Skip to Content
Biotechnology

A brain-controlled exoskeleton has let a paralyzed man walk in the lab

October 4, 2019
Man in exosketeton
Man in exosketetonFonds de Donation Clinatec

The news: A paralyzed man has walked again thanks to a brain-controlled exoskeleton suit. Within the safety of a lab setting, he was also able to control the suit’s arms and hands, using two sensors on his brain. The patient was a man from Lyon named Thibault, who fell 40 feet (12 meters) from a balcony four years ago, leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down.  

How it worked: Thibault had surgery to place two implants, each containing 64 electrodes, on the parts of the brain that control movement. Software then translated the brain waves read by these implants into instructions for movement. The development of the exoskeleton, by Clinatec and the University of Grenoble, is described in a paper in The Lancet this week.

Herculean effort: Thibault trained for months, using his brain signals to control a video game avatar in order to hone the skills required to operate exoskeleton, which was held up by a ceiling-mounted harness. He was able to walk slowly in the suit and then stop, as he chose.

The future: The hope is that one day similar technology could eventually let people in wheelchairs move them using their minds. It’s an impressive breakthrough, but the device is many years away from being publicly available. For example, researchers need to find a way to get the suit to safely balance itself before it can be used outside the laboratory.

Sign up here for our daily newsletter The Download to get your dose of the latest must-read news from the world of emerging tech.

Deep Dive

Biotechnology

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

How do strong muscles keep your brain healthy?

There’s a robust molecular language being spoken between your muscles and your brain.

The quest to show that biological sex matters in the immune system

A handful of immunologists are pushing the field to take attributes such as sex chromosomes, sex hormones, and reproductive tissues into account.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.