TechSpot

Paralyzed man walks for the first time in five years using harnessed brainwaves

By midian182
Sep 24, 2015
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  1. A man who has been unable to move both legs after his spinal cord was completely severed in a motorcycle accident five years ago has made medical history after doctors reconnected brain signals to his legs, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation.

    26-year-old Adam Fritz used a functional electric stimulation (FES) device to walk 13 feet simply by thinking about it. The device works by using a special electrode-studded cap to transmit signals from his brain to electrodes around his knees, bypassing damaged nerves in the spine. The signals stimulate his muscles, allowing him to swing his legs.

    Fritz had to undergo mental training to reactivate his brain’s ability to walk before the test took place. He also required months of physical work to prepare his leg muscles which had not been used in over half a decade. Part of his training to operate the electroencephalogram (EEG) cap involved using it to control a character in a video game.

    It took 19 unsuccessful attempts before Fritz managed to walk with assistance. Although he is still a long way off being able to walk unaided, the feat has been called a medical milestone. It is the first time a paralyzed person has been able to use their own legs to walk rather than an exoskeleton.

    "It was incredible. When you're first injured, you're sitting in hospital hoping you'll walk again but when it actually happened, it was a dream come true. I actually did it and it was something I'll never forget," Fritz told Sky News. "I think, just watching the way technology evolves, this is something that will continue to grow."

    Neurologist Dr An Do, part of the team behind the project at the University of California in Irvine, said: “Even after years of paralysis the brain can still generate robust brainwaves that can be harnessed to enable basic walking. We showed you can restore intuitive, brain-controlled walking after a complete spinal cord injury.”

    Experts say further studies are needed to determine whether the device can help others who are wheelchair-bound. Scientists hope the technology will advance to the point where a chip can be implanted into the brain to send signals to the legs, rather than using a cap, as this would give the person greater control and balance thanks to the brainwaves being recorded at a higher quality. It’s also hoped that the legs will eventually be able to send signals in the opposite direction – allowing the person to actually feel their lower limbs and the floor beneath them.

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  2. Myth1337

    Myth1337 TS Rookie Posts: 16   +6

    Awesome to see tech and science being put to good use
     
  3. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,149   +1,423

    Yeah, the spinal cord's capacity is totally overrated. You probably soon will be able to replace it with a single USB cable. :)

    P.S. Screw evolution, it's too slow for my taste! I'll swap my pet for an A.I. any time now! :)
     
  4. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,181   +528

    [​IMG]
     
    Tanstar, Wendig0 and VitalyT like this.
  5. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 908   +383

    Fantastic! Just think, in the future, it would be possible to walk after such an injury.
    As with walking, baby steps first!
     
  6. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 658   +174

    Call me a skeptic on this one but judging from the video they have his leg muscles wired up to a controller and its nothing like regular walking.
    All he can do is activate a preset sequence on the controller to fire his leg forward without any real control over it at all.

    The whole brainwave reading thing could have been replaced by two buttons "left leg" and "right leg" and the results would be the same without the need for a silly cap or a chip implant.
    They are just using the same pattern tech that other brain reader stuff used in the past like those headbands from a few years ago that lets you play basic games that only involve moving things in one direction at a time.
     
  7. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,254   +222

    This one time, few hundred years ago someone invited the abacus. Now, we have a small device which can computer large sums of data in a fraction of a second.

    Point being, while this is at it's "primitive" stages, by the end of the century, rewiring whole body systems to operate via an interface connected to the mind will be something done with absolute precision and speed, all because of the early innovations.

    They are mainly trying to evolve one usage area of the already made devices, but for a "niche" market.

    Think Tesla. Most of it is already created tech by 3rd parties.
     
    p51d007 likes this.
  8. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 658   +174

    No argument there, my issue is that what they are doing here isn't a new invention or any real progress, its just applying current working things and its also not really helping this man properly. He certainly wont be able to walk to the corner cafe with this getup unless there is some other newer videos of him doing much better
     
  9. amstech

    amstech TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 1,455   +606

    Very cool article, thanks for sharing.
     
    p51d007 and mosu like this.
  10. Tanstar

    Tanstar TS Guru Posts: 407   +88

    Soon, they can wire our entire bodies and SOMEONE ELSE can control our bodies!
     
  11. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,254   +222

    SkyNet is coming, hide yo selfs and yo kids! But yeh, that is another major issue of the future techs.
     
  12. misor

    misor TS Evangelist Posts: 1,163   +197

    extra-terrestrial aliens better hide.
    AVN (Aliens vs Skynet)

    on the topic: wow... but it would have been better if the man had no shoulder support.
    otherwise, I am inclined to think the 'feat' was nothing more than a publicity gimmick just like when you provide electrical stimulus to (the brain stem of a) decapitated frog and the frog seems to move.
     

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