European neurophysiologists have developed a wireless computer interface that allows you to connect the brain with damaged areas of the spinal cord.
Thus, the ability to walk independently and control the muscles of the limbs in people with disabilities is restored. This was announced on Wednesday, May 24, by the press service of the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne.
Professor Grégoire Courtin said at the school: “We have created a wireless interface that connects the spinal cord to the brain and turns thoughts into actions. This “digital bridge” restored the ability to walk, stand and even climb stairs to Gert Jean, one of our patients who was paralyzed 10 years ago as a result of a back injury.
It is noteworthy that Professor Korten and his colleagues have been developing an approach for many years to restore the functioning of the spinal cord using electrical stimulation and a special exoskeleton that supports the body of a patient or experimental animal during treatment.
This approach was recently tested on three volunteers from Europe who lost the ability to walk as a result of a traffic accident.
The successful completion of these experiments prompted European neuroscientists to develop a more livable device that would allow people with disabilities to move as naturally as possible outside the walls of scientific and medical laboratories. To solve this problem, Professor Courtin and his colleagues upgraded the system they had developed so that it operated in a completely independent and unsupervised mode.
Guided by this idea, scientists have developed an artificial neural interface consisting of 3 components, which are two sets of electrodes implanted in the motor cortex and areas associated with the spinal cord, as well as a digital control system that continuously analyzes signals from the brain. using an artificial intelligence system and converts them into groups of impulses that recognize motor neurons in the spinal cord.
The operation of this system, the components of which were connected to each other via wireless transmitters and data receivers, was tested in experiments on a 38-year-old resident of the European Union named Gert Jahn, who lost the ability to walk 10 years ago. as a result of a back injury after an unfortunate fall from a bicycle.
The scientists attached electrodes to the man’s spinal cord and observed how quickly the volunteer adapted to the neural interface.
It turned out that the neural network algorithms developed by Professor Korten and his colleagues returned the volunteer the ability to control the main muscles of the legs after 5 minutes of running the “digital bridge” between the brain and the spine. A day later, Gert Jahn was able to walk again on his own and perform complex movements, including climbing stairs, and over the following months, he gained control of many previously paralyzed muscle groups.
Subsequent observations showed that the neural interface remained stable for more than a year, which indicated the absence of a strong rejection reaction from the volunteer’s immune system. The researchers hope that such devices in the coming years will restore mobility to many people with disabilities, as well as allow people with complete paralysis to control not only the movement of the legs, but also the movement of the hands.
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