Aquadriplegic patient has walked again thanks to a brain-controlled robotic exoskeleton suit being tested in the lab, according to a team of researchers in France. Their findings were published yesterday (October 3) in The Lancet Neurology.
Thibault (whose last name was withheld for privacy), 28 years old at the beginning of the two-year study, was paralyzed from the shoulders down after a cervical spinal cord injury. Researchers implanted two recording devices on the surface of his brain to collect and transmit brain signals. The signals were translated into movements with a decoding algorithm, which then sent commands to the exoskeleton. Thibault was able to complete various movement tasks such as walking and reaching for targets, according to a press release.
Thibault says he felt like the “first man on the Moon” after taking his initial steps in the suit, according to BBC News.
The machine cannot yet be used outside of the laboratory because it requires a ceiling harness, BBC News reports. Although it is still far from real-life application, the prototype “is the first semi-invasive wireless brain-computer system designed . . . to activate all four limbs,” lead developer Alim Louis Benabid of the University of Grenoble tells Reuters, adding that previous technologies have created movement in only one limb or used more risky sensors planted directly into the brain.
Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.