Breakthrough ‘digital brain-spinal bridge’ helps paralyzed man walk again, regain control of limbs

New Delhi: A multinational research team of neurosurgeons and neuroscientists has developed a brain-spine interface (BSI) technology that converts thoughts into action through electronic implants placed in the brain and spinal cord of a paralyzed person.

It has helped a 38 year old man The volunteer regains natural control over his paralyzed legs, and regains movement in his lower limbs. Gert-Jan, who suffered from tetraplegia – the inability to move the lower and upper limbs – after suffering a spinal cord injury in a bicycle accident, can now stand up straight, walk independently, and even Can climb stairs too.

The device was also found to improve neurological recovery as the volunteer was able to walk with crutches even when the implant was turned off. research findings were published In Nature On 24 May.

Talking about how he can now stand in a bar and share a beer with his friends, Gert-Jan says, “This simple pleasure represents a significant change in my life.”

Grégoire Courtin from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland was the lead author who collaborated with researchers from France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The effects of the BSI system still appear to be local, as it has not been tested on any other part of the spine., Furthermore, it has so far only been tested on one person. “Validation of this digital bridge was limited to a single individual with severe but partial spinal cord damage, and it is therefore unclear whether BSI would be applicable to other injury locations and severities,” the researchers wrote.

however, They are positive about their findings. Researchers Jocelyn Bloch and Grégoire Courtine point out that in the future, a comparable strategy could be applied to restore hand and arm function. Scaling up the digital bridge will require a number of developments, but it should be possible to apply it to other clinical conditions, such as paralysis due to stroke.

“The concept of a digital bridge between the brain and spinal cord begins a new era in the treatment of motor deficits due to neurological disorders,” they wrote.

Read also: 7,200-year-old Indus Valley fibers found in Israel tell us about domestication of cotton

How the BSI system performs compared to previous research

Spinal cord injury disrupts the communication pathway between the brain and the neurons located in the lumbosacral spinal cord that are responsible for controlling walking. This can lead to permanent paralysis.

researchers have before this demonstrated how electrical stimulation targeting the lumbosacral spinal cord restores basic walking and standing functions in people with paralysis.

In one more approach, nerve cell stimulation using electrodes has been used in stroke patients to restore upper body movements. However, the long-term safety and efficacy of this technique remains to be assessed.

That process requires wearing motion sensors to sense movement intentions. In those cases, patients showed limited ability to adapt leg motion to changing terrain and demands, and movement was not as natural.

In bsi technologya direct connection has been developed in the form of a digital bridge. The participant wears an embedded headset with two antennae to ensure that the implants stay connected.

One antenna provides power to the implant, while the other transfers signals to a processing unit that generates online movement signals. The decoded motor intentions are converted into commands that are transferred to a software program on the same processing unit.

The researchers tested this integrated series of hardware and software for about a year. The BSI calibrates itself in minutes, and remains reliable all year round, even at home without supervision.

implantable recorder

Neurosurgeon Jocelyn Bloch, one of the paper’s authors, said they implanted the WIMAGINE (Wireless Implantable Multi-Channel Acquisition System for Generic Interface with Neurons) device over the area of ​​the brain responsible for controlling leg movements.

The device is a 64-channel wireless implantable recorder that measures electrical activity. It becomes invisible once it is implanted in the skull. “These devices have been developed by the French laboratory CEA allow decoding of the electrical signals generated by the brain when we think about walking,” Bloch said.

They placed another neurostimulator in the area of ​​the spinal cord that controls leg movement. The researchers then used adaptive artificial intelligence methods to understand movement intent and decode it in real time. These intentions then electrically stimulate the spinal cord, in turn activating the leg muscles to achieve the desired range of motion.

Over 40 sessions of the BSI test, the volunteer showed improvement in all traditional clinical assessments carried out by the physiotherapist. From the first session he was able to move his hips. Over time, he was able to move his hip, knee and ankle joints as well. Later, he was able to take steps or walk steadily.

These include a six-minute walk test, weight-bearing capacity, and the Berg Balance Scale, which consists of 14 tasks to test a patient’s balance.

Assessment showed that BSI did not decrease participant’s overall balance abilities, but did improve slightly.

Gait quality was also assessed using the Observational Gait Analysis Scale.

The researchers have also developed a BSI system that Gert-Jan can use individually at home. He created a walker with a case that contained all the components of the BSI. The participant is now able to interact with the software, and administer the stimulation, on their own.

(Edited by Smriti Sinha)

Read also: Home made from used diapers – researchers in Japan have created a low-cost, eco-friendly miracle