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A paralyzed man walks again thanks to an interface that activates ‘direct your thoughts’

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Dutch Gertjan suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident 10 years ago, but regained natural control of his paralyzed leg with the help of assistive devices. “Digital Bridge” , the system restores communication between the brain and spinal cord, transforming thoughts into actions. The study, led by Swiss researchers, has just been published.

A team of Swiss scientists has successfully developed a wireless technology that allows people to walk again. Gertjan A 40-year-old Dutch man became paralyzed in his legs 10 years ago due to a spinal cord injury after a bicycle accident.

“We have created a ‘digital bridge’ between the brain and spinal cord through the brain-computer interface. [BCI]Artificial intelligence algorithms turn thoughts into actions,” emphasizes neuroscientist Gregoire Courtine of the Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). Nature.

Together with Jocelyn Block, a neurosurgeon at EPFL Vaud University Hospital Centre, they have spent years researching ways to help people with spinal cord injuries walk again. In 2018, they reached that goal by successfully paralyzing three men for several years after inserting implants into their spinal cords.

Patients take control

The authors explain that the technique allows patients to control the movement of their paralyzed leg naturally. others, After several rehabilitation sessions with BCI, the team reported significant improvements in sensory perception and motor skills, which were maintained even when the device was turned off.

In this sense, Andrea Galvez Solano, an EPFL researcher and first signatory to the study, commented: Synchronization or “The novelty of BCI is that the patient can control the direct stimulus, or movement, through thought.”

According to Galvez, This means that paralyzed men can “adapt to their everyday environment to walk with longer or shorter strides, walk on different surfaces, and even climb stairs.” This interface allows simultaneous activation of neurons above and below the lesion, and targeted rehabilitation sessions are likely to accelerate neurological recovery and improve the patient’s clinical picture, he said. Emphasize.

Two types of electronic implants were required to establish the digital bridge. Bloch explains: “We’ve implanted electrodes developed by the CEA Research Center into areas of the brain that control leg movements. These devices allow us to decode the electrical signals produced by the brain when we think about walking. Also, “a neurostimulator connected to an electrode array was placed in the spinal cord region responsible for the lower extremities.”

“Thanks to the use of adaptive artificial intelligence algorithms, the patient’s movement intentions are deciphered in real time from brain recordings,” commented Guillaume Charvet, CEA’s BCI Program Director.

Next, “These intentions are translated into a series of electrical stimulations of the spinal cord that activate the leg muscles to achieve the desired movement. This digital bridge works wirelessly, allowing the patient to move autonomously.” increase.” emphasizes the expert.

Other possible uses

For the first time in a decade, Gerd-Jan says it feels good to stand in a bar and share a beer with friends again. “This simple joy represents a big change in my life,” she says with satisfaction.

So far the BCI system has only been tested with it. However, according to Galvez, “in the future, Similar strategies can be used to restore arm and hand function. It can also apply to other neurological problems, such as paralysis from stroke.

ONWARD Medical, in collaboration with CEA and EPFL, has received support from the European Commission through the European Innovation Council to develop a commercial version of the Digital Bridge with the aim of making the technology available worldwide .

Source: Biobiochile

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