A paralysed man in Switzerland has been able to walk again after communication was re-established between his brain and spinal cord using a wireless “digital bridge”.
Gert-Jan Oskam, 40, was paralyzed in a bike accident 12 years ago and has been able to walk again thanks to a novel gadget that connects his brain and spinal cord, bypassing the injury.
Mr. Oskam was paralyzed in the legs and had partially paralyzed arms following the accident because his spinal cord was damaged in his neck.
Mr Oksam said within 5 to 10 minutes he could control his hips
“I could control my hips like the brain implant picked up what I was doing with my hips so that was the best outcome I think for everyone,” Oskam said in a statement.
When he thinks about walking, electrodes on his brain relay the message to electrodes on his spinal cord, stimulating the spine.
“I’m free to do whatever I want now. The stimulation will begin as soon as I make the decision to take a step, this small pleasure represents a big shift in my life,” Oskam added.
Oskam took part in a trial in 2018 that showed, with intensive training, technology to stimulate the spine with electrical impulses could help people with spinal cord injuries to walk again, although, after three years, his improvements had plateaued.
His original spinal implant has been paired with two disc-shaped implants inserted into his skull so that two 64-electrode grids rest against the membrane covering the brain.
“To walk, the brain must send a command to the spinal cord region responsible for movement control.”
This communication is disrupted when there is a spinal cord injury,” said Professor Gregoire Courtine, a neuroscientist at EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.
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