Paraplegic Man Walks With His Own Legs Thanks To Science

A 26-year-old American man who lost the use of his legs from an injury five years ago became the first person to walk with robotic limbs that weren’t controlled manually. The Guardian reported that by rerouting signals from his brain to electrodes in his knees, he was able to complete a 3.5 meter course. This was accomplished after intensive training on both the patient’s legs (building up the muscles that haven’t been used in a long time) and brain (in order for him to produce the proper brain signals needed for walking).

The system involves the patient wearing an electrode cap that decodes brain waves, sends the information wirelessly to a computer, decodes them, and then sends them back to a unit on the patient’s belt. That belt then stimulates electrodes that move the muscles in the legs. But, as opposed to a system of “move one leg at a time,” the process is more of “walking or not walking.”

“When the computer detects that a person is walking, based on these brain waves, it turns on the electrical stimulator, which starts creating muscle contractions in the right leg first, and then the left leg; right leg, left leg. And then it keeps on doing this automatically until he stops thinking about walking, then it shuts it off and keeps him in a standing position. So really he has the control of a general concept of walk or not walk.” -Dr. An Do, University of California, Irvine.

The science is a ways off before it can be commonplace, but it should give hope to millions who suffer from paraplegia.

(via The Guardian)