A groundbreaking study out of Switzerland documents a paralyzed man who re-learned to walk after receiving experimental brain and spine implants.
According to the BBC, 40-year-old Gert-Jan Oskam was in a motorcycle accident in 2011 that left him paralyzed for life. At least, that’s what the doctors thought at the time.
However, Oskam was able to regain some ability to walk thanks to revolutionary brain implants.
A study on Oskam’s success, “Walking naturally after spinal cord injury using a brain–spine interface,” was published in the journal Nature on May 24, 2023.
In the study, researchers said that the brain-spine interface (BSI) works by using an implant in Oskam’s brain to transmit thoughts to an implant in his spinal cord. The transmissions allow him to move his legs by simply thinking.
The authors wrote in the study, “To walk, the brain delivers executive commands to the neurons located in the lumbosacral spinal cord. Although the majority of spinal cord injuries do not directly damage these neurons, the disruption of descending pathways interrupts the brain-derived commands that are necessary for these neurons to produce walking.
Using BSI, researchers were able to create a “digital bridge” between the brain and the lumbosacral spinal cord neurons.
In a video shared by the Associated Press, you can see Oskam walking independently with a walker outside. You can also see him carefully walking up three steps.
The movements may seem weak and unsure, but considering he previously had no movement in his legs, it’s a groundbreaking feat.
Check out the video below:
You can see the full study here.