Transcutaneous and Epidural Stimulation
We do not view effective treatment as coming from either transcutaneous or epidural stimulation alone. Rather, both may work synergistically for greater effectiveness. A significant initiative of the Center is to understand neuroplasticity and adaptation after stimulation treatment.
- Transcutaneous stimulation: involves applying stimulation to the skin overlying the spinal cord to neuromodulate the cord and neural circuits within the body. The stimulation activates neural circuits non-invasively to regain function and promote recovery of movement.
The goal is to achieve gains in specific functional motor responses.
- Epidural stimulation: is the application of a continuous electrical current—at varying frequencies and intensities—to specific locations on the lower part of the spinal cord. This technique involves a surgically implanted stimulator that activates nerve circuits in the cord to provide signals that can no longer travel from the brain because of the injured spinal cord.
Using epidural stimulation, patients with chronic motor complete SCI have regained their ability to voluntarily move their legs and bear weight—within weeks after implantation.
This research will enable our researchers to design more effective stimulation protocols, continue to study the impact of those protocols, and change future treatment for people with spinal cord injury. Independent research studies will examine the effects of the two modalities of spinal stimulation on motor and autonomic function recovery and neuroplasticity.