Paralyzed Man Walks Naturally After Groundbreaking Brain Implants

May 25, 2023

In a groundbreaking scientific achievement that heralds a new era of hope for paralysis patients worldwide, a paralyzed man from the Netherlands has defied all odds and taken his first steps in years.

Meet Gert-Jan Oskam, a once immobilized man whose life has been forever transformed by a team of pioneering neuroscientists and surgeons.

paralyzed man walks with brain implants
Gert-Jan Oskam | Credit: EPFL / Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Oskam, 40, lost his ability to walk in 2011 when he injured his spine in a cycling accident. A spinal cord injury interrupts the communication between the brain and the region of the spinal cord that produces walking, leading to paralysis.

Swiss researchers from the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne (EPFL) restored this communication with a "digital bridge" between the brain and spinal cord that enabled Oskam to stand and walk naturally.

The operation to restore Oskam's movement was performed in July 2021. Neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch cut two holes on each side of his skull above the regions of the brain involved in controlling movement. She then inserted two implants which wirelessly transmit brain signals (Oskam's intentions) to two sensors attached to a helmet on his head.

An algorithm translates these signals into instructions to move leg and foot muscles via a second implant inserted around Oskam's spinal cord - which Bloch attached to the nerve endings related to walking.


After a few weeks of training and physical therapy he was able to stand and walk with the aid of a walker.

"Seeing him walk so naturally is so moving," said Grégoire Courtine, Professor of Neuroscience at EPFL, CHUV and UNIL. "It is a paradigm shift in what was available before".

The eventual aim is to miniaturize the technology, get it out of the lab and into the clinic as soon as possible.

"It's coming," says Courtine. "Gert-Jan received the implant 10 years after his accident. Imagine when we apply our brain-spine interface a few weeks after the injury. The potential for recovery is tremendous".

Watch the video below.

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