Epidural stimulators help restore walking ability in paralyzed individualsJanuary 14, 2019
F.B. Wagner et al demonstrated a technological framework called epidural electrical stimulation (EES) to help restore walking ability in individuals with spinal cord injury. EES uses wireless electrical stimulators implanted onto the spinal cord to improve the neurological recovery in paralyzed people. The study enrolled three individuals who had sustained a spinal cord injury with permanent motor deficits or complete paralysis. The researchers mapped out the areas of spinal cord involved in each movement required for walking and programmed them into a sequence of electrical pulses that would stimulate the spinal cord at the correct time and location to facilitate these movements. The current study employed a patterned EES which, unlike continuous stimulation, helped the individuals in regaining control over previously paralyzed muscles even when electrical stimulation was turned off. The research provided more than five months of rehabilitation, alongside stimulation, which helped the participants improve further. Though the study shows a remarkable development in treating individuals with spinal cord injury, more research needs to be done in order to understand who will benefit from this technology since spinal injuries vary enormously in their location, severity and outcome.
Nature Neuroscience 563, 6 (2018) doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-07237-9