Implants Enable Paralyzed Man to Walk
With the help of a new brain-reading device, a man who has been paralyzed for five years has regained some control of his legs.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, used a brain-computer interface, which interprets brainwaves and then controls leg muscles with electrical stimulation. That allows him to bypass the damaged area in the spinal cord.
To train his mind, the paralyzed man wore an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap to read his brain activity while he controlled a virtual person in a computer game.
Next, electrodes were placed on his leg muscles and the patient began training to move them by thinking about walking. As he thinks about walking, the muscles are stimulated to move.
He first practiced walking while suspended above the ground, in order to be able to move his legs freely without having to support himself. On his 20th visit, he used these skills and an EEG-based system to walk along a 3.66-meter course on the ground.
He wore a body-weight support system for aid and to stop him from falling. He was even able to carry on light conversation during the walk, without interfering with the system.
This non-invasive method of leg muscle stimulation is considered an advance because it moves away from virtual reality devices and actually activates the leg muscles in a walking pattern.