A team of American researchers has, with the help of virtual reality, got four out of eight paralyzed patients with spinal cord injuries to get the feeling in their legs partially back.
For a year, a team of American researchers led by neurologist Dr. Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University in North Carolina followed eight paralyzed patients with spinal cord injuries. They wanted to investigate how the brain and nerves react when stimulated with virtual reality. The feeling was so strong that four of the eight patients had their diagnosis changed, writes Sky News , among others .
The results came as a surprise to researchers,
who had not anticipated that patients would regain voluntary control of their paralyzed body parts. They had to go a full seven months into the trial to see the first positive signs. One year after onset, the researchers were then able to upgrade the condition of four patients from complete paralysis to partial paralysis. An unheard of improvement.
Virtual reality creates new nerve pathways
Five of the patients had been paralyzed for more than five years and two for more than a decade, but all of them were able to report improvements, for example with control of their bladder and intestinal system, writes Sky News.
In the trial, the patients had to spend at least two hours a week on the Walk Again project, which through virtual reality thus helped the patients to transform brain activity into electrical signals that drive an exoskeleton. With the equipment on, patients then had to imagine that they were going for a walk in the virtual world.
Due to the surprising development, the researchers reckon that new nerve pathways can be created in the brain through training with virtual reality, so that the body gets in touch with the paralyzed body parts again.