‘Digital bridge’ between brain and spine enables paralysed man to walk again

Over a decade ago, a cycling accident left Gert-Jan Oskam paralysed after causing him a spinal cord injury. Now, he’s able to stand and walk again thanks to an innovative brain-spine interface (BSI) developed by a team of Swiss neuroscientists.

To walk, the brain must send a command to the region of the spinal cord that’s responsible for movement control. But a spinal cord injury interrupts this communication.

“Our idea was to reestablish this communication with a “digital bridge”, an electric communication between the brain and the region of the spinal cord that is still intact,” said Professor Grégoire Courtine, one of the project’s lead neuroscientists.

To do that, the team created a wireless interface between the brain and the spine using brain-computer interface (BCI) technology that transforms thought into action. As a result, Oksam can now stand, walk, and climb stairs naturally just by thinking about it.