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Thread: No Exoskeleton, No Brain Surgery: Paralyzed Man Walks Again Using Brain Waves

  1. #1
    Senior Member mj23's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    Chicago, IL

    No Exoskeleton, No Brain Surgery: Paralyzed Man Walks Again Using Brain Waves

    No Exoskeleton, No Brain Surgery: Paralyzed Man Walks Again Using Brain Waves

    It?s days like this that make you proud to be human. Using the power of the patient's mind, scientists have enabled a man completely paralyzed in both legs to walk again. And this astonishing feat didn?t involve the help of an exoskeleton or robotic limbs, and no brain implants were required, making this a first for rehabilitation.

    The patient was a 26-year-old man who had no motor (movement) function in his lower limbs due to a spinal cord injury sustained five years ago. He also lost sensation below his injury, although he could just about feel when his bladder was full.
    Describing the results in the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, the team?s goal was to allow him to regain voluntary control of his legs using his brain, but without the need for invasive brain surgery. To achieve this, the researchers created a brain-computer interface system using an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap to read patterns of brain activity while he thought about walking.
    Next, he underwent training to learn how to acquire brain control of an avatar?s walking within a virtual reality environment. Once he achieved this, he then had to build up strength in his leg muscles that had deteriorated through a lack of use, which involved electrical stimulation combined with weight shifting maneuvers.
    After his muscles were reconditioned enough to stand, it was time for the really hard work to begin. Instead of going for gold straight away, the team first got him to practice walking movements while he was suspended a few centimeters off the ground. As he thought about walking, his brain signals (read by the EEG cap) bypassed his damaged spinal cord and were pinged to electrodes that had been positioned around his knees, providing muscular stimulation. Nineteen sessions later, the man had improved so much that he was ready to put his feet to the ground.
    Wearing a system that supported his weight and helped prevent falls, he was able to successfully translate what he had learned and walked unsuspended. Over time, his control improved and he was able to walk several meters.
    An undeniably incredible feat, but whether or not such a system could ultimately offer benefits to the wider population will rest on future trials involving more people. Obviously everyone is different, as are their injuries, but it is hoped that this technology could benefit many people. However, it might not be suitable in some circumstances.
    ?It can be speculated that a very severe traumatic brain injury in tandem with a spinal cord injury could prevent this brain-computer interface system from working,? An Do, one of the study?s lead researchers, told IFLScience.
    There is also, as always, room for improvement, with the technology requiring tweaking and streamlining, which Do predicts will take a significant amount of time. Do also said that the team is working towards developing a simplified version as well as a system that would involve a brain implant, which could potentially offer improved control.
    C-5, 6 SCI. Took about 6 months to walk. Walking full time. Without any assistance since Nov. 2003 and will make a full recovery

  2. #2
    Just to clarify so everyone understands what's going on here.

    The subject had an SCI, T6 ASIA B, "with no motor function in the lower extremities and no sensation below the injury level except for minimally preserved bladder fullness sensation..."

    The subject did training with an EEG cap to control an avatar's walking in a virtual reality environment. The researchers were able to learn how particular EEG signals translated to "walk" or "stop" commands from the user's brain (i.e., from the brain signals, they knew if he wanted to walk or stand still).

    They used the EEG-based "walk" and "stop" commands to control a Parastep system, which uses FES to activate the subjects leg muscles to produce a walking gait.

    After a lot of training, the subject was able to "walk" and "stop" overground with a walker and 60% of his body weight supported by an overhead harness. The best walking speed achieved was about 2 meters in 60 seconds (ancient turtle speed).

    Nothing really new here. This is really no different from the old Parastep work done in the past, except that "stop" and "go" are commanded by an EEG interface. There are many reasons Parastep failed as a product, and one major reason is the crude, slow, Frankenstein-like gait that it generates, as seen here.

    The idea that a motor-complete paraplegic can walk with nothing but FES is technically feasible, but without either implanting the electrodes or supporting the system with an exoskeleton, it's not going to happen anytime soon.
    Co-founder & CTO of MYOLYN - FES Technology for People with Paralysis - Empowering People to Move

  3. #3
    I think this system will be much more useful with incomplete injuries where some signal transfer to lower limbs is preserved.
    Virtual reality system can definitely clear and make stronger signals.
    Parastep or any other transcranial muscle stimulation system with stepping motion (actually, is there any other one available??)
    with weight support - for sure - can be used for walking training.
    Instead of pushing button on the walker for the stim (Parastep) or use of special cap or electrode to
    transfer brain waves into stim - sensors in body suit (made out with special garment embedded with sensors and stim electrodes) will
    send signals (to small wearable computer) that patient is contracting or trying to contract gluts, quads and calf muscles and than will fire stims
    to electrodes on the same muscles to enhance movement into stepping motion.
    With different patients (stroke victims, MS, incomplete SCI) components as weight support, sensitivity of sensors and electric stim power
    can be adjusted to different needs.
    Some people might be OK even without Virtual Reality preparation.
    My experience with Parastep says that at least 4-5 trainings weekly for 3-4 months will be needed to see results.
    I would actually try to realize my idea and I will try to find partner to put few existing but separate therapeutic
    components together into the new therapy!
    I am open to any suggestions and help!

    Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary
    to what we know about nature
    Saint Augustine

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