Center for Spinal Stimulation
Stimulating the Spinal Cord to Aid Recovery
Recovery from spinal cord injury, long considered impossible, is now on the horizon. The Center for Spinal Stimulation is accelerating the pace of discoveries, by providing scientists with the resources to study how electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, combined with intensive physical therapy can help individuals regain mobility and function more independently in their daily lives.
Transcutaneous and Epidural Stimulation
Stimulation activates nerve centers and pathways, reawakening the cord’s ability to conduct impulses to paralyzed muscles. Two methods of stimulation are being studied—transcutaneous (stimulator is placed on the skin overlying the damaged cord), and epidural (stimulator is surgically implanted directly onto the spinal cord.
2019 Evening of Discovery and Discussion. A panel discussion about our transcutaneous and epidural stimulation research.
Testing Transcutaneous Stimulation for Standing and Walking
Scientists and therapists already are making progress at Kessler’s West Orange, NJ location, where they use transcutaneous stimulation to improve standing and walking, as well arm and hand function, in individuals with spinal cord injury.
Improving Arm and Hand Function Using Transcutaneous Stimulation
Improving arm and hand function translates into significant gains in independence for individuals living with spinal cord injury. For Jimmy Brown, transcutaneous stimulation allows him to pour water from a pitcher to a glass - an important first step toward greater independence.
By activating the stimulator implanted in her spine, Kelly Thomas demonstrates her ability to stand and walk.
Enhancing Mobility with Epidural Stimulation
Epidural stimulation enables individuals like Kelly Thomas, paralyzed in a motor vehicle accident, to stand during stimulation. This approach has enabled two individuals with chronic spinal cord injury to regain voluntary movement. The Center will be the first East Coast facility to offer implantation of the epidural stimulator and the intensive postoperative physical training needed to achieve optimal results.
On the Horizon
“We are seeing other effects, including improvements in bowel and bladder function, temperature regulation, and cardiovascular and respiratory function,” Gail Forrest, PhD, the Center’s director reports. “These exciting early results inspire us to work even harder to build this line of research.” The Center’s team also plans to look at how combining different types of stimulation can facilitate spinal cord repair and functional recovery.