Paralyzed Man Walks Again Thanks to Revolutionary Thought-Controlled Implants
A paralyzed man has regained the ability to walk using only his thoughts thanks to new technology that has restored communication between his brain and spinal cord.
A man paralyzed in a bicycle accident 12 years ago is able to walk again thanks to two implants that restored communication between his brain and spinal cord.
Patient Gert-Jan, who didn’t want to reveal his surname, said the breakthrough gave him “a freedom I didn’t have” before.
“Within five to ten minutes I could control my hips like they were real,” Gert-Jan said.
This breakthrough is the result of more than a decade of work by a team of researchers in France and Switzerland.
Last year, the team showed that a spinal cord implant – which sends electrical impulses to stimulate leg muscle movement – enabled three paralyzed patients to walk again.
But they had to press a button to move their legs each time.
The latest research combines the spinal implant with a new technology called the brain-computer interface, which is implanted above the part of the brain that controls leg movement.
The interface uses algorithms based on artificial intelligence methods to decode brain recordings in real time, the researchers said.
This allows the interface, designed by researchers at the Atomic Energy Commission, to determine at any time how the patient wishes to move his legs.
Data is transmitted to the spinal cord implant via a portable device that fits in a walker or small backpack, allowing patients to move around without the assistance of others.
Both implants build what the researchers call a “digital bridge” to bridge the disconnect between the spinal cord and the brain that was created during Gert-Jan’s accident.
“Now I can just do whatever I want – when I decide to take a step, the stimulation kicks in as soon as I think about it,” Gert-Jan told a press conference in Geneva.
It has been “a long journey to get here”, he added, having undergone invasive surgery twice so that both devices could be implanted.