A technological breakthrough could allow the severely disabled to use their noses to communicate and even maneuver wheelchairs. According to the Weizmann Institute research team, cranial nerves in quadriplegic and other severely disabled individuals are seldom damaged so the brain is still able to send signals to the soft palate at the back of the roof of the mouth. The research team has found a way to convert nasal pressure, essentially, sniffs, into electrical signals that can be relayed to an external device.
During their studies, researchers used the device to help one woman write a message to her family. Severely disabled people were also able to maneuver a wheelchair over a 115-foot course using simple commands: forward was two sniffs in; backward was two sniffs out; left was sniffs out then in; and right was sniffs in then out.
Their research appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.