Paralyzed Man Walks Again With Exoskeleton Powered By His Brain
By Thanussha Priyah, 07 Oct 2019
Image via Shutterstock.com
A team of experts have developed a breakthrough brain-controlled exoskeleton that will allow tetraplegics, people who have become paralyzed as a result of an injury or illness, to move again.
Doctors in charge of the project explain that it could take several years before the device is available to the masses. However, they reassure that the innovation has the “potential to improve patients’ quality of life and autonomy.”
The device was experimented on a man called Thibault from Lyon, who suffered a 12-meter (39-foot) fall from the balcony of a night club four years ago.
The accident severed his spinal cord, making him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Thibault tells AFP, “When you're in my position, when you can't do anything with your body… I wanted to do something with my brain.”
The 28-year-old spent months training with a video game avatar system to relearn natural movements in order to operate the exoskeleton.
The team of experts from the Hospital of Grenoble Alpes, biomedical firm Cinatech and the CEA research center started the procedure by implanting two recording devices on both sides of Thibault’s head, between the brain and skin.
The sensors monitor and read his sensorimotor cortex, the area in charge of motor function.
This how the system works. When the patient thinks about a movement, each decoder is transmitted into brain signals, which are then translated into an algorithm that allows the exoskeleton to act out the physical command.
Combining the exoskeleton, avatar and video game system, Thibault is now able to walk, stretch out his arms and touch objects. So far, he has covered the length of one-and-a-half soccer pitches.
Thibault shares that this trial has given a “message of hope to people like me,” affirming that “this is possible, even with our handicap.”
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Tétraplégique depuis une chute, un jeune homme réussit à contrôler un exosquelette grâce à des électrodes implantées dans son crâne. Quatre ans après une chute qui l’a paralysé des quatre membres, Thibault parvient aujourd’hui à diriger par la pensée les mouvements d’un exosquelette. Une première réalisée par des chercheurs français, qui ouvre d’importantes perspectives pour les tétraplégiques. Le prototype, issu de 10 ans de recherches de plusieurs équipes, repose sur des électrodes implantées dans le crâne, qui vont capter les signaux envoyés par le cerveau et les traduire en signaux moteurs. Le jeune homme, à qui on a implanté les électrodes il y a un peu plus de 2 ans, s’est entraîné chez lui pendant plusieurs mois sur un simulateur : grâce à son implant, il est parvenu à faire réaliser des mouvements à un avatar virtuel sur l’écran de son téléviseur. Il s’est ensuite rendu trois jours par mois à Grenoble pour faire les mêmes exercices directement sur l’exosquelette. Résultat : il peut avancer les jambes du robot, plier le coude ou encore lever les épaules. #Exosquelette #handicap #tech #innovation #tetraplegic
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I am very happy and grateful to had the opportunity to photograph Thibault, who is able to walk again thanks to the unique mind-controlled exoskeleton of Clinatec Endowment Fund. A big thank you to @labrechestudio who allowed me to live this beautiful human encounter and impressive experience ! Welcome to the future ! 📷 © @juliette_treillet Je suis très heureuse et reconnaissante d’avoir eu la chance de pouvoir photographier Thibault capable de remarcher grâce à l’unique exosquelette du fonds de dotation Clinatec contrôlé par le cerveau. Un grand merci à @labrechestudio de m’avoir permis de vivre cette belle rencontre humaine et cette expérience impressionnante ! Bienvenu dans le futur ! #exosquelette #exoskeleton #science #technologie #tecnology #robotics #robot #journalisme #reportage #reporter #journalism #nikon #france #scienceandtechnology #clinatec #grenoble @cea_officiel @lefigarofr @cea_officiel @le_progres @guardian @france3 @france2 @lehuffpost @lepointfr #handicap #tetraplegic #cerveau #brain @afpphoto @sciencesetavenir @labrechestudio
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A man paralysed from the shoulders down has been able to walk using a pioneering four-limb robotic system, or exoskeleton, that is commanded and controlled by signals from his brain. With a ceiling-mounted harness for balance, the 28-year-old tetraplegic patient used a system of sensors implanted near his brain to send messages to move all four of his paralysed limbs after a two-year-long trial of the whole-body exoskeleton. The results, published in The Lancet Neurology journal on Thursday, bring doctors a step closer to one day being able to help paralysed patients drive computers using brain signals alone, according to researchers who led the work. But for now the exoskeleton is purely an experimental prototype and is "far from clinical application," they added. "[This] is the first semi-invasive wireless brain-computer system designed... to activate all four limbs," said Alim-Louis Benabid, a neurosurgeon and professor at the University of Grenoble, France, who co-led the trial. He said previous brain-computer technologies have used invasive sensors implanted in the brain, where they can be more dangerous and often stop working. Previous versions have also been connected to wires, he said, or have been limited to creating movement in just one limb. In this trial, two recording devices were implanted, one either side of the patient's head between the brain and the skin, spanning the sensorimotor cortex region of the brain that controls sensation and motor function. Each recorder contained 64 electrodes which collected brain signals and transmitted them to a decoding algorithm. The system translated the brain signals into the movements the patient thought about, and sent his commands to the exoskeleton. Over 24 months, the patient carried out various mental tasks to train the algorithm to understand his thoughts and to progressively increase the number of movements he could make. #biotechnology #exoskeleton
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[via AFP, images via Shutterstock.com]
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