Brain Implant Leads Man To Walk With Thoughts Alone

A paralyzed man was made to walk again after an implant was inserted in his brain and spinal cord allowing him to use his thoughts to move his legs, according to a report from The Epoch Times. Following a cycling accident 12 years ago, 40-year-old Gert-Jan Oskam was left with a spinal cord injury that paralyzed his legs and partially in his arms. 

Despite being told that he would never walk again, new technology has enabled him to do the impossible. With a “brain–spine interface” that works with his thoughts, Oskam was able to move his limbs once again, as a study notes. 

“To walk, the brain delivers executive commands to the neurons located in the lumbosacral spinal cord,” the study reads, adding that spinal cord injuries do not directly affect the neurons but the pathways that they travel through, resulting in the brain being unable to receive the commands. Therefore, a digital bridge was used between the brain and spinal cord that enables “volitional control,” which restores “more natural and adaptive control of standing and walking.”

Oskam reportedly said that he feels like a toddler once again but is pleased that he can stand and have a beer with his friend. 

The team is led by researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. They fitted an implant in Oskam’s skull that is not visible to the naked eye. When he thinks about walking, the implant reportedly detects activity in the cortex and then sends those waves to a computer in a backpack that Oskam wears. 

But it was not an entirely simple process. Oskam had to undergo 40 rehabilitation sessions before he could voluntarily move his limbs. Researchers believe that without these sessions, the task would not have been likely.