Paralyzed man walks again thanks to thought-controlled implants – trendswire

Paralyzed man walks again thanks to thought-controlled implants – trendswire
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PARIS. A paralyzed man has for the first time regained the ability to walk smoothly using only his thoughts, researchers said Wednesday, thanks to two implants that restored communication between the brain and spinal cord.
The patient gert-janwho did not want to reveal his last name, said the breakthrough had given him “a freedom that he didn’t have” before.
The 40-year-old Dutchman has been paralyzed in his legs for more than a decade after sustaining a spinal cord injury during a cycling accident.
But thanks to a new system, it can now walk “naturally,” tackle difficult terrain and even climb stairs, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
The 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 pulses to stimulate movement in leg muscles, had enabled three paralyzed patients to walk again.
But they needed to press a button to move the 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 a new technology called a brain-computer interface, which is implanted over 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 the University of France Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), to know how the patient wants to move their legs at all times.
Data is transmitted to the spinal cord implant via a portable device that fits in a walker or small backpack, allowing patients to move without assistance from others.
The two implants build what 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 do what I want: when I decide to take a step, the stimulation will kick in as soon as I think about it,” said Gert-Jan.
After undergoing two invasive surgeries to implant both devices, “it’s been a long journey to get here,” he told a news conference in the Swiss city of lausanne.
But among other changes, you can now go back to standing in a bar with friends over a beer.
“This simple pleasure represents a significant change in my life,” he said in a statement.
Gregory Courtineneuroscientist at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and co-author of the study, said it was “radically different” from what had been achieved before.
“Previous patients walked with a lot of effort, now you just have to think about walking to take a step,” he told a news conference in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
There was another positive sign: after six months of training, Gert-Jan regained some motor and sensory perception skills that she had lost in the accident.
He was even able to walk on crutches when the “digital bridge” was turned off.
Guillaume CharvetA researcher at the CEA in France, told AFP that this suggests “that the establishment of a link between the brain and the spinal cord would promote a reorganization of the neuronal networks” at the injury site.
So when might this technology be available to paralyzed people around the world? Charvet cautioned that it will take “many more years of research” to get to that point.
But the team is already preparing a trial to study whether this technology can restore function in arms and hands.
They also hope it can be applied to other problems such as paralysis caused by a stroke.


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