A 5-year paraplegic reportedly gained the ability to walk, thanks to an electroencephalogram (EEG)-based system using brain signals traveling to electrodes placed around the person’s knees to create movement.

A study published recently in the open access Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation describes what was involved in helping the person to walk, according to a media release from BioMed Central.

Per the study, EEG-based system enabled the person to walk along a 3.66-meter-long course.

The release explains that the person initially needed to undergo mental training to reactivate his brain’s walking ability. While seated and wearing an EEG cap to read his brainwaves, the participant trained to control an avatar in a virtual reality environment. He also required physical training to recondition and strengthen his leg muscles.

The person later practiced walking while suspended 5 cm above ground, so he could freely move his legs without having to support himself. On his 20th visit, he began walking on the ground aided by the use of a body-weight support system to help prevent falls. Over the 19-week testing period, the study participant gained more control and performed more tests per visit, the release continues.

An Do, MD, from University of California, Irvine, one of the study’s lead researchers, states in the release that 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. This noninvasive system for leg muscle stimulation is a promising method and is an advance of our current brain-controlled systems that use virtual reality or a robotic exoskeleton,” she adds.

Zoran Nenadic, DSc, the study’s senior lead researcher, also from University of California, Irvine, says in the release that once the usability of this noninvasive system is confirmed, the next step could be invasive means, such as brain implants.

“We hope that an implant could achieve an even greater level of prosthesis control because brain waves are recorded with higher quality. In addition, such an implant could deliver sensation back to the brain, enabling the user to feel their legs,” he continues.

[Source(s): BioMed Central, Science Daily]