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8 Paralyzed Patients Learn To Walk Again Using Virtual Reality (gizmodo.com) 17

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: In a new study published in Scientific Reports, eight patients paralyzed with spinal cord injuries exhibited partial restoration of muscle control and sensations in their lower limbs following an extensive training regimen with non-invasive brain-controlled robotics and a virtual reality system. Developed by Duke University neuroscience Miguel Nicolelis and colleagues, the system tapped into the patients' own brain activity to simulate full control of their legs, causing the injured parts of their spinal cord to re-engage. Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) work by establishing direct communication between the brain and a computer, which then allows patients to control external devices with their thoughts, including prosthetic limbs or exoskeletons. Earlier this year, Nicolelis showed that it was possible for a monkey to control a wheelchair with its mind, though with an implanted brain chip. In the new experiment, the system non-invasively recorded hundreds of brain patterns emitted by the brain, collecting these motor commands from those signals, and then translating them into movements. During the year long experiment, Nicolelis and his team investigated the ways in which BMI-based training could influence the ability of paraplegics to walk using a brain-controlled exoskeleton. To augment this process, they turned to virtual reality, which assisted with visualization and mind-body awareness. While in a virtual reality environment, and when hooked up to the exoskeletons, the patients could see virtual representations of the own bodies, and even receive tactile feedback.
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8 Paralyzed Patients Learn To Walk Again Using Virtual Reality

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  • I hope the programmers put some floating hills and dragons in the VR simulation, just for fun.

  • for the people paralyzed by crashing into things while staring at their phones.
  • by m0hawk ( 3030287 ) on Friday August 12, 2016 @01:46AM (#52688997)

    I'm a bit baffled by the lack of comments on this.

    Being able to move your leg (even a little bit) after being told you have lost all control of them forever is pretty damn amazing!

    I hope this is the start of a new scientific/medical field for people who have had spinal cord injuries.

    • by fintux ( 798480 )

      I was wondering the exactly same thing - why there are so few comments. But perhaps this is just great news without causing too much controversy and there's not much to add?

      Though I was expecting at least on some speculation on what else could be achieved with something similar. Also, for me it is very curious that two-way neural function has been restored. Perhaps the neurons are secreting some neural growth factors or through some other mechanism causing also other neurons to restore their function. There

      • by AC5398 ( 651967 )

        Maybe it takes time for the damage to heal. But a lack of stimulation to the nerves over that same time means brain doesn't re-discover the healed areas? The BMI is taking and using brain patterns, and as a result the brain is being made to re-discover and use the healed areas?

  • Seems it's a classic case of chicken n egg problem. The hardware [neural net/connections in spinal cord/brain] gets generated only if there is use/ a use-case. But you can't use if you don't have feedback. So both producer n consumer have stalled. You create a seed disturbance (using VR to coax the logical part to ask for input.. ).. n this gets into a virtuous positive feedback loop. Producer starts churning and the cycle goes. You came out of a dead-lock. In fact a determined human with enormous will-powe

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