Paralyzed Man Walks Using Brain-Computer Link

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University of California-Irvine researchers assisted a paralyzed man as he walks, his legs controlled by signals from his brain. University of California-Irvine

For the first time, a person paralyzed in both legs has regained the ability to walk, without the use of robotics.

The feat was made possible by a device that translates brainwaves into electrical signals that can be read by muscles. Researchers at the University of California-Irvine linked the man’s brain and legs, with wires that extend from an EEG device around the head down to his knees. This allows him to tell his muscles to move, bypassing the broken spinal cord that has left him paralyzed from the waist down.

The results are described in a study published in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, and you can see a video of the man walking—albeit very slowly and with assistance—below.

The study proves that it’s possible "to restore intuitive, brain-controlled walking after a complete spinal cord injury," biomedical engineer Zoran Nenadic told Reuters.

The patient, 28-year-old Adam Fritz, walked a distance of nearly 12 feet. The feat took months of mental training wherein he envisioned himself walking. Scientists then found out how to translate these brain signals into electrical signals capable of commanding his leg muscles.