A system that uses a paralyzed person's own brain waves to do things has helped a 26-year-old paraplegic man move his legs while wearing a harness to support his body weight.
According to a study in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation released Wednesday, the patient was able to walk by wearing a cap with electrodes that detected his brain signals and then used them to send instructions to another device that stimulated the nerves in the man's legs, causing the muscles to move, reported LiveScience.com
With the system, the patient who had been paralyzed for five years after a spinal cord injury was able to walk 12 feet.
The electrical signals are similar to the ones physicians look for when operating an electroencephalogram test.
"During the course of 19 weeks, the participant performed 30 real-time, (brain-computer interfaces/functional electrical stimulation) controlled over-ground walking tests, and demonstrated the ability to purposefully operate the BCI-FES system by following verbal cues," said the study summary
The study's authors said they hope the research shows that a permanent solution could be within reach for people with such spinal cord injuries.
"This proof-of-concept study demonstrates for the first time that restoring brain-controlled over-ground walking after paraplegia due to (spinal cord injury) is feasible," they said.. "Further studies are warranted to establish the generalizability of these results in a population of individuals with paraplegia due to SCI."
"If this noninvasive system is successfully tested in population studies, the pursuit of permanent, invasive BCI walking prostheses may be justified. In addition, a simplified version of the current system may be explored as a noninvasive neurorehabilitative therapy in those with incomplete motor SCI," they said.
noted that the patient still needed intensive training to generate recognizable walking signals in his brain, along with building up the muscle tone in his legs to walk.
"Even after years of paralysis, the brain can still generate robust brain waves that can be harnessed to enable basic walking," said the study's co-author Dr. An Do, of the University of California, Irvine.
"We showed that you can restore intuitive, brain-controlled walking after a complete spinal cord injury. This noninvasive system for leg muscle stimulation is a promising method and is an advance on our current brain-controlled systems, which use virtual reality or a robotic exoskeleton," he said.
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