Can Paralyzed Walk in the Future?

Can Paralyzed Walk in the Future?
September 5, 2035 – More than 20,000 quadriplegics around the world have now got a BCI, a Brain Computer Interface. It gives them the ability to control their environment, from driving their own electric wheelchairs outside their house, to make their own dinner.

The BCI consists of an internal sensor to detect brain cell activity and external processors that convert these brain signals into a computer-mediated output under the person’s own control. The sensor is implanted on the surface of the area of the brain responsible for movement, the motor cortex, and is then wireless connected to a computer. The first successful implanted BMI was BrainGate for more than 30 years ago, which then gave the patient the ability to move a cursor on a screen and play a simple computer game.

BCI is mainly for people with severe motor impairments from spinal cord injury, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) or other motor neuron diseases

Steve Nelson from Hoboken, New Jersey has had his BCI for 3 years: “It definitely changed my life, after being completely stuck in my chair for several years after the accident. We have connected everything in my apartment to the software that I control with my mind. I can even go out of my apartment, take the elevator down and go for a tour downtown, without anyone assisting me. With the robotic hand at my chair I can open the freezer, take out the food I want, and cook it myself.” However, how well this work of course differs from individual to individual and some criticism has been heard that the BCI is given to people who could not benefit from it for different reasons.

The developing of the BCI software and the experience from the increasing number of users now gives hope that legs and arms can be activated by thought only. Tests are currently made on people with BCI and if the result is positive a solution can be on the market in the near future.

Even though improvements have been made towards cloning of human organs scientists agree that there are still some years left for them to successfully help a person with spinal cord damage to walk again.


Argument: Tests with the BrainGate Neural Interface System have been successful, proving the possibility for a quadriplegic to move a cursor on a screen by thought only.

Questions: In what other ways can quadriplegics control their environment with their mind? When will it be possible to help a person with spinal cord damage to walk again?