S. Thomas Carmichael, MD, PhD: How researchers are restoring movement in people with spinal cord injuries

Stanley Carmichael Jr

"As many as 500,000 peopleTrusted Source around the world each year experience a spinal cord injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, it can cause paralysis and affect a person’s ability to move and walk.

In the United States, about 5.4 million people live with some type of paralysis, with spinal cord injuries causing 27.3% of those cases.

Now, researchers from the NeuroRestore research center at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have identified specific neurons that, when activated, help restore a person’s ability to stand up and walk after paralysis. 


MNT also spoke with Dr. S. Thomas Carmichael, Frances Stark Chair in the Department of Neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and secretary of the American Neurological Association, about this research.

He explained injuries such as spinal cord injuries damage neurons and their connections, disabling walking and other movement functions.

“Many theories for this effect of damage hold that the damage directly disrupts the movement-controlling cells and their connections, and this is one cause of impaired walking,” Dr. Carmichael continued.

“However, scientific evidence also suggests that stroke, spinal cord, and traumatic brain injury also stun neurons that survive the injury, and these populations of surviving neurons cannot recover the lost function because they cannot fire together to mediate movement. This idea of a lack of ability of surviving neurons after brain and spinal cord injury to fire together in a coordinated sequence with their neighbors is supported by many studies in experimental models in the lab and in a correlative way in human studies.” 

“Many in the field of neurorehabilitation assumed that spinal cord stimulation would mediate recovery of walking by facilitating the firing of neurons together in the proper sequence and within a new group of active neurons—a new network of neurons that takes over the function of walking,” he added.

“However, this group of authors found that instead, stimulation of the spinal cord turns down activity of most neurons, and selectively activates a new and under-recognized population of neurons in the spinal cord, the Vsx2 neurons,” he told us."

Read more at MedicalNewsToday.