Virtual Reality and Exoskeletons Helped Paraplegics Walk Again

Virtual Reality and Exoskeletons Helped Paraplegics Walk Again
August 12 13:48 2016 Print This Article

(THE VERGE) – A combination of motorized exoskeletons and virtual reality could help paraplegics regain some control of paralyzed limbs, according to a new study.

New research published today in the journal Scientific Reports looked at how this therapy affected eight patients — all but one of whom were diagnosed as completely paralyzed from spinal cord injury. None of the patients had responded to previous types of rehab.

For 12 months, the patients participated in a training regimen that involved immersive virtual reality training, visual-tactile feedback, and walking with a custom-designed lower-limb exoskeleton.

Following the program, all the patients showed signs of recovery of voluntary muscle function below their spinal cord injury and went from experiencing nearly no sensations to experiencing sensations like touch and pain. Patients also regained some degree of bladder and bowel control, as well as improved cardiovascular function. Four of the participants originally classified as completely paralyzed were reclassified as having incomplete paraplegia, a less severe form of spinal injury.

The program involved three parts. In the first, patients were fitted with an Oculus Rift, an EEG cap to measure brain wave activity, and a vibrating tactile feedback device attached to their forearms. The patients were tasked with moving a soccer player avatar through a stadium in virtual reality by imagining the movements in their own body. The study says they were able to activate areas of their brains associated with leg movement, which were picked up via the EEG cap.

In the second phase, patients were put on a treadmill while wearing a robotic exoskeleton that automatically moved their legs for them. The third part combined the first two, with patients placed into another exoskeleton which they controlled with their minds in a similar way to how they controlled the soccer player avatar in virtual reality.

See the full article and images HERE