(CNN) — At her research lab at the University of Louisville, neuroscientist Susan Harkema turned her back to her study subject to check a reading on a computer screen.
“Hey Susie, look at this,” the patient called out to her. “I can move my toe!”
Startled, Harkema spun around. The purpose of her study, which involves sending electrical stimulation to broken spinal cords, was to learn more about nerve pathways, not to actually make patients move.
That must be an involuntary spasm, she thought. She asked the patient, Rob Summers, to lie down and close his eyes and follow her commands.
“Move your left toe,” she said to him — and he did. “Move your right toe,” she asked — and he did.
A monkey controlling the hand of its unconscious cage-mate with its thoughts may sound like animal voodoo, but it is a step towards returning movement to people with spinal cord injuries.
The hope is that people who are paralysed could have electrodes implanted in their brains that pick up their intended movements. These electrical signals could then be sent to a prosthetic limb, or directly to the person’s paralysed muscles, bypassing the injury in their spinal cord. Continue Reading »
A paralyzed man will receive experimental surgery connecting a brain chip to systems that activate muscles in his arm.
Doctors will attempt to reanimate a patient’s paralyzed arm with a pioneering surgery that involves capturing signals from his brain and restoring movement through a fine network of electronics linked to arm muscles.
The new effort, being planned by researchers at Case Western Reserve University, will use a brain computer interface, or BCI, developed by researchers at Brown University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Continue Reading »
A new study by Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury (Epub ahead of print) finds that long-term lower extremity functional electrical stimulation (FES) cycling, as part of a rehabilitation regimen, is associated with substantial improvements in individuals with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI).
Improvements include neurological and functional gains, as well as enhanced physical health demonstrated by decreased fat, increased muscle mass and improved lipid profile. Prior to this study’s publication today in the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, the benefits of activity-based restorative therapy (ABRT) programs, such as FES cycling, were largely anecdotal despite publicity in conjunction with the recovery of actor and activist Christopher Reeve. Continue Reading »
A new treatment approach which uses tiny bursts of electricity to reawaken paralyzed muscles “significantly” reduced disability and improved grasping in people with incomplete spinal cord injuries, beyond the effects of standard therapy, newly published research shows.
In a study published online in the journal Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, Toronto researchers report that functional electrical stimulation (FES) therapy worked better than conventional occupational therapy alone to increase patients’ ability to pick up and hold objects. Continue Reading »
Electronic “bridge” could one day assist paralysis patients.
Until recently, severe spinal cord injuries came with a fairly definite diagnosis of paralysis, whether partial or complete. But new developments in both stem-cell therapy and electronic stimulation have begun to provide hope, however distant, that paralysis may not be a life sentence. Complicated muscle stimulation devices can enable limited standing and walking, and the first embryonic stem-cell trials began last year. Other techniques, however, may provide an even simpler solution. Continue Reading »
Three community-based health and wellness facilities to provide better access to exercise for those living with paralysis
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has named three new locations to its NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) Community Fitness and Wellness facilities, which afford people with physical disabilities the chance to improve their health through exercise. Courage Center in Minneapolis, MN, Neuroworx in South Jordan, UT, and NextSteps Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois join Frazier Rehab Institute – Community Fitness and Wellness Facility in Louisville, KY and NextStep Fitness in Lawndale, CA. Continue Reading »