Paralysed man walks again via thought-controlled implants
AFP | Paris
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
A paralysed man has regained the ability to walk smoothly using only his thoughts for the first time, researchers said on Wednesday, thanks to two implants that restored communication between brain and spinal cord.
The patient Gert-Jan, who did not want to reveal his surname, said the breakthrough had given him “a freedom that I did not have” before.
The 40-year-old Dutchman has been paralysed in his legs for more than a decade after suffering a spinal cord injury during a bicycle accident. But using a new system he can now walk “naturally”, take on difficult terrain and even climb stairs, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
The advance 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 pulses to stimulate movement in leg muscles -- had allowed three paralysed patients to walk again.
But they needed to press a button to move their legs each time. Gert-Jan, who also has the spinal implant, said this made it difficult to get into the rhythm of taking a “natural step”. The latest research combines the spinal implant with new technology called a 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, which was designed by researchers at France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), to work out how the patient wants to move their legs at any moment.