Wednesday 16 October 2019

Man paralysed for four years walks again as he uses his brainwaves to drive 'Ironman' exoskeleton

 

Sci-fi is fact: 'Ironman'
Sci-fi is fact: 'Ironman'

Henry Bodkin

A quadriplegic man can walk again thanks to a breakthrough computer that can read his mind.

The Frenchman, who has been paralysed for four years after falling from a nightclub roof, was strapped into an exoskeleton driven by a computer able to read signals from his brain.

Named only as Thibault, the 30-year-old optician successfully walked 10 metres and performed a series of complex arm movements using the futuristic machine.

While powered exoskeletons have been a staple of Hollywood sci-fi films for decades, appearing in movies such as the 'Ironman' franchise, this is the first real-world example of one being used to help such a badly injured patient.

Scientists behind the project say it promises to significantly boost the autonomy and quality of life for the 20pc of people with traumatic spinal cord injuries who end up quadriplegic. Major improvements are needed before the technology can be widely used.

A recording device, each including a grid of 64 electrodes, was placed either side of Thibault's head between the brain and the skin where they could span the sensorimotor cortex.

The implants are able to communicate wirelessly with a computer, making them far safer and more practical than wired brain-machine interfaces that have been tried in the past.

Over two years, the computer's algorithm trained itself to understand Thibault's brain waves.

Irish Independent

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