Paralyzed Man Walks Again: A Stonking Achievement in AI by the University of Lausanne

In a stonking display of technological innovation, researchers from the University of Lausanne have achieved a remarkable feat: enabling a paralyzed man to walk again. This breakthrough involves an artificial intelligence (AI) system that wirelessly connects the brain and legs of the patient, effectively bridging the gap caused by a spinal cord injury​.1​​2

Gert-Jan Oskam, a Dutchman aged 40, had been paralyzed for over a decade due to a spinal cord injury sustained in a bicycle accident. His life took a turn for the better when he became the first test pilot of an AI system developed by researchers in France and Switzerland​1​. This extraordinary technology enabled him to walk naturally, traverse difficult terrain, and even climb stairs—a level of mobility that seemed impossible not so long ago.​1​​2

The AI system comprises two implants: a brain-computer interface implanted above the part of the brain controlling leg movement, and a spinal implant. The interface uses algorithms based on AI to decode brain recordings in real time. This information is then transmitted to the spinal cord implant via a portable device, creating a “digital bridge” across the disconnect between the brain and spinal cord caused by the accident.​1​​2

Oskam shared how this breakthrough has given him a newfound freedom, stating, “Now I can just do what I want—when I decide to make a step the stimulation will kick in as soon as I think about it.” This represents a massive leap from earlier versions of the technology, where patients had to press a button to move their legs.​1​​2​ The AI system’s ability to decode brain signals in real time allows Oskam to move in a more natural and fluid way, reconnecting two regions of the central nervous system that were interrupted due to his spinal cord injury​2​.

Oskam’s journey to this point has been long and challenging, involving invasive surgeries to implant the devices. However, the benefits have been stonkingly impressive. Apart from gaining the ability to walk again, Oskam has been able to enjoy simple pleasures like standing at a bar with friends, a significant change in his life.​1

Beyond mobility, the system also seems to stimulate some healing. After six months of training with the AI system, Oskam regained some sensory perception and motor skills he had lost in the accident. He was even able to walk with crutches when the “digital bridge” was turned off, suggesting that the establishment of a link between the brain and spinal cord might promote a reorganization of the neuronal networks at the site of the injury.​1​​2

Despite the exciting progress, researchers caution that it will take “many more years of research” to make this technology widely available. However, the team is already preparing a trial to study whether this technology can restore function in arms and hands and potentially help with paralysis caused by stroke​.1​​2

This groundbreaking work heralds a new era in the treatment of motor deficits due to neurological disorders, with AI playing a central role in creating a “digital bridge” between the brain and spinal cord. The University of Lausanne’s achievement is a testament to the transformative potential of AI in medical science and offers hope to countless individuals around the world living with paralysis.​2