AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Exoskeleton Helps Paralyzed Man Take Voluntary Steps

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Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles recently reported how a man paralyzed from the waist down has been able to move his legs voluntarily, with the help of a robotic exoskeleton. The “step-like” movements the man was able to take are an advance of previous efforts by the same research team that saw five men with a similar condition make rhythmic movements with their legs. The latest research combines new, noninvasive spinal stimulation techniques with a battery-powered wearable bionic suit. The researchers reported how — after completing 5 weeks of physical training, followed by five 1-hour sessions using spinal stimulation training — this man has become the first person to achieve voluntary control with a robotic device that aims to enhance mobility. Data capture from the robotic device enables researchers to measure to what degree a patient is moving their limbs themselves, and how much is done by the device. The team found that he was actively and voluntarily flexing his left knee and raising his leg both during and after electrical stimulation, working with the robotic exoskeleton to produce these movements rather than leaving the device to do all the work. The research team is hopeful that this type of intervention may improve mobility for patients with partial paralysis on a larger scale. To read more about this study, click here.

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