Center for Neurotechnology (CNT) members at the University of Washington (UW), in collaboration with NeuroRecovery Technologies, are developing a novel, non-invasive therapeutic approach for people with spinal cord injury, which has been shown to promote long-term recovery of hand and arm function.
This research study, led by CNT Co-Director, Chet Moritz, and CNT student members at the UW, Fatma Inanici and Soshi Samejima, was recently featured on KING 5 News. The televised news segment focused on the experience of one of the study’s participants, Joe Beatty. The innovative treatment has improved function in Beatty's legs, as well as his hands and arms, and in the piece, Beatty describes some of the functional improvements he has experienced.
“You saw me walk out here, six months ago there was no way I could do it, “ Beatty said to KING 5 News. “So, now I’m on the treadmill walking, on the cardiac walker, I’ll do eight minutes straight. I couldn’t do that months ago.”
The exact mechanism that is re-activating nerves in the spinal cord and making them receptive to descending signals from the brain is currently not fully understood, but the therapeutic impact is unmistakeable.
“The current theory is that we are stimulating the spinal cord electrically, using a fancy waveform that allows the energy to pass through the skin painlessly and activate the spinal circuits. And then that activation of the spinal circuits in combination with Joe’s attempts to move generated by his brain activity is what results in his initial ability to move when he might otherwise not be able to,” Moritz explained to KING 5. “Now, what leads to long-term improvements, we’re much less sure about. But there is evidence of what we call neuroplasticity or changes in the connections between neurons in the brain and the spinal cord. And we believe that by practicing activities with the stimulator running, Joe is able to actually change the wiring between his brain and his spinal cord, and that is what leads to long-term improvements.”
Learn more about this groundbreaking research on our website and in the study’s associated research paper. For more information, contact Chet Moritz.