For those suffering with paralyzing spinal cord injury (SCI), a wireless musical glove may improve one’s sensation and motor skills.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have designed a wireless musical glove called the Mobile Music Touch (MMT). The glove is created in order to improve sensation in fingers with the help of vibrations. The glove resembles a workout glove with a slight difference due to the small white box on the back of the glove. With the help of a piano, researchers initially let patients listen to a song in its entirety, in order for them to see the keys light up, hear the song and also feel the vibrations through each finger.

The glove works with a computer, MP3 player or smart phone. A song is programmed into the device, which is wirelessly linked to the glove. Once the piano illuminates each key, the glove in turn spark vibrations through the correct finger to correspond with the precise key.

During an eight-week period, project leader Tanya Markow, PhD, worked with patients suffering from SCI who had restricted feeling or movement in their hands and experienced spinal injury a year preceding the study. The patients were split into two groups. One group used the MMT glove to practice and half did not; both groups were directed to practice the piano for 30 minutes, three times a week. Researchers also instructed patients to wear the gloves at home two hours a day, five days a week, in order to feel only the vibrations, hopefully providing additional therapeutic value.

With the help of Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, a not-for-profit hospital that specializes in spinal cord injury rehabilitation, following the study researchers at Georgia Tech conducted a test to measure sensation and any improvement.

Results showed that those who had the assistance of the MMT glove demonstrated a considerable improvement compared to those who did not. This included some patients noticing improvements in the ability to pick up objects.

According to Markow the glove may arouse brain activity that was once dormant due to SCI. The vibrations may spark activity in the sensory cortex, which leads to activating the brain’s motor cortex as well.  

Originally the MMT glove was created to assist people with learning to play the piano, but Georgia Tech’s Thad Starner, an associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing, uncovered the health benefits associated with the glove.