A paraplegic patient was able to walk using only his brain thanks to a "Neural Bypass" procedure: the man, who was paralyzed 5 years ago following a motorcycle accident, is the first in the world to walk without any help.
The team of Dr. An Do from the University of California reached a historic milestone by allowing the brain of a 26-year-old American to transmit brain impulses directly to electrodes placed around his legs, which produced the necessary movements: after a period of training, the man has made a very short stretch on his legs, 4 meters, but enough to give way to an extraordinary future.
"Even after years of paralysis," says Dr. An Do, "the brain can continue to emit waves strong enough to allow walking without going through a damaged spinal cord. This non-invasive muscle stimulation system is very promising and a a significant leap forward compared to servo control systems such as those based on virtual reality or robotic exoskeletons ".
The enterprise in 20 moves
Dr Zoran Nenadic, co-author of the study, envisions considerable improvements starting with the next versions of the devices. The electrode system transmits the electroencephalogram via bluetooth to a computer, which decodes it and converts it into impulses sent to the patient's legs. "We will improve more and more," adds Nenadic. "This system will be able to achieve great control, because the brain waves are recorded with great precision, and will also allow the opposite process, giving the brain the same sensation of the legs."
After 20 training sessions (first started by having an 'avatar' move with his own brain waves on the screen, then doing very short stretches with the legs suspended 5 cm from the ground to facilitate movement and muscle recovery) the patient also acquired a part of his sense of balance.
There is still a lot of work to do for the boy who has started walking again, but the hope and training will work wonders. The news also gave enormous hope to the many people who suffer from the same problem: the next step is the one that will lead to ever longer stretches of walking, until reaching the levels of a normal, extraordinary walk.
Here is the text of the research, published in the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation