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Brain-Machine: Major Gains for Paraplegics

(Duke University Medical Center) Eight people who have spent years paralyzed from spinal cord injuries have regained partial sensation and muscle control in their lower limbs after training with brain-controlled robotics, according to a study…
The patients used brain-machine interfaces, including a virtual reality system that used their own brain activity to simulate full control of their legs. The research -- led by Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., as part of the Walk Again Project in São Paulo, Brazil -- offers promise for people with spinal cord injury, stroke and other conditions to regain strength, mobility and independence…
Several patients saw changes after seven months of training. After a year, four patients' sensation and muscle control changed significantly enough that doctors upgraded their diagnoses from complete to partial paralysis.
Most patients saw improvements in their bladder control and bowel function, reducing their reliance on laxatives and catheters, he said. These changes reduce patients' risk of infections, which are common in patients with chronic paralysis and are a leading cause of death, Nicolelis said.
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