We recently developed soft neural interfaces enabling the delivery of electrical and chemical stimulation to the spinal cord. These stimulations restored locomotion in animal models of paralysis. Soft interfaces can be placed either below or above the dura mater. Theoretically, the subdural location combines many advantages, including increased selectivity of electrical stimulation, lower stimulation thresholds, and targeted chemical stimulation through local drug delivery. However, these advantages have not been documented, nor have their functional impact been studied in silico or in a relevant animal model of neurological disorders using a multimodal neural interface.
We characterized the recruitment properties of subdural interfaces using a realistic computational model of the rat spinal cord that included explicit representation of the spinal roots. We then validated and complemented computer simulations with electrophysiological experiments in rats. We additionally performed behavioral experiments in rats that received a lateral spinal cord hemisection and were implanted with a soft interface.
In silico and in vivo experiments showed that the subdural location decreased stimulation thresholds compared to the epidural location while retaining high specificity. This feature reduces power consumption and risks of long-term damage in the tissues, thus increasing the clinical safety profile of this approach. The hemisection induced a transient paralysis of the leg ipsilateral to the injury. During this period, the delivery of electrical stimulation restricted to the injured side combined with local chemical modulation enabled coordinated locomotor movements of the paralyzed leg without affecting the non-impaired leg in all tested rats. Electrode properties remained stable over time, while anatomical examinations revealed excellent bio-integration properties.
Soft neural interfaces inserted subdurally provide the opportunity to deliver electrical and chemical neuromodulation therapies using a single, bio-compatible and mechanically compliant device that effectively alleviates locomotor deficits after spinal cord injury.
Capogrosso M1, Gandar J, Greiner N, Moraud EM, Wenger N, Shkorbatova P, Musienko P, Minev I, Lacour S, Courtine G. Author information 1 Center for Neuroprosthetics and Brain Mind Institute, School of Life Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland. Department of Medicine, Platform of Translational Neuroscience, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland.