Neuroscientists from nine European countries are combining their experience to develop systems that could cure paralysis. It could even restore motor functions after spinal cord injuries and help patients suffering from Parkinson's disease.
Tumotech reports that the NEUWalk Project involved a study of paralyzed rats that were able to walk again through electrical stimuli to the spinal cord. The rats all had spinal cords that were entirely severed in the middle back, so signals could not be transmitted from the lower spinal cord to the brain.
By sending an electrical current through electrodes to stimulate the spinal cord, researchers found a direct relationship between how high the rat was able to lift its limbs and the frequency of the stimulation. Through this finding, the researchers were able to have complete control of the rat's hind legs.
NEUWalk hopes to eventually develop neuroprotheses for humans that would use brain signals to directly stimulate the spinal cord. Researchers will next conduct a clinical trial with human patients, which could start as early as next summer.
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