Man Paralyzed For 12 Years Walks Again Thanks To Brain, Spinal Cord Implants
Authored by Katabella Roberts via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
A paralyzed man has been able to walk again for the first time in years simply by using the power of his mind thanks to implants fitted in his brain and spinal cord.
Gert-Jan Oskam, a 40-year-old Dutchman, was paralyzed in his legs and partially paralyzed in his arms following a cycling accident 12 years ago during which he suffered spinal cord damage.
He was told he would never walk again.
However, after being fitted with a device called a “brain–spine interface,” Oskam regained the ability to voluntarily move his legs and feet just by thinking about it, according to a study published May 24 in the journal Nature.
He can now stand, climb stairs, and even traverse complex terrains with the help of a walking aid, according to researchers.
“I feel like a toddler, learning to walk again,” Oskam told the BBC. “It has been a long journey, but now I can stand up and have a beer with my friend. It’s a pleasure that many people don’t realize.”
An international team of researchers, led by Dr. Grégoire Courtine, Professor Jocelyne Bloch, and others from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, fitted Oskam with the brain–spine interface, which works by creating a direct link between “cortical signals and the analogue modulation of epidural electrical stimulation targeting the spinal cord regions involved in the production of walking,” according to researchers.
How the Device Works
Put simply, the device restored the neurological link between the brain and the spinal cord, which is typically severed during accidents such as Oskam’s.
The device was implanted into Oskam’s skull, meaning it is not visible to the naked eye. When Oskam thinks about walking, the implant detects electrical activity in the cortex, the outer layer of the brain, and sends brain waves wirelessly to a computer that Oskam wears in a backpack.
The information is then transmitted to a pulse generator inserted into his spinal cord, effectively switching on muscles and allowing him to produce specific movements.
Oskam also underwent around 40 rehabilitation sessions using the brain–spine interface, after which he regained the ability to voluntarily move his legs and feet.
Researchers believe Oskam’s movements would not have been possible with spinal stimulation alone and that the training sessions “prompted further recovery in nerve cells” which were not completely severed during his injury.
As well as being able to walk while using the device, Oskam can also walk short distances without the device, provided he uses crutches.
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