Nine people with different degrees of lower body paralysis gained the ability to walk after receiving prolonged electrical stimulation to the injured area of their spine. This led to researchers identifying neurons that may help to improve walking ability post-paralysis.
Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord is often used to relieve pain in people with spinal cord injuries. In the latest discovery, electrical stimulation also accelerated walking recovery among people with spinal cord injuries who had enough functioning neurons in the affected area.
“We mimic the way the spinal cord is normally activated by electrical signals from the brain when you walk, by electrically stimulating the right spot of the spinal cord at the right time to move leg muscles,” says Jocelyne Bloch at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.