A novel brain-computer interface technology developed recently has allowed a paraplegic man to walk for a short distance.
In the preliminary proof-of-concept study by University of California, Irvine researchers, a person with complete paralysis in both legs due to spinal cord injury was able – for the first time – to take steps without relying on manually controlled robotic limbs.
The male participant, whose legs had been paralyzed for five years, walked along a 12-foot course using an electroencephalogram-based system that lets the brain bypass the spinal cord to send messages to the legs. It takes electrical signals from the subject’s brain, processes them through a computer algorithm, and fires them off to electrodes placed around the knees that trigger movement in the leg muscles.
Team leader Zoran Nenadic said that even after years of paralysis, the brain can still generate robust brain waves that can be harnessed to enable basic walking, adding that they showed that one can restore intuitive, brain-controlled walking after a complete spinal cord injury.
He added that this noninvasive system for leg muscle stimulation is a promising method and is an advance of their current brain-controlled systems that use virtual reality or a robotic exoskeleton.
The study appears in the open-access Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation.