A man paralysed in both legs has received some good news: he might be able to walk again, thanks to a device worn on his scalp.
The gadget collects electrical activity from his brain and sends the signals to his knees, The Independent reports.
Scientists say this is believed to be the first time someone with paraplegia due to spinal injury has managed to walk several paces, under the control of their own legs muscles and brain.
The 26-year-old man was told he would never walk again, after he was in an accident five years ago in which he damaged his spinal cord and broke the nerve impulses between his brain and legs that are required for walking.
Even though he only walked a 3.66-metre course, researchers say this achievement marks an important breakthrough in treating paralysis. It demonstrates the brain can still send commands to the legs, even if an injured spinal cord has blocked normal nerve communication.
The special cap monitors the patient’s electrical signals from around the brain, collecting and sending the signals directly to electrodes in the knee to stimulate muscle movement, bypassing the injured spinal chord.
An Do from the University of California, Irvine, where the research was conducted, said:
Even after years of paralysis the brain can still generate robust brain waves that can be harnessed to enable basic walking. We showed that you can restore intuitive, brain-controlled walking after a complete spinal cord injury.
Good work, science.