Science is progressing at the speed of light. Not only do we use science to change the world around us, we also use science to change ourselves as well. In yet another display of man’s ability to break his own limitations, a paraplegic man who was Paralyzed for five years has been given the ability to Walk Again, thanks to a Brain-Computer Interface that rerouted his thoughts to his legs, essentially give him the power to walk just by thinking about it.
The interface is connected to Electrical Muscle Simulators, which are placed over the leg muscles, giving the person the power to bypass the spinal cord entirely. This was made possible by the amazing work done by the researchers at the University of California, Irvine. They have developed this technology using traditional Electroencephalography (EEG) and commonly used stick-on electrodes, which removes the need for any invasive procedures.
What this means is, that, in the near future the procedure of curing people suffering from paralysis will become as easy as attaching some wires and flipping a switch. The true power however still lies in the brain. “Even after years of paralysis, the brain can still generate robust brain waves that can be harnessed to enable basic walking,” one of the researchers, Zoran Nenadic from the University of California, Irvine in the US, said in a press release. “We showed that you can restore intuitive, brain-controlled walking after a complete spinal cord injury.”
To tap into this power, the subject had to go through intensive mental training, which consisted of wearing an EEG cap that would read his brain waves as he was being instructed to think about walking. The software specially written for this machine processed his thoughts and isolated the brain waves associated with leg movement. This training went on for weeks between the virtual & real world before the man was prepared enough to walk the miraculous 4 feet.
Although this is a great success for both the scientific & medical fields, it will still take a lot of research before this sort of treatment can be made available for people on a mass production scale. The reason behind this is that the interface has to be custom-designed to suit the subject and his / her particular Brain Waves.