Brain-computer link enables paralyzed California man to walk

Sep 28, 2015 A brain-to-computer technology, which translates thoughts into leg movements, recently enabled a man, paralyzed from the waist down courtesy of an injured spinal cord, to walk without the use of robotics.

The feat was accomplished using a system which allows the brain to bypass the injured spinal cord and send messages directly to electrodes placed around the patient’s knees to trigger controlled leg muscle movements.

The first steps of the 28-year-old paraplegic were documented in a “proof-of-concept” study published in the British-based Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, along with a YouTube video.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have earmarked the breakthrough as a potential solution for patient with stroke and spinal injury.

Dr. An Do, a study co-author, said clinical applications of the technology were several years away and that research results still needed a lot refinement.

However, biomedical engineer Zoran Nenadic, who led the research, was quick to point that the study proved that it is possible to restore intuitive, brain-controlled walking after a complete spinal cord injury.

Researchers hope to refine the technology by miniaturizing the EEG component enough to be implanted inside the patient’s skull or brain, allowing for clearer reception of the neural messages and perhaps the delivery of pressure sensation from the foot to the brain.

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