Contrary to popular belief, spinal cord injuries are rarely complete. The brain retains access to the spinal cord circuitry below the lesion, but this connection is often dormant. Deep brain stimulation, or electrical stimulation, could activate it and promote recovery of locomotion. But which area of the brain should be targeted?
A research team led by Frédéric Bretzner, a professor at a professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine, has focused on a locomotor center of the brain known as the mesencephalic locomotor region. This area is known as a trigger and accelerator for walking in several animal species. It is composed of the cuneiform nucleus and the pedunculopontine nucleus. Deep brain stimulation of the pedunculopontine nucleus has generated ambiguous results in Parkinson’s patients with gait and postural disorders. However, there are no clinical studies on the cuneiform nucleus.