Could paralyzed people leave their wheelchairs behind someday? stux / Pixabay
A California man has taken a few, halting steps on his own, despite being paralyzed from the waist down as the result of a spinal cord injury. His steps were documented in the British “Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation” and in the YouTube video shown below.
This new technology allows the brain to bypass the damaged spinal cord and send messages directly to electrodes attached to the knees and connected to a computer. The patient’s brain is then able to control the movement of their legs.
Researchers at the University of California – Irvine, led by Zoran Nenadic, an associate professor in biomedical engineering, believe that this new technology could someday help people with strokes and spinal cord injuries regain some of their mobility … although they admit that they are years away from making this a reality. However, the research is encouraging and learning how this paralyzed man walks gives hope to other handicapped people and their families around the world.
The first step will be to refine the process and try it with other people who are suffering from mobility problems to see which ones benefit the most from the process.
The patient, Adam Fritz, was injured during his senior year of college when he was riding his motorcycle near his home in Diamond Bar, California and a table fell off a truck, struck him and knocked him off his bike. A few days later he was told he would never walk again.
Today, with help of the new brain-to-computer technology, however, he is able to take a few steps and manage to walk slowly, partially supporting his weight by using an overhead suspension harness plus a walker. These items were necessary because the brain to computer technology does not restore feeling in the legs. During his videotaped session, he was able to walk 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) in UC – Irvine’s iMove Lab.
Prior to taking these first few steps, Fritz had to work on mental training through the use of a virtual-reality style video game, during which he practiced thinking about walking by using his brain to control a walking avatar. It took him 11 hours to master the game. In this way, he developed the brain waves necessary to operate the computer algorithm. In addition, he spent long hours in a physical rehab program to make his muscles stronger.
In related studies, a brain-computer connection has previously been used to help patients use robotic arms to pick things up, including a cup of coffee.
Someday, the researchers hope that they can miniaturize the EEG component of the equipment and implant it in the patient’s skull or brain, which could make it possible to use the equipment outside of a laboratory.
Deborah Dian is the Stock Market and California correspondent for The Daily Voice News, as well as following some entertainment news. She lives in Southern California where she is president of an investment club and an avid follower of the stock market. She is also the author of a retirement planning blog, Baby-Boomer-Retirement.com. She has a B.S. degree in Human Environmental Design from the University of Missouri, and enjoys travel, horseback riding, and the Southern California lifestyle. Contact her at [email protected]