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Watch: Tetraplegic man walks again thanks to mind-reading exoskeleton

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A patient with tetraplegia walks using an exoskeleton in Grenoble, France, in February 2019, in this still image taken from a video handout.
A patient with tetraplegia walks using an exoskeleton in Grenoble, France, in February 2019, in this still image taken from a video handout. -
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Fonds De Dotation Clinatec/La Breche/Handout via REUTERS
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Four years after a nightclub fall that left him tetraplegic, a 28-year-old patient from Lyon, France, can walk again thanks to a brain-controlled exoskeleton.

The technology represents a scientific breakthrough that could bring hope to tetraplegics seeking to regain movement.

The results of a clinical trial, conducted in June 2017, were published on Friday in the prestigious American scientific journal "The Lancet Neurology".

Thibault, the patient, trained for months on a video-game avatar system to acquire the skills needed to operate the exoskeleton.

A four-limb robotic system controlled by brain signals helped him move his arms and walk, using a ceiling-mounted harness for balance.

"Two bilateral wireless epidural recorders, each with 64 electrodes, were implanted over the upper limb sensorimotor areas of the brain," scientists said in their study.

"Throughout the 24 months of the study, the patient did various mental tasks to progressively increase the number of degrees of freedom."

Thibault said to he had to "relearn" natural movements from scratch but technology gave him a new lease of life.

In 2015, Thibault's life changed forever when he fell from a balcony while on a night out, severing his spinal chord. He became paralysed from the shoulders down.

Doctors who conducted the trial cautioned that the device is years away from being publicly available but stressed that it had "the potential to improve patients' quality of life and autonomy".