• Paralyzed man able to walk thanks to brain-controlled robotic suit

    By: Bob D'Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    A man who is paralyzed from the shoulders down can move by using a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit, researchers in France said.

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    The 30-year-old former optician from Lyon, France, known only as Thibault, can move all four of his paralyzed limbs, using his brain to navigate in the robotic suit, CBS News reported.

    “I felt like the first man on the moon,” Thibault told NewScientist. “I hadn’t walked for two years. I had forgotten that I used to be taller than a lot of people in the room. It was very impressive.”The suit does not allow Thibault to walk independently yet -- it is suspended from an overhead harness to stop him from falling -- it is still a major step.

    “This is really groundbreaking,” Ravi Vaidyanathan of London's Imperial College told NewScientist

    Thibault was paralyzed after falling 40 feet from a balcony and severing his spinal cord, CNN reported. The suit that allows him movement has only been tested at the University of Grenoble in France and in the lab at Clinatec, a biomedical research center, CBS News reported.

    Researchers implanted recording devices on either side of Thibault's head between his brain and skin, CNN reported. The implants stretched across the area of the brain that controls motor function and sensations, according to the network.

    According to The Lancet Neurology website, Thibault was tested over 25 months that ended July 21, 2019. Thibault "cortically controlled" a program that simulated walking, and he also made upper multi-joint, upper-limb movement with 8 degrees of freedom.

    Initially, Thibault practiced by using the implants to control a virtual character, the BBC reported. Then, he moved on to begin walking in the suit.

    The team’s next goal is to make the exoskeleton self-balancing, Alim Louis Benabid at the University of Grenoble told NewScientist.

    “What we need is higher computation speed -- we don’t yet have the reaction time,” Benabid told the magazine.

    "Obviously, it has a long way to go before it can be generally used, but this is a pivotal step,” Vaidyanathan told NewScientist.

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