Science

Paralysed man walks again using brain-controlled robotic system

Paralysed man walks again using brain-controlled robotic system”

Deep learning AI will likely prove to be an invaluable tool to find patterns in the barrage of data coming out of brain-scanning devices, and companies like Elon Musk's Neuralink claim to be developing devices that can read brain activity data with much greater acuity than current technology, to improve results further.

"Previous brain-computer studies have used more invasive recording devices implanted beneath the outermost membrane of the brain, where they eventually stop working", he told medical journal The Lancet. Within the safety of a lab setting, he was also able to control the suit's arms and hands, using two sensors on his brain.

Each records his brain signals and transmits them to a decoding algorithm.

For two years, Thibault trained the system to recognize the commands being sent from his brain to his limbs.

"Throughout the 24 months of the study, the patient did various mental tasks to progressively increase the number of degrees of freedom".

It is unlikely that Thibault will be able to walk completely independently using the system anytime soon, as that involves precise movements that are now beyond its capabilities, according to lead researcher Prof Alim Louis Benabid.

The research team is continuing its work with the exoskeleton, both with the original patient and with three others. His success was measured in terms of how many times he managed to activate the switch. When tallied with the 33 sessions he spent getting his on-screen avatar to walk, the scientists calculated that Thibault was able to complete 480 steps and move roughly 475 feet.

The trials the team conducted weren't completely successful, but Thibault can perform trials that require him to touch a specific target by moving his arm and rotating his wrist 71 percent of the time. The quality of the recordings from the implants remained stable, the algorithm continued to decode the signals, and the patient experienced no post-surgical complications. Additional tests on different patients are still ongoing.

The 28-year-old man, who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, successfully used the exoskeleton to walk in a recent trial.

But in an accompanying editorial, Tom Shakespeare, a professor of disability research with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said such lofty ambition may need to be tempered by more mundane needs.

"This is far from autonomous walking", Prof.

He did also say the study is a "welcome and exciting advance", but it still has a long way to go. "A danger of hype always exists in this field".

Saying that even if the exoskeleton does prove to be workable, its high costs mean that it's unlikely to be available to most people in the world with spinal cord injuries.



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