Through rehabilitation of brain and muscles, quadriplegics have partially regained sensation and control of certain members of the body.
paraplegic, paralyzed for years, regained sensation and partial control of their legs, and some even sexual life, the results ” unprecedented “obtained through an innovative brain and physical rehabilitation, researchers announced Thursday. “Until now, nobody had observed the recovery of these functions in a patient many years (3-13 years) after diagnosis of complete paralysis” of the lower limbs, says Dr Miguel Nicolelis, a neuroscientist from US Duke University (North Carolina) who led the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
These advanced “amazing” and “unprecedented” were obtained at the end of a year with a so-called brain-machine interface (direct bond system between the brain and a computer), without establishment of chip electrodes or stimulator in the body. Each of the eight patients paralyzed in both legs had to imagine walking through a virtual avatar. This allowed to reappear representation of the lower limbs in his brain, the researchers found that lead this project in Brazil.
Rehabilitation probably reactivated the nerves of the spinal cord that had survived the trauma causing paraplegia (car accident, fall …). “It may be a small number of remaining nerve fibers, but sufficient to convey signals from the brain motor cortex area of the spinal cord,” explains Dr. Nicolelis. Rehabilitation combined an intensive immersion in virtual reality, reinforced by visual and tactile signals (giving the sensation of touching the ground) received by the patient and exercise, including treadmill. The material also includes exoskeletons, the body’s supporting structures for walking activated by thought.
An electrode helmet on the patient’s skull and captures the signals associated with movement sent by the brain, to allow the software to decipher.
“Some of them have recovered the ability to have sex, erections”
with this training, patients were able to perform voluntary movements. After a year, sensation and muscle control four patients had improved sufficiently for doctors to requalify the level of their paralysis, partial total paraplegia. After twenty months, that number rose to seven, said the study leader.
Most of the patients have also benefited from an improved bladder control and operation of their intestine, reducing their dependence on laxatives and probes, so the risk of infection, a leading cause of death among them. The best results were found among both women paralyzed for over ten years without any sensation in the lower part of their body. A video shows one of them voluntarily move his legs, supported by a kind of harness.
One of these patients can now sit and drive. One of them was also able, “for the first time, to feel her baby (her second child) and contractions” during childbirth, according to the researcher. Male patients also reported an improvement in their sexual performance. “Some of them have recovered the ability to have sex, erections,” added Dr. Nicolelis.
If Ian Burkhart
Another study is planned to determine how long it would be desirable to continue the rehabilitation even reduced.
Recently, an American quadriplegic 24 years, Ian Burkhart was able to use his hand to grasp an object or take his coffee, using software and a chip implanted in his brain to convert his ideas into action. This also meant bulky cables, unlike this new method. This could be tested in the future on paralyzed patients recently. It could also benefit other diseases (stroke, degenerative diseases), according to researchers, which provide for a reduction in cost to enable its release.Reproduction prohibited