Mind-controlled suit helps paralysed man walk again
London: 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, 28-yearold tetraplegic patient Thibault 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. But for now the exoskeleton is purely an experimental prototype and is “far from clinical application”, they added.
“(This) is the first semiinvasive wireless brain-computer system designed... to activate all four limbs,” said Alim-Louis Benabid, a neurosurgeon and professor at the University of Grenoble who co-led the trial.
He said previous braincomputer technologies have used invasive sensors implanted in the brain, where they can be more dangerous.
In this trial, two recording devices were implanted in the patient’s head between the brain and the skin, spanning the sensorimotor cortex region 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.
Paralysed since a fall four years ago, 28-year-old Thibault now manages to direct the movements of an exoskeleton by thought