June 24, 2024

Athens News

News in English from Greece

A former cyclist confined to a wheelchair is back on his feet thanks to artificial intelligence


After 12 years, a paralyzed cyclist, confined to a wheelchair, is able to walk again thanks to artificial intelligence that uses implants to read his thoughts and activate his leg muscles.

40-year-old Geert-John Oskam from the Netherlands, according to the New York Times, was in a bicycle accident in China in 2011, during which he broke his spine (at the neck level) and was paralyzed.

Researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, led by neurosurgeon Jocelyn Bloch, performed the surgery. As they explain in a study published in the journal Nature, Oskam's problem was that the accident interrupted the connection between the brain and muscles. This connection was made through the spinal cord nerves located inside the spine.

Researchers have created a “bridge” connecting the brain cells responsible for moving the legs (sensorimotor cortex) with the nerves in the spinal cord that make the legs move.

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For this they placed two electrical implants in the sensorimotor cortex. The chips receive electrical signals from the brain to move the legs, which is essentially a person's thinking when they want to walk. They then wirelessly transmit data to a device on Oskam's back, which uses artificial intelligence to convert electrical thought signals into electrical impulses. The pulses are then sent wirelessly to an electrical implant in the spinal cord. There, 16 electrodes are used to activate the nerves that control leg movement, allowing the patient to stand, walk and climb stairs.



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