Thursday 1 October 2015

Brain Translator lets Paraplegic Man Walk with Own Legs Again


Technique – Re-routing Brain Signals to Paraplegic Patient

A ground breaking technique in re-routing brain signals directly to the knees has aided a paraplegic man to walk once again with his legs for the first time after suffering from a spinal cord injury – SCI.The American patient of 26 years, who had met with an accident, had lost the ability of using his legs five year back.

However researcher at the University of California at Irvine managed to restore the link between his brain and legs, enabling him to walk once again without the need of robotic limbs. The patient could walk a distance of 3.5 meters donning a cap that was fitted with electrodes which could pick up brain signals, sending them wirelessly to a computer.

 The computers interpreted the signals and sent the decision to walk or stand still to a micro controller placed on the man’s belt, thus triggering the nerves on his legs. According to the researchers as reported in the Journal of Neuro-engineering and Rehabilitation, the system is not seemingly a plug and play and the patient requires wide training on the utilisation of it. The patient begins by wearing the cap and moves a character on a screen for the purpose of building up the potential of producing clear signals for the system to understand.

20 Sessions – 19 Weeks of Work

Thereafter the patient is totally put off to learn how to move his legs and refine the movement in order to walk. He would also need support in training his muscles to support his own weight.

According to the team, the procedure tends to take around 20 sessions in order to help the patient to walk, amounting to around 19 weeks of work. In due course, he was capable of holding basic conversation while walking.

 The system, instead of reading `walk left’ and `walk right’, relied on differentiating between `walk/don’t walk’ signals, which meant that the movement achieved by him was restricted. Beside the team also mentioned that the proof of concept study was dynamic in portraying that the brain could yet develop signals useful for walking, years after the ability had been lost.

Braingate and its successors, the future systems that are capable of more accurate collection and interpreting brain signals, could utilise the similar concept, possibly, to restore movement in a more broad sense.

Provided Proof-of-Concept for Direct Brain Control

The paper reported that the consequences provided a proof-of-concept for direct brain control of lower extremity prosthesis in order to restore basic ground walking after suffering from paraplegia due to spinal cord injury.

The system reported here represented an important step towards the development of technologies which could restore or progress walking in case of paraplegia patients due to SCI. Dr An Do, who co-led the study had informed the Guardian, that the system seemed to be an advance over those who use robotic exoskeletons.

She stated that they have showed that one can restore intuitive, brain controlled walking after complete spinal cord injury and the non-invasive system for leg muscle stimulation seems to be a promising method. It is an advance on present brain controlled system that utilises virtual reality or a robotic exoskeleton.

The next stage seems to be to ensure that the computer does not tend to mix up signals for balance and precision with walking and to find out other options for various and more natural kinds of movement which can be translated by the system.

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