Robo-suit and virtual reality reverse some paralysis in people with spinal cord injuries

proxy (1)Two years ago, just before leading a controversial demonstration at the World Cup in which a paralyzed man in a futuristic-looking exoskeleton controlled by his brain appeared to kick a soccer ball, neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis hinted in an interview that his research team would aim for something equally impressive to grab the world’s attention during the 2016 Summer Olympics in his native Brazil.

In a study published today, Nicolelis makes his bid. He and colleagues reveal that eight Brazilians paralyzed because of spinal cord injuries regained some small but significant sensation and muscle control in their lower limbs after many months of training with the robotic exoskeleton, and by a virtual reality avatar also controlled by brain signals. None of the study participants is close to walking again unassisted, but some can voluntarily move leg muscles and have improved bladder or bowel control, significant quality of life issues for those with severe paralysis.

By John Travis | Science

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