SCIENTISTS at the the University of Grenoble have hailed it a technological breakthrough after 30 year old quadriplegic Thibault took his first steps using only the power of his mind and a highly advance full exo skeleton.
The breakthrough is only at the testing stage at the moment and only a few steps have been taken at the researchers laboratory but scientists have said that one day this technology could help patients quality of life.
To enable the suit to work, surgeons placed two implants in Thibault’s brain in the area that controls movement.
Each implant contains 64 electrodes that read brain activity and send the information to a computer that controls the movement of the suit.
The idea of the technology is that if Thibault thinks “walk” the highly advanced programs read that information and move the appropriate area of the suit to mimic a walking motion.
He can also move both of his arms in a three dimensional manor using only the receptors in his brain.
Thibault was paralysed four years ago after he fell 15 metres in an incident at a nightclub.
He spent two years in hospital before putting himself forward for clinical trials with research company Clinatec and the University of Grenoble.
Initial tests involved using his mind to control a virtual character on screen before moving to the full suit.
“It was like [being the] first man on the Moon. I didn’t walk for two years. I forgot what it is to stand, I forgot I was taller than a lot of people in the room,” he said.
Speaking on learning how to use his arms again, “It was very difficult because it is a combination of multiple muscles and movements. This is the most impressive thing I do with the exoskeleton.”
“This is far from autonomous walking,” Prof Alim-Louis Benabid, the president of the Clinatec executive board explained.
“He does not have the quick and precise movements not to fall, nobody on earth does this.”
Because of this, during the tests he has to be attached to a roof harness to prevent him from toppling over.
Although the technology has a long way to go, it is a tantalising glimpse into the future of using technology and mind control to help give lives back to spinal chord injury patients.