Humanity 2.0: Paralyzed Man Walks Again Using Brain-Controlled Exoskeleton

Monday, 07 October 2019 - 9:24AM
Neuroscience
Monday, 07 October 2019 - 9:24AM
Humanity 2.0: Paralyzed Man Walks Again Using Brain-Controlled Exoskeleton
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Youtube/5 News
A 28-year-old French man – paralyzed after a cervical spine injury – was able to walk, move, and maneuver his limbs in a whole-body exoskeleton controlled by his brain. According to Popular Mechanics, the patient, identified only by his first name, Thibault, previously only had movement in his biceps and left wrist and was able to control a wheelchair with his left hand.


The exoskeleton, developed by French researchers, is controlled through two recording devices implanted between Thibault's brain and his skin, spanning the sensorimotor cortex: the area of the brain that controls movement and sensation. Each recording device contains a 64-electrode grid that gathers brain signals and transmits them to an algorithm, which decodes them as movement commands to the exoskeleton.


The devices essentially mimic the brain's interface with the body but transfer those signals to the exoskeleton. Thibault trained the algorithm for many months, controlling an avatar to play simple video games before moving on to basic movements within the exoskeleton. 


"Ours' is the first semi-invasive wireless brain-computer system designed for long term use to activate all four limbs," said Professor Alim-Louis Benabid, President of the Clinatec Executive Board, a CEA laboratory, and Professor Emeritus from the University of Grenoble, France in a Lancet press release. "Previous brain-computer studies have used more invasive recording devices implanted beneath the outermost membrane of the brain, where they eventually stop working. They have also been connected to wires, limited to creating movement in just one limb, or have focused on restoring movement to patients' own muscles."


The researchers were quick to note that the experimental exoskeleton is not a cure for paralysis, but rather an aid for quadriplegic patients that may improve their quality of life. "Our patient already considers his rapidly increasing prosthetic mobility to be rewarding," Dr. Benabid said, "but his progress has not changed his clinical status." 


The researchers plan on continuing to perfect the exoskeleton. 

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