A scientific breakthrough, via researchers at the Unviersity of California, Irvine
A paralyzed man is walking short distances again, with the help of some very advanced science.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have created the new technology, which allowed a 26-year-old to paraplegic man to walk a 12-foot course using his own two legs—and a “brain computer.” The scientists’ work, published last month in the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, uses a computer to reroute electrical signals from the man’s brain to electrodes placed around his knees. The electrodes then trigger movement in the leg muscles.
Before the man could walk the short course, he endured months of training. The patient, who has been paralyzed for five years, first went through extensive physical therapy to condition and strengthen his leg muscles. He also practiced producing the right kind of brain signals using a specialized cap, which initially translated his brain’s waves into the movements of an avatar in a video game-like environment.
Once the patient could control the technology with his brain, he had to practice walking while suspended above the floor. That way, he could go through the motions of the movement without having to support himself. Finally, the man practiced walking while supporting his own weight on the ground.
The scientists caution that they have only used this technology on one patient, and will need to run more tests to determine whether others in the paraplegic community can use it. But the researchers are also hoping to replace their technology’s specialized cap with a hidden brain implant.
“We hope that an implant could achieve an even greater level of prosthesis control, because brain waves are recorded with higher quality,” UCI researcher Zoran Nenadic told the Guardian. “In addition, such an implant could deliver sensation back to the brain, enabling the user to feel their legs.”
(Via Fast Company)