Living life without the use of one’s legs can be difficult to imagine especially if you’re an active fellow. Not being able to get to where you want to go without having needing help can be very frustrating.
Some people struggle through this unimaginable situation every single day. Fortunately, some scientists are working on a technology that successfully gave eight patients who lost the use of their legs due to spinal injury a chance to function normally.
Dr. Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and his team in the Work Again Project were thrilled at being able to allow fully disabled people to regain some muscle use and feel their legs again through the use of a robotic exoskeleton.
“Nobody ever imagined that one day, we will be talking about the possibility of using brain-machine interface to induce partial neurological recovery in patients who have been diagnosed as having complete spinal cord injury,” he said. Check out how it works in the video below.
According to their research published in the Scientific Reports journal, the robotic suit is connected the user’s brain which allows him or her to receive sensory signals from below their spinal cord injury. These signals travel through the nerves in their forearms and replicate the sensation of feeling their legs as they try to walk using the machine.
It also has a virtual reality function that provides participants the chance to practice walking using an avatar without having to move a muscle.
Paraplegic Patient Practices Walking in Virtual Reality
While the progress of the project surprised the scientists, it is still a long way to go before the machine would be able to let fully paraplegic people walk on their own without any assistance from another person.
However, such development is believed to be a great leap towards improving their everyday lives as Cleveland FES Center researcher Ela Plow believes that the technology would definitely be taken as good news for patients who have given up on their quest in getting their legs back.
“Telling the patient that they are completely injured is a very difficult process, because that means almost telling them that they have no potential for recovery. But then they took these patients and gave them long-term retraining through a mix of techniques and realized that they could generate a process of partial recovery. That was very promising.”
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