soccer2According to a news release from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a paralyzed teenager is slated to use a brain-controlled robotic exoskeleton to stand, walk, and kick the first ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup this June.

Work on the exoskeleton via the Walk Again Project has been led by Miguel Nicolelis, MD, PhD. The Walk Again Project is a nonprofit, international collaboration among the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering, the Technical University of Munich; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne; the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil; The University of California, Davis; The University of Kentucky; and Regis Kopper, PhD, of The Duke immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE).

The project finds its roots in research performed by Nicolelis’ lab, which used microwires that had been implanted into the brains of rats and monkeys. These electrical prongs are built to detect minute electrical signals, or action potentials, generated by hundreds of individual neurons distributed throughout the animals’ frontal and parietal cortices.

DiVE states on its website that thanks to further advancements, virtual reality training will pave the way to allow the teen kicker to control the technology and kick the ball. A non-invasive headpiece that detects brain waves is intended to provide this control.

The brain-controlled exoskeleton, APTA reports, is controlled by brain activity transmitted to electrodes that transmit wireless signals to a wearable computer engineered to generate the exoskeleton’s movements. The exoskeleton is comprised of sensors designed to send key information about movement such as kicking off, force, or rolling off the toe, back to the user through electronic vibrations or a visual monitor.

The APTA notes that the initial debut of the plans appeared in The Washington Post here and reports of the official debut appear here.

[Source(s): APTA, DiVE]