Paralyzed Man Walks Using His Mind-Controlled Robotic Exoskeleton

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Paralyzed Man Walks Using His Mind-Controlled Robotic Exoskeleton

 

A mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton reads the brain signals of Thibault, 30, from France, who became a tetraplegic in 2015, reports Jeff Parsons of the U.K.’s highest-circulating newspaper Metro. The exoskeleton converts his brain signals to movements, helping him move his arms and walk using a ceiling-mounted harness for balance. The robotic system is part of Clinatec and the University of Grenoble’s two-year trial, which is operated by recording and decoding a person’s brain signals. 

 

Photo Credit: AFP (via Metro)

 

Thibault suffered a 15m fall in an accident in a nightclub. According to him, taking his first steps using the exoskeleton was akin to being “the first man on the Moon.” As part of the trial, the 30-year-old underwent surgery “to place two implants on the surface of the brain, covering the parts that control movement.” 64 electrodes on each implant read Thibault’s brain activity and relay the instructions to a computer. Then, a software reads the brainwaves and transforms them into instructions to make his suit move. 

Thibault states, “I didn’t walk for two years. I forgot what it is to stand, I forgot I was taller than a lot of people in the room.” Professor Alim-Louis Benabid of the University of Grenobles cites the exoskeleton as the first “semi-invasive wireless brain-computer system designed for long term use” that activate an individual’s arms and legs. Benabid and his colleagues tell medical journal The Lancet, “Previous brain-computer studies have used more invasive recording devices implanted beneath the outermost membrane of the brain, where they eventually stop working.”

 

Photo Credit: AFP (via Metro)

 

Moreover, such devices were also connected to wires, but they can only create movement on one limb. There are also devices that were focused on restoring movement to an individual’s muscles. Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Tome Shakespeare cautions that Thibault’s suit is far from being “a usable clinical possibility.” 

“A danger of hype always exists in this field. Even if ever workable, cost constraints mean that hi-tech options are never going to be available to most people in the world with spinal cord injury,” he asserts.

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