| The Translational Research Group of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) has developed three Programs designed to bring laboratory findings to clinical practice as quickly as possible. The Epidural Stimulation Program focuses on understanding how controlled electrical stimulation to the lower portion (lumbosacral) of the spinal cord enables the recovery of specific functions of the nervous system. Certain motor functions such as voluntary (or ‘volitional’) movement, standing and stepping (walking) are controlled by the somatic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls functions of internal organs and includes such things as blood pressure regulation as well as bladder and bowel control. Our expert interdisciplinary team is exploring how neural control of human movement and autonomic functions can be restored after spinal cord injuries.
We work with courageous research participants living with spinal cord injuries who have volunteered to receive surgically implanted electrode arrays that are ‘neuromodulators’ and can be switched on and off as well as programmed via an interface that is controlled externally. These implants can be thought of as similar to cardiac pacemakers – but with greater complexity. Consider the Model T and a Tesla – they are both automobiles, and that is where the similarity ends.
The settings for these epidural neuromodulator implants (‘stimulators’) are fine-tuned over weeks or months to work with each individual’s nervous system to achieve desired outcomes of movement and/or restoration of specific functions. We also combine epidural stimulation with proven recovery-based interventions such as Locomotor Training (link to LT Page) to reveal and encourage the innate capacity of the spinal cord to recover function – and thus perhaps lose dependency on the implant! As we learn more about how the nervous system can be encouraged to recover, we can more confidently develop these devices and interventions into clinical therapies.
Our commitment is to translate the knowledge gained in the Epidural Stimulation Program to develop successful therapies and improve overall quality of life for individuals with spinal cord injuries.
Our mission is to cure paralysis.