I had been in contact, by email, with Associate Professor Sylvia Gustin PhD at the University of Technology Sydney. Sylvia is also HEAD, Pain Imaging Laboratory and DIRECTOR, Pain Research, Education & Management Program.
Here is part of what Sylvia has related to me.
“Currently, we are trying to develop a virtual reality interface to restore touch in people with discomplete paraplegia. What I mean with discomplete paraplegia is a person who has been diagnosed with a complete injury (thus can’t feel) but if we touch their foot, touch information is still getting forwarded from the foot to the brain. To better understand our research about discomplete spinal cord injury please watch the following video:
As I wrote, we are currently in the developmental phase. We are developing two different virtual reality interface systems- the first one is (as mentioned above) to restore touch perception in people with discomplete paraplegia.
The second one is to reduce nerve pain in people with paraplegia. Our ultimate goal is to develop the same virtual reality interfaces also for people with Tetraplegia.
Unfortunately, our current funding is very limited. Research funding success has dropped dramatically in Australia over the last years (from 25 to 5%).
Nevertheless I have just submitted a funding proposal to the Australian Government to receive funding support to develop the virtual reality interface to restore touch perception in people with discomplete injury.
We will know the outcome in December. I really hope we will be successful. We need this funding to continue our work. This is the problem of research. Research is extremely slow as major funding bodies in Australia have reduced their support dramatically.
I would love to take you on as a study participant, but first we need funding to develop the VR system for people with tetraplegia. I am very sorry, but this is the reality. It is so frustrating for us researchers, because we have all these great ideas about how to help people with spinal cord injury, but the reality is that governmental funding for such type of research is extremely limited.
I will also write this year a funding proposal to the US Department of Defence and the Craig Neilson Foundation (a spinal cord injury foundation in the US). I hope they see the merit of our VR treatment and will support us.
I am very sorry that I can’t take you on as a participant at the moment. I really hope that the Australian and US government see how important our work is and will fund our research and development.
I have included you in my list for future candidates. I believe that we can help both people with paraplegia and tetraplegia with VR.
I promise I will contact you as soon as we have a VR setup for people with tetraplegia for both (1) to restore touch perception and (2) to decrease nerve pain. I am confident that we will develop one but unfortunately it might take some time.