What is the Tongue Drive System?

The tongue drive system is a newly developed wheelchair-controlling technology that allows quadriplegics to use the titular body part to operate several other devices as well, such as a computer, cell phone, or television.  In this system, a magnetic stud is implanted via tongue piercing.

Sensors in the stud track the tongue’s movements and transmit them to a headset worn by the patient, which in turn orders the wheelchair to perform one of six basic functions. That is two more functions that the current system, known as sip-and-puff. The tongue was chosen precisely because it is above the neck and has a direct connection to the brain by way of cranial nerves. 

Though still in trial stages, the tongue drive system (TDS) has receive positive feedback from paralyzed testers, including Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Lab electrical engineer Jason DiSanto, who lost mobility from the neck down after a diving accident. He and 10 other quadriplegics tested this new system created by associate professor in the school of electrical and computer engineering at Georgia State Institute of Technology Maysam Ghonvaloo. The trial participants were accustomed to the sip-and-puff system, which is economical and simple… maybe a little too simple, actually.

TDS, on the other hand, is more permanent, not just because it’s pierced on, but because it stays with the patient and not with the chair whenever those two are parted. Moreover, and according to DiSanto, the new system is more functional, but also very intuitive, so it takes considerably less time to get the hang of it. In fact, most of the patients found the system so much easier and faster that at least a couple left their piercings on in order to speed up the process when the tongue drive system is hopefully approved.  

Related Read: Types of Wheel Chair Seat Cushions