The spinal cord is a part of our bodies that serves as a vital link between our brain and body, transmitting signals that control every movement. When this connection is disrupted due to an injury, paralysis occurs. Many have said paralysis is a fate worse than dying, leaving you in need of constant support for every action.
As technology advances, we have made significant advancements in helping people with such disabilities. For instance, we already have bionic limbs attached to people who have lost or were born without limbs. They create a system that connects their brain to the bionic component, recreating the electric signals needed for movement. A system that replaces the spinal cord and allows to regain movement for patients paralyzed by spinal cord damage is possible following the same logic, although at a bigger scale. Brain-Spine Interface (BSI) seems to be a potential solution for people with spinal cord injury-related paralysis.
The BSI system is designed to assist individuals with spinal cord injuries in regaining control over their lower limbs. To accomplish this, the system utilizes personalized headsets and external antennas that wirelessly power implanted electronics while facilitating the transmission of signals between the brain and a portable base station. This seamless connection between the brain and spinal cord plays a critical role in the restoration of lost motor function.
In a recent clinical trial, researchers witnessed an extraordinary demonstration of the BSI system’s capabilities. The trial included a participant who had been paralyzed for 12 years due to a cycling accident. Remarkably, this individual effectively controlled lower limb movements, achieving natural walking. The patient even navigated complex terrains with the aid of this revolutionary technology.
The BSI system is based on the ability to decode intentions and transfer signals. It does this using electrocorticography signals. Placing 64 electrodes over the sensorimotor cortex in the patient’s brain and connecting them via Bluetooth allows the team to retrieve these signals. By analyzing them and using AI, the system can interpret desired movements and convert them into stimulation commands. They are then delivered to an implantable pulse generator connected to an electrode array over the spinal cord.
This precise stimulation activates specific muscle groups, effectively controlling lower limb movements. The whole process is fortified by AI predicting intentions and adapting to the user, which enables the BSI to operate in a personalized way. This precisely controls lower limb muscle activation and facilitates natural walking movements.
The development of the Brain-Spine Interface (BSI) system brings a glimmer of hope to those affected by spinal cord injuries. Just as bionic limbs have offered a solution for individuals with limb loss. Through the integration of technology in medical innovation, we are moving closer to a future where paralysis may no longer be an insurmountable barrier.
YouTube: Paralyzed man walks after Bluetooth connects his brain and spine
Photo credits: The feature image is symbolic and was created with the help of Adobe Firefly image generation, as we were unable to obtain permission to use actual photos relating to the story. The images in the body of the article are owned by Nature and were made available under a creative commons license.
Source: News in Health / Nature