|11 August 2016|

After years of paralysis eight patients have regained some sensation and muscle control in their lower limbs thanks to brain-controlled robotics, according to a new report.

By using brain-machine interfaces – including a virtual reality system that used their own brain activity – the patients, paralysed from spinal cord injuries, were able to simulate control of their legs.

Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis led the research, as part of the Walk Again Project in São Paulo, Brazil.

“We couldn’t have predicted this surprising clinical outcome when we began the project,” said Nicolelis, co-director of the Duke Center for Neuroengineering.

“What we’re showing in this paper is that patients who used a brain-machine interface for a long period of time experienced improvements in motor behaviour, tactile sensations and visceral functions below the level of the spinal cord injury,” he said. “Until now, nobody has seen recovery of these functions in a patient so many years after being diagnosed with complete paralysis.”