Electrical device sparks hope for spinal cord injury patients

New hope could be on the horizon for New Jersey residents who have a spinal cord injury. Physicians have been experimenting with implanting a device that sends electrical charges to the brain in the spinal cords of several paralyzed patients. Four patients have been able to regain some movement in their legs and feet.

Each subject had suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted in paralysis below the neck or chest for at least two years prior to testing. While the study is still in the developmental phase, doctors are hopeful that the project can lead to other effective treatments for people affected by spinal cord injuries. The patients that have regained some movement in the course of the study are invigorated by the possibilities.

Funded by the U.S. National Institute of Health and several other organizations, the study appears to demonstrate the potential of using electricity as an alternative to impaired neural response. When the device sends the electric signal through the spinal cord, the brain receives the message and sends back a physiological order for movement. The device overrides the neural pathways inhibited by injuries. Scientists hope to continue developing similar methods to treat paralysis in the lower and upper regions of the body.

Although this device appears to produce limited movement, researchers still regard the advancements as promising. When a person suffers a permanent injury to the spinal cord, impaired mobility or paralysis can be one of the post-injury conditions. Limited movement or complete lack thereof is often the result. Medical and scientific advancements such as this could be fundamental for improving the quality of control and life for people suffering from paralysis.