Brain implants help paralysed man walk again
A 40-year-old man, who was paralysed in a cycling accident over a decade ago, can walk again thanks to implants in his brain and spinal cord, a report said.
Gert-Jan Oskam told BBC News that he feels like a toddler again and describes re-learning to walk as a “pleasure that many people don’t realise.”
“I feel like a toddler, learning to walk again,” he said. “It has been a long journey, but now I can stand up and have a beer with my friend. It’s a pleasure that many people don’t realise.”
According to the BBC, the electronic implants wirelessly transmit Oskam’s thoughts to his legs and feet via a second implant on his spine.
The system is said to still be in the “experimental stage” but according to BBC, a leading UK spinal charity called it “very encouraging.”
“The important thing for us is not just to have a scientific trial, but eventually to give more access to more people with spinal cord injuries who are used to hearing from doctors that they have to get used to the fact that they will never move again,” said Professor Jocelyne Bloch of Lausanne University.
Bloch is the neurosurgeon who carried out the delicate surgery to insert the implants.
The operation to restore Oskam’s movement was carried out in July 2021. Professor Bloch cut two circular holes on each side of his skull, 5cm in diameter, above the regions of the brain involved in controlling movement. She then inserted two disc-shaped implants which wirelessly transmit brain signals – Oskam’s intentions – to two sensors attached to a helmet on his head.
An algorithm then translates these signals into instructions to move leg and foot muscles via a second implant inserted around Oskam’s spinal cord – which Professor Bloch attached to the nerve endings related to walking.
According to the BBC article, researchers believe that after a few weeks of training, Oskam could stand and walk with the aid of a walker.