New Brain-Spine Interface Helps Paralyzed Man Walk Naturally

Implants
Paralysis Implants. Credit:nature/CHUV/Gilles Weber

Key Points:

  • A new brain-spine interface has enabled a man paralyzed by a spinal cord injury to regain near natural walking ability.
  • The system uses electrodes implanted in the brain and spinal cord to decode brain activity and stimulate leg muscles.
  • The patient, Gert-Jan Oskam, was paralyzed from the waist down in a biking accident 11 years ago.
  • The researchers are hopeful that the system will be able to help other people with spinal cord injuries regain mobility.
  • The development of this new system is a major breakthrough in the field of spinal cord injury rehabilitation.

A new brain-spine interface has enabled a man paralyzed by a spinal cord injury to regain near natural walking ability. The system, developed by researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, uses electrodes implanted in the brain and spinal cord to decode brain activity and stimulate leg muscles.

 

The patient, Gert-Jan Oskam, was paralyzed from the waist down in a biking accident 11 years ago. He was able to walk with a walker using a previous version of the system, but the new system allows him to walk more naturally and independently.

 

The system works by first decoding brain activity related to leg movement. This is done using electrodes implanted in the sensorimotor cortex, a region of the brain that helps direct muscle movements. The decoded brain activity is then sent wirelessly to a processing unit that converts it into stimulation patterns. These stimulation patterns are then transmitted to the spinal cord implant, which stimulates leg muscles.

 

The researchers calibrated the system so that Oskam could control the amount of movement. This allows him to adapt his foot placement and even climb staircases.

 

The researchers are hopeful that the system will be able to help other people with spinal cord injuries regain mobility. They are currently working on miniaturizing the brain implant and processing unit, and they plan to start a clinical trial in the near future.

 

The development of this new system is a major breakthrough in the field of spinal cord injury rehabilitation. It offers hope to people who have been paralyzed from the waist down, and it could eventually lead to a cure for spinal cord injury.

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