Marc Bolliger, Universit├Ątsklinikum Balgrist, Zurich, Switzerland

Non-invasive direct current stimulation

Funded in: 2011, 2012

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Modulating the excitability of the spinal cord by continuous electrical stimulation and/ or administration of drugs can enable stepping in rodents with a complete spinal cord injury (SCI). Also in humans continuous ESCS (epidural spinal cord stimulation) of lumbar posterior roots could modulate the activity of spinal neuronal networks and induce locomotor-like movements. In a single case study it has been shown that the combination of ESCS and locomotor training facilitated the recovery of functional walking in an incomplete SCI subject. However, ESCS is an invasive method.
It would be of high interest for clinical interventions if a non-invasive approach could modulate spinal networks and possibly have a beneficial effect on the recovery of functional walking in subjects with incomplete SCI.

The goal of this project is to investigate whether DC stimulation can modulate spinal neuronal circuitries and locomotor output of the spinal cord. To address this question the influence of DC stimulation on the polysynaptic spinal reflex, which is assumed to be involved in locomotor generating networks, will be studied in healthy and complete SCI subjects.
Moreover the study will examine the influence of DC stimulation on gait kinematics and electromyographic (EMG) muscle activity will be analysed during treadmill and over ground walking in incomplete SCI.
This study has the potential to significantly influence the design of future rehabilitation interventions to enhance recovery after incomplete SCI.