Brazil’s Walk Again Project!

Brazil is making news, and not only for its economic power, the World Cup, or other soccer-related updates, Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, MD, PhD, is heading the project titled the “Walk Again Project”, which is a pretty descriptive name. Dr. Nicolelis is leading an international team of experts to allow a paraplegic person the ability to control his/her legs. The team members have backgrounds ranging from neuroscience, electronic engineering, computer science, robotics, and motor rehabilitation.

Dr. Nicolelis

The goal of the project is to allow people that have been the victim of brain lesions or neuromotor diseases the ability to move. Dr. Nicolelis, who is a professor at Duke University, put it succinctly when he said, “Our ambition is for wheelchairs to become museum pieces.”

People who suffer from these neuromotor diseases or brain lesions will use an exoskeleton that is linked to the person’s brain activity to control movements. Testing concluded that brain activity can be ‘decoded’ to command the mechanical devices.

Dr. Nicolelis’ team wants to unveil the project at the 2014 FIFA World Cup on the 12th of June at Corinthians Arena in São Paulo. The paraplegic person will enter the pitch using a wheelchair, then proceed to walk over to make the first kick-off to start the World Cup.

According to the Brazilian government website, the project is on-schedule and has recently started its testing stage with 8 Brazilian paraplegics. The 8 people were chosen from the Association for Assistance to Disabled Children in São Paulo. The exoskeleton arrives in Brazil next month, which allows the scientists enough time to gather each individual’s responses and data.

Overall, this is an amazing project that sounds like it is from a script of a science fiction movie rather than real life. This is even more reason to tune in to the World Cup in June!