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Spinal cord injury patients may benefit from new research

When a person's spinal cord has been injured, he or she may imagine not being able to walk again and immediately become discouraged. However, research shows that even after a spinal cord injury victim in West Virginia experiences total spinal paralysis, it is possible for the spinal cord to trigger leg muscle activity. This is achievable using a stimulator that has been implanted into the body and produces electrical pulses.

Researchers previously did not understand the mechanisms used by the spinal cord to control muscle activity. However, they now understand these mechanisms and have learned that they work even when the brain's neural pathways are interrupted due to spinal cord injuries. Recent research shows that those who are paraplegic still maintain neural connections below their injury sites, and these connections may spark rhythmic movements in their legs.

The brain serves as the body's command center, according to researchers. However, the spinal cord's neural networks are what generate complicated motor patterns. The new findings should help scientists to come up with new rehabilitation approaches that utilize still-functional neural networks after an injury accident leading to paralysis.

Science is helping to increase the chances for paraplegics to regain the function of their legs following a spinal cord injury. However, until effective rehabilitation technologies are developed, those with spinal cord injuries are left to deal with the physical challenges caused by these injuries. Unfortunately, these injuries sometimes are the result of another party's negligence; if so, the injured party may choose to file a personal injury claim against the party deemed to have been at fault, pursuing monetary damages that -- if achieved -- may be helpful for covering the cost of related medical treatments in West Virginia.

Source: science20.com, "Burst Generators: How The Spinal Cord Does What The Brain Thinks", Jan. 12, 2015

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