Brain-Controlled Robotic Suit Helps Paralyzed Regain Movement

Posted: Aug 11 2016, 1:20pm CDT | by , Updated: Aug 12 2016, 10:54pm CDT , in Latest Science News


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Brain-Controlled Robotic Suit Helps Paralyzed Regain Movement
BBC Video Screenshot
  • Using a neural robotic exoskeleton reverses paralysis

Eight people with paralysis being taught how to walk in a robot have regained some nerve control.

It seems learning to use a full bodied robot controlled by your brain can reverse paralysis. As incredible as it may seem the phenomenon has actually happened. Eight paraplegic person i.e. paralyzed have regain some semblance of movement.

The individuals were under training to learn how to use a robotic exoskeleton. The one year training program was designed to teach them how to walk using the robotic armor.

The trainees had to control the armor by wearing a skull cap. The cap is the equivalent to a virtual avatar which can manipulate the exoskeleton. The main idea was to control the legs of the robotic suit using brain nerves. Extraordinarily the training led to some feelings of sensation in the paralyzed regions.

The researchers believe the training stimulated the brain into reawakening the paralyzed parts. It is possible the training led to the brain regaining control over the nerves in the spine which control legs.

The unbelievable results published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

According to the researchers the trainees had been paralyzed for the last 13 years before the program began. All the selected individuals had chronic paralysis which is incredibly difficult to treat.

Miguel Nicolelis from the Duke University in the US was the lead of the study where the exoskeleton was being tested. The training was being carried out at the AASDAP Neurorehabilitation Laboratory in Sâo Paulo, Brazil.

According to Nicolelis after every three months they carried out tests on the trainees. Surprisingly the tests after every three months revealed improvements in muscle control and sense of touch.

They started feeling touch sensation where they were previously dead. However the researchers don’t know exactly which part of the training brought on the changes.

"If you touched them with a pin, or a brush… they would feel something that they didn't experience before," Prof Nicolelis told Science in Action on the BBC World Service.

"They also experienced a significant visceral improvement. This translated into better bowel and bladder functions - which are very critical for these patients."

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