A spinal cord injury (SCI) separates the neural circuitry in the spinal cord responsible for leg movements from normal brain control. However, below the level of injury, sensory feedback to the spinal cord is uninjured, which still gives us access to the neural circuity for stepping.Attempts have been made to stimulate sensory inputs to the spinal cord to enhance stepping function in people with SCI, but these have had variable results. One reason for this may be that the spinal neural circuits for stepping may be in different functional states in the face of spinal cord injuries. Our goal is to understand the neurophysiological profile of spinal cord injuries to augment stepping in individuals or groups of individuals.In our studies, we propose to use electrical stimulation of sensory nerve fibers at the spinal level (transcutaneous spinal stimulation) for studying spinal reflexes under several test conditions during robotic-assisted stepping. We anticipate discovering different neurophysiological profiles that can be explained by the pattern and severity of SCI, which will predict the responsiveness of different individuals to neuromodulation with transcutaneous spinal stimulation. This could serve to improve the magnitude of the effect of neuromodulation in patients for this novel neurorehabilitation approach.
Biomedical engineering developments, including sensor and measurement technology, biomechanical instrumentation, with a strong focus to electrical stimulation for nervous and muscular tissue. Bridging to external academic and industrial expertise and partnership, from research collaboration to application transfer of novel product solutions and methodologies.
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