Five men with complete motor paralysis were able to voluntarily generate step-like movements thanks to a new strategy that non-invasively delivers electrical stimulation to their spinal cords. The strategy, called transcutaneous stimulation, delivers electrical current to the spinal cord by way of electrodes strategically placed on the skin of the lower back. This expands to nine the number of completely paralyzed individuals who have achieved voluntary movement while receiving spinal stimulation, though this is the first time the stimulation was delivered non-invasively. Previously it was delivered via an electrical stimulation device surgically implanted on the spinal cord.
The research team was led by Prof V. Reggie Edgerton, Ph.D., at UCLA and Dr Yury Gerasimenko, Ph.D., from the Pavlov Institute St. Petersburg, Russia. Results were published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.