A non-invasive procedure has been used by scientists to help people with paralysis to voluntarily move their legs.
UCLA conducted a study, where five men who had been completely paralyzed were able to move their legs in a rhythmic motion thanks to a new, non-invasive procedure that stimulates the spinal cord.
V. Reggie Edgerton said although it likely will be years before the new approaches are widely available, he now believes that it was possible to significantly improve quality of life for patients with severe spinal cord injuries, and to help them recover multiple body functions.
In the new research, five men were given one 45-minute training session per week for 18 weeks.
For four weeks, the men were also given twice daily doses of buspirone, a drug often used to treat anxiety disorders. Researchers placed electrodes at strategic points on the skin, at the lower back and near the tailbone and then administered a unique pattern of electrical currents.
Edgerton said that the fact that they regained voluntary control so quickly must mean that they had neural connections that were dormant, which we reawakened.
Edgerton added that most experts, including himself, had assumed that people who were completely paralyzed would no longer have had neural connections across the area of the spinal cord injury. Their team also plans to study people who have severe, but not complete, paralysis.
The study is reported in the Journal of Neurotrauma.