Robot-Like Machines Helped People With Spinal Injuries Regain Function

Scientists with the international collaboration “Walk Again Project” used robot-like methods to retrain patients with spinal cord damage. Scientific Reports suggests that even patients with paraplegia and severe spinal tissue damage can regain control over their lower body to a certain extent.

Eight participants of the research in Brazil weren’t able to fully support their bodyweight but they have experienced “partial recovery.” Some male participants were able to obtain better control of their bladders and have erections. One woman was able to make a decision to deliver a baby. “She could feel her baby for the first time,” said Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, the leading neuroscientist and physicist of the project.

The researchers used virtual reality goggles to visualize the limb movements and return tactile feedback on the arm of their patients. This process was done in order to create brain cells that can pick up electrodes to move the robotic apparatus that supports the patients’ movement. As the participants improved to visualize their limb movements, they were also regaining actual control and sensation over their lower body.

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