Robotic technology and VR helped 8 long-term paraplegics, who were fully paralysed from the waist down, to make their first steps.
This is the first rehab program of this kind and it is carried out by researchers in Brazil as part of the Walk Again Project.
A system which records brain activity to detect thoughts associated with movement called brain-machine interface
was used to help the patients.
Those signals were first used to control VR avatars, before the patients progressed to brain-controlled robotics, including using exoskeletons to help them take physical steps.
"We couldn't have predicted this surprising clinical outcome when we began the project," said lead neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis from Duke University's Centre for Neuroengineering.
It is possible to recover from paralysis, but it involved surgical procedures that implant devices like computer chips or bionic spines that help them regain movement with their thoughts.
By contrast, Nicolelis's approach is totally non-invasive and suggests that long-term training with external devices can, in fact, wake up nerves that have become inactive after accidents that cause paralysis.
The patients in the study wore fitted caps lined with non-invasive electrodes that recorded brain activity through electroencephalography (EEG), which monitors electrical activity in the brain.
While wearing VR visors, the participants were asked to imagine walking through the virtual environment. At first, the EEG showed no activity in relation to such prompts.
Find out more about the study in the video
source - http://www.sciencealert.com