Imagine being a paraplegic patient for years, then being able to learn to regain some control and feeling in your legs without undergoing invasive surgery. Well a group of eight people with the help of the Walk Again Project were recently able to achieve this! Since 2013, they have been conducting a study in Brazil using a combination of virtual reality technology, brain machine interfaces (BMIs), and EEG brain-wave monitoring to help paraplegic patients find nerves they thought were paralyzed, but were only dormant. All of these patients suffered a spinal cord injury in the past decade or longer that caused their paralysis.
The scientists used three different settings to train their patients: virtual reality headset, virtual reality and suspension, and virtual reality with an exoskeleton. There isn’t a complete explanation for why this method works with long-term training, but they basically tricked the patient’s brain into finding those dormant nerves and learning to use them again. In the future, this may lead to a new form of therapy and rehab for paraplegic patients all over the world.