Scientific breakthrough: AI helps paralyzed man to walk again using only his thoughts

TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Last updated on May 26, 2023, 18:00 IST

AI helps a paralyzed person to walk

(Image source: BBC)

A Dutch paralyzed man – Gert-Jan Oskam, 40 years old – can now walk calmly using only his thoughts. The scientific breakthrough occurred with the help of two implants that restored the connection between the man’s brain and spinal cord, giving him “a freedom I never had before,” ABC News reported.

How the paralysis happened

Oscam has been paralyzed in his legs for more than ten years. It happened after he suffered a spinal cord injury during a bicycle accident. Using this new technology, he can now walk “naturally”, hold difficult positions and climb stairs, according to a study published in the journal Nature.


About technology

The technology is the result of more than a decade of work by a team of researchers in France and Switzerland.

Last year, the team allowed three paralyzed patients to walk on a spinal cord that sent electrical impulses to stimulate movement in the leg muscles. However, each time they need to press a button to move their legs. This made it difficult to get into a “natural step” rhythm.

AI methods solve brainstorming in real time

Recent research combines spinal implants with the new technology of the brain-computer interface. This is implanted above the part of the brain that controls leg movement. The interface has the ability to decode brain recordings in real time, the researchers said. This interface, designed by researchers at the French Atomic Energy Commission, allows the patient to know in real time how they want to move their legs at any given time.

Creating a “digital bridge”.

The information from the brain is then transmitted to a spinal implant through a mobile device that fits in a walker or a small bag. Together, the two implants will build a “digital bridge” to bridge the connection between the spinal cord and brain that was created during the Oskam accident.

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Increase recovery without implants

The researchers found that after six months of training, Oscam regained some of the sensory and motor skills he lost in the accident. Even when the “digital bridge” was lost, he was able to walk with crutches.

Guillaume Charvet, a researcher at the French CEA, said that this suggests that “the establishment of a connection between the brain and the spinal cord promotes the reorganization of neurons at the site of the injury.”

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