Brain and spinal implants help patient with incomplete spinal injury walk again

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Brain and spinal implants help patient with incomplete spinal cord injury walk better


Picture: Source Science News

Written by Corinne Jeanmaire – May 25, 2023

Recent news (again) reported a breakthrough study in the field of spinal cord injury research with many headlines reading something like “Brain implants allow paralysed man to walk using his thoughts”. And indeed, this research is a very encouraging breakthrough and the scientific achievement of the team is astounding! However, headlines should actually have highlighted three important aspects:

– firstly, this Dutch man, Gert-Jan Oksam was never fully paralysed. He participated in a first study in 2018 and was then reported to have an incomplete spinal cord injury. Before receiving any treatment, he was already able to move his legs naturally, and to walk a few meters with a walker. More info in our previous post about Grégoire Courtine’s research.

– secondly, he is not exactly “walking using his thoughts”. To be more precise, his thoughts are captured by two brain implants and are used to give input to a spinal implant. Gert-Jan Oksam had received the spinal e-stimulator as part of a 2018 clinical trial.

– thirdly, this study is very experimental . The 2023 Nature publication is focused on a single patient and it will be long before it can be applied to many other patients. It is indeed extremely invasive, since it requires surgeries and implants both in the brain and in the spine.


These important points being clarified, it remains a very encouraging breakthrough. This patient’s  walking performance has first improved thanks to the electrical stimulation. It was then further enhanced, and made much more natural thanks to the digital bridge created between the brain and the spinal cord of the patient. It is impressive to see that the researchers (Gregoire Courtines and Jocelyne Bloch) managed to create a stable and safe system to read the person’s thoughts and translate them into order without too many interferences.


More information about this:

– Science News: a brain implant helped a man with paralysis walk more naturally.

– Scientific Publications: Nature (2023), Grégoire Courtines, Jocelyne Bloch


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