A Japanese man, almost fully paralyzed, can walk again — in the virtual world "Second Life."
Researchers led by Jun'ichi Ushiba of the Keio University created a brain-computer interface (BCI) that let the 41-year-old patient operate a PC using only his thoughts.
Previous BCI studies have had patients simply move cursors around a display. Ushiba took it further by letting the unnamed patient, crippled by a progressive muscle condition for most of his life, take control of an avatar, or virtual person, in the popular online environment.
The BCI was implanted in the man's motor cortex — signals that would have made his own arms and legs move instead went to the avatar's, which in effect became a virtual body.
Ushiba said the next step would be to let users who are unable to speak to "type" through brain activity.