Twelve years ago, Gert-Jan Oskam’s life took an unexpected turn when a cycling accident left him with paralyzed legs and partially paralyzed arms due to a spinal cord injury. The once vibrant and active individual found himself facing immense physical limitations, yearning for a way to regain his mobility.
However, today, against all odds, Gert-Jan Oskam stands tall and confidently walks thanks to an extraordinary device that has bridged the gap between his brain and the nerves below his injury. Mr. Oskam shared in a recent press briefing that he had spent the last 12 years striving to regain the use of his legs. Now, he happily added that he has now learned to walk naturally and normally.
Let’s Understand How This Worked!
There’s a special device called a brain-spine interface that connects our brain and spinal cord. This device builds upon the work of neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine and his team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. They made an exciting discovery in 2018. Details of this remarkable accomplishment were recently published in the prestigious medical journal Nature. They discovered that using this gadget along with intense training can help individuals with spinal cord injuries regain their ability to walk.
Here’s how it works: Our brain sends signals to our body through the spinal cord, like a messenger delivering instructions. But when the spinal cord gets injured, these messages can’t reach their destination properly, causing paralysis. The brain-spine interface steps in as a bridge between the brain and the lower parts of the spinal cord.
The interface stimulates the lower spine with tiny electric pulses. These pulses enable the spinal cord to pay attention to the brain’s commands by giving it a gentle nudge. It’s like pressing the play button to start a movie. By awakening the spinal cord, the brain-spine interface helps reestablish the connection and communication between the brain and the legs. But that’s not all. Intense training is essential to enhance the effectiveness of this technology.
More About Mr. Oskam!
Mr. Oskam was part of a special experiment to help people who couldn’t walk due to spinal cord injuries. They tried a device before, but after three years, he didn’t see any more improvements.
Now, they have come up with a new system that combines a device Mr Oskam already had in his spine with two small discs implanted in his skull.
The discs in Oskam’s skull can pick up electrical signals from the brain when he thinks about walking. These signals are like special messages that tell his body to move. The discs send these messages wirelessly to a computer that Mr Oskam carries in a backpack. This computer is like a translator that understands the messages from his brain.
Opening Doors For New Possibilities!
The impact of this breakthrough technology extends far beyond individual stories like that of Mr. Oskam. It holds immense potential to transform the lives of people on a larger scale, offering hope and newfound possibilities for individuals living with spinal cord injuries and paralysis. People do not typically have access to this equipment, but the researchers stated their goal is to bring it to other people.