Paralyzed man can walk again with the help of a brain-spine device

in Popular STEM4 months ago

(CHUV/Gilles Weber

I saw this news this week but didn’t have time to write about it.

A groundbreaking neurointerface, connecting the brain and spinal cord, has enabled a patient with spinal cord injury to walk again.

This digital bridge was developed by a team of researchers and doctors from Switzerland, the UK, the US, and France.

The ability to walk is facilitated by neurons in the lumbar-sacral section of the spinal cord exchanging signals with neurons in the brain.

Spinal cord injuries above this section can disrupt this connection, leading to paralysis.

For several years, scientists have been using epidural electrostimulation of the spinal cord to help paralyzed individuals regain mobility.

This method involves placing electrodes between the spine and spinal cord to stimulate the necessary nerve endings, thereby mimicking the signals that should be coming from the brain.

Now a team, led by neurosurgeon Grégoire Courtine created a digital bridge that connects the brain with the spinal cord, replacing the nerve pathways that were damaged.

The device was tested on a 38-year-old man who had been unable to walk for ten years following a cycling accident that caused incomplete spinal cord injury.

The new device was implanted in the patient's skull, with electrodes attached to the dura mater of the left and right hemispheres.

The brain signals were captured by an antenna on an external headset worn by the patient and transmitted in real-time to a processor, which predicted motor intentions based on these signals.

These motor intentions were then converted into new signals processed by the same processor.

The patient underwent 40 neurorehabilitation sessions, which improved his leg bending and enabled him to walk with crutches using the active device.

He could stop, stand, and start walking again. The device also helped him maintain balance better than simple epidural stimulation.

Moreover, the system allowed the man to walk on stairs and uneven surfaces, which he was previously unable to do.

The interface worked very stably, and the patient was eventually able to walk with stimulation even at home, without medical supervision.

(Henri Lorach et al. / Nature, 2023

Even a year later, the signals did not become less accurate.

Subsequently, the patient was able to walk around the house independently with crutches, stand, get into a car, and get out of it, even without stimulation.

This breakthrough in neurotechnology has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with spinal cord injuries.

It represents a significant step forward in the field of neurorehabilitation, opening up new possibilities for restoring mobility and independence to those affected by paralysis.



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 4 months ago 

Very cool. They got there before Neuralink! Here's a YouTube embed that describes the accomplishment:

I had missed this story, so I'm glad you posted about it. Thanks!

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