New treatments leverage “neuroplasticity,” the nervous system’s innate ability to repair itself
Researchers are combining what they know about the central nervous system’s ability to rewire and regrow with a new understanding of the hidden smarts of the spinal cord to dramatically improve treatments.
Even the most devastating spinal cord injuries usually do not completely sever the link between the brain, spine and the rest of the body. Scientists are now finding ways to make the most of the remaining connections using a variety of technologies. Studies on electrical stimulation and locomotor training (a treatment that relies on human or robotic assistance during a walking exercise) suggest that it is possible to regrow damaged neuronal circuits in the brain and spine and recover some voluntary control. Some of these studies find that circuits in the spinal cord itself can be coaxed into helping the body move again.