The problem with Parkinson’s is that the patients suffering from it have a trouble walking at a very late stage in life and this is what needs to be solved after early diagnosis. However, that has not been possible so far but a new spinal implant called NeuroRestore aims to solve this problem once and for all.
The report says, “To set expectations, it should be made clear that this patient, Marc, is the only human to try this, though it is by his and other accounts highly effective. These preliminary results will be followed by testing in six more individuals, with a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The patient first gets a lacework of electrodes around the part of the spine that sends signals to their leg muscles. It’s here that, though it’s an over-simplification, the “walk” signal gets turned into the complex rhythm of muscular movements that most tend to take for granted”.
“Then a control unit is attached that has movement models trained on actual motion capture footage of the person walking, if they can. These are triggered by cortical activity that has also been monitored and characterized in the patient so the unit can activate the muscular groups in synchrony with intent, not just operating the legs like machines. By observing the patient try to walk and comparing that to an unimpaired gait and neural signals, the implant can bridge the gap between them, completing the circuit between intent, action, and feedback.”
Marc, the patient who tried NeuroRestore, said, “Getting into an elevator… sounds simple. For me, before, it was impossible. I was skating, I was freezing”. “Now I’m going in quietly. I have no problem. It lets me walk better, lets me do five kilometers without stopping.” The report adds that “With a single patient on the record, it’s going to be a while before anyone with a similar condition will be able to walk into their doctor’s office and say “give me that implant.” But the transformative effect of the tech on Marc was clearly too strong a signal to not crow about a bit. The team’s paper appears in the journal Nature Medicine”.