In June, Brian Gomez, who broke his neck in a dirt bike accident five years ago, was implanted with a 32-electrode stimulator below the site of his spinal cord injury, near the C-5 vertebrae.
“The spinal cord contains alternate pathways that it can use to bypass the injury and get messages from the brain to the limbs,” said Dr. Daniel Lu, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the school’s Neuroplasticity and Repair Laboratory. “Electrical stimulation trains the spinal cord to find and use these pathways.”
“We’d used electrical stimulation to recover paraplegic patients’ abilities to stand and move their legs on their own following injury to the lower spine,” said Prof Edgerton, a distinguished professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College. “There was considerable skepticism in the field that we could use a similar approach to regain hand function in quadriplegic patients with injury to the upper spine. Brian’s strong response to the implant has been very exciting.”