Modified artificial intelligence makes a paraplegic man walk again

Science and technology came together at the Swiss hospital in Lausanne to mark a milestone in the matter. Through an innovative combination of two technologies and through a digital bridge reestablished communication between the brain and spinal cord. The Dutch patient Gert-Jan, walked naturally again. “I got my freedom back”expressed at the press conference.

A bicycle accident that occurred more than ten years ago seemed to condemn him to an irreversible situation, however, thanks to the application of an innovative process, Gert-Jan discovered the miracle of regaining control of his paralyzed legs. The patient could stand up, walk and climb stairs.

“When we met Gert-Jan she was unable to take a step after a severe spinal cord injury. There is a disruption of communication between the brain and the region of the spinal cord that controls the movement of the legs,” Jocelyne Bloch, from the Vaud University Hospital Center (CHUV) explained on the Swissinfo portal.

“It’s very different from what we’ve seen so far,” said French neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine, a professor at the Lausanne Federal Polytechnic School. “Previous patients were making a great effort, now he can do it just thinking that he wants to take a step,” replied the AFP agency.

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Guillaume Charvet, a researcher at the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), an important French laboratory for scientific and industrial research and one of the two that made this scientific advance possible, explained that before this case, other paraplegics had already achieved success thanks to to technological instruments. But the case of Gert-Jan”It is the first time that he controls, thanks to his brain, the movement of his legs and the rhythm of his steps”.

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digital bridge

To restore this communication, Swiss scientists developed a “digital bridge” that transforms thoughts into actions. It is a brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. For it, Electrodes were implanted over the region of the patient’s brain responsible for controlling leg movements.

To make this milestone possible, a neurostimulator connected to an electrode array was also placed over the region of the spinal cord that controls leg movement.

Gert-Jan, the paraplegic patient who walked again

“For the first time, this digital bridge will prevent injury and restore communication between two disconnected regions of the central nervous system.”, Courtine stated.

Guillaume Charvet, head of the BCI program at CEA, a French government-funded technology research body, explained: “Thanks to algorithms based on adaptive artificial intelligence methods, movement intentions are decoded in real time from brain recordings.”

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Charvet added: “These intentions will be required in sequences of electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, which in turn will activate the leg muscles to achieve the desired movement. This digital bridge works wirelessly, allowing the patient to move independently.”

How does this milestone impact the future?

The rehabilitation supported by the digital bridge allowed him to recover neurological functions that he had lost since his accident. The researchers can quantify remarkable improvements in their sensory perceptions and motor skills, even when the digital bridge was turned off, the researchers say. This digital repair of the spinal cord suggests that new nerve connections have developed.

In addition to this scientific milestone, with the Gert-Jan case achieving that, ten years later, a paraplegic man regained mobility; Scientists believe the technology could be adapted to help patients regain arm and hand function and used by others who have been paralyzed after stroke.


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