Daily Management Review

Brain-Computer Interface Helps Man Walk Again Without Any Robotic Exoskeleton


Brain-Computer Interface Helps Man Walk Again Without Any Robotic Exoskeleton
A recent breakthrough in brain-computer interface (BCI) technology has enabled a paralyzed man who lost his ability to walk five years ago, walk again.

This technology for the paralysed man was developed by researchers from different University of California campuses.
Brain-computer interface came to the forefront during the FIFA 2014 World Cup when a man paralysed from the waist down was able to kick a ceremonial goal thanks to the assistance of a robotic exoskeleton suit.
In the case of this 26 year old man however, was the first paraplegic to walk again without the assistance of robotic limbs and only with the aid of a brain-computer interface.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) cap that has the capability to measure electrical impulses from the brain, picking up the impulses through pressed flat metal discs against the scalp. The feed from the EEG cap was then amplified by a small amplifier and  was wirelessly transferred to a computer. The man who tested the technology wore the cap while attempting to walk.
The computer analyzed the signals from the brain using a set of complex algorithms and worked out the signals that focused on the act of walking – or not walking or stopping if the subject intended to stop. While working out the signals he algorithm ignored the other signals that emanated from the brain such as talking or moving a different part of the body.
The signals related to walking were then sent by the computer to a microcontroller that the man wore.  The electrodes placed around the knees began muscle contractions when the microcontroller received signals for walking which resulted in the actual act of walking. Similar process followed when the man focused thoughts about not walking or stopping.
"The guy who used this technology was, five years after his injury, still able to maintain brainwaves associated with walking and able to control this over the course of several months and hold a conversation," Christine King, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the media.
He paralysed person however had to undergo trainings before the technology was put to use – for example, the man had to learn how to deliver the message of walking again.
"In his mind he's like 'this is crazy, this will never work' but by the second and third sessions he started learning how he has to think about walking to get the system to work," King said.
Strength training was the most difficult preparatory step as the muscles and bones had gone very weak considering that the person had been immobile for five years. King said it took the person 17 sessions to build enough strength so that he could support his own weight. 
The entire exercise took nineteen weeks till the paralyzed person was ready for the useof the technology to make help him walk.
However the researchers said that commercialization of the technology was somewhat far off at this stage as more tests on mosr subjects needed to be undertaken.
 (source:www. techinsider.io) 

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