.

    I know you are just trying to help your father put please seek the advice of medical professionals.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  11. wobble

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 5, 2013
    Hi Spinnaker
    There is no medical way to fix a damaged spinal cord. So i will and will continue to try and help my dad walk more safely.
    I have already research conditions he previously had and saved his life, due to doctors not being able or not having time to help. So i do know what can and should be done, because there is at present no other way..apart from him potentially falling in front of a car, which would you try?

    So stop giving unhelpful opinions or leave the topic
  12. abhaymv

    Active Member

    Aug 6, 2011
    Well, I don't agree with the 'shock' idea, but maybe some sound based device or even a vibrating device could help? Because shocks can be very bad, electrical current can damage the body badly, even in small amounts. Atleast that's what I've heard of... - unless I misunderstood your idea.

    A device that gives out beeps, or a device that vibrates(like a cell phone) may be connected to a well insulated circuit, I suppose. Sorry if I was unhelpful.
  13. Sparky49

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 16, 2011
    Wobble, Spinnaker was just trying to prevent you causing serious harm to your dad, which no-one wants.

    The shocking idea is not good. Although you say you have done research and saved his life before, this will be an entirely different project. Medical electronics is a very serious area. I cannot stress this enough. One of the universities I visited does a lot of medical electronics, and you would not believe the procedure they have to go through to even get a non-invasive device into trials. Take great care.

    Electricity gives no second chances. There's no way to reason with it. So remember - absolute safety first. Even if you develop some sort of non-invasive device, you must keep everything as clean as possible. No sharp edges, nothing dirty, nothing messy. Another thing is that the actual circuit must be really tiny, so through hole stuff is out of the question. Surface mount components should be used, otherwise your project will be too bulky for your dad to use.


    Now for suggestions. If you really want to do this, talk with your dad and his doctor. Seemingly harmless things could have a big affect, so be sure to take things slowly, and inform your doctor of any changes.

    I would totally stay away from electrocution. I'm sure you know that nerves transmit with electrical pulses. You do not want to mess any more nerves up. There is also the risk of dangerous electrical paths through the body. No matter how safe one is, electrical can (and does) kill. Some people are put into a very bad way, even by the joke electrocution things. You do not want anything like this on your mind.

    I do like the idea of a sound or vibration. Have you heard of a pedometer? These devices measure the number of steps you take by measuring vibrations as you walk. They are fairly cheap. I do not know exactly how every model works, but you could perhaps add a module so it produces a short tone that goes to earphones or something.
    I'm sorry for the long post, but I cannot stress safety enough.

    Again, stay away from stimulating the body with electricity. This is stuff which teams of mega-clever academics are trying to develop, and what you want to stay away from.

    It's like someone asking "how do I make myself a quantum computer?", only difference is we're talking about someone's life - so it's like "how do I make myself a quantum computer attached to a nuke?". :D

    Take things easy and slowly. You do not want to rush and make a mistake.

  14. spankey666


    Nov 30, 2011
    a totally non electrical approach would be to use air , 2 small sacs in the shoe , linked by a small hose to a receiver velcro-d to his thigh that inflate slightly when he walks
  15. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
    What is "unhelpful" about warning someone that they are about to do something foolish?

    There are thousands of biomedical engineers and researchers, a lot smarter than most of us working on this very issue. What makes you think you are going to be able to come up with something that will help? Researchers put thousands of hours and millions of dollars into testing medical devices. Do you have those resources?

    What if you device was what caused your father's fall?

    One one the primary rules of this forum is safety. Many subjects are banned because they present certain risks. This risks passed to forum owners, the reason for the ban.

    Frankly I think this thread should be closed because it seems to violate at least the spirit of those rules.
  16. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    I agree. Imagine you were assigned this project at work. The first and longest step of the project would be an exhaustive review of what's been done, what the state of the art is, and where there is already being money thrown at it, so that efforts are not duplicated. Would you design your own bicycle if you needed one? Of course not, you'd study what others have already done.

    I don't agree that a DIY cannot or should not participate, but it should be done with a full understanding of the context of the work.
  17. debe

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 21, 2010
    I would continue with the basic idea. Reaserchers are hardly likely to be very helpfull, as they generaly controled by investors who want max profits. My wife had a simmilar prob for a bout 4 yrs due to nerve damage to one leg after a hip operation. Doctors not very interested
    Metalmann likes this.
  18. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
    This is a clever idea!

    This may sound a bit "Off the wall", but for the input and output, look at the designs for "Shoe card counters", which people use in Blackjack to keep track of what cards are left.

    The input is from toe switches, and they use some sort of vibration output. It's only a matter of re-positioning the location of the output.

    If you are only dealing with 5V battery power, and not penetrating the skin, while applying common sense, I can't see a reason not to try the concept out. If it is proven that one can re-learn from feedback in a different location, it would be properly built by a biotech company.
  19. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
    Sometimes you just need to face reality. Sadly, sometimes there are simply times when nothing can be done with current technology.

    A co-worker of mine had a wife that was dying of cancer. They mortgaged everything to seek a snake oil cure in Mexico. His wife died shortly after the treatments. While their search for a cure was well intended but did not change anything other then leaving a co-worker in debt for $30K.

    Any good doctor wants to help everyone. But again that is simply not reality. The reality is that there are a lot of people to treat and plenty of those have conditions that have a cure.
  20. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    It's not so off the wall. My back burner brain remembered the guys who first did a roulette predictor shoe as described in the book The Eudaemonic Pie. They used toe switches to input ball & wheel speed & position that gave them a decent estimation of which 8th of the wheel the ball would land. Few years later I reread the book and the names sounded familiar... sure enough, some of these same guys did some fundamental work in chaos theory. They currently use that info to predict the stock market.

    Now does anyone know of a nice solenoid that can extend a bit to make a physical sensation of pressure?