Spinal-cord nerve stimulation helps paraplegic men walk

Electrical nerve stimulation has restored walking function to three paralysed men

wheel-chair-health-wheelchair "The targeted stimulation must be as precise as a Swiss watch"

Three paralysed patients have been able to walk again, thanks to precise electrical stimulation of their 

spinal cords via a wireless implant, Swiss scientists said.

According to the study published in the journals Nature and Nature Neuroscience, after a few months of training the 

patients with chronic paraplegia were able to control previously paralysed leg muscles even in the absence of electrical 


The study, called STIMO (STImulation Movement Overground), establishes a new therapeutic framework to improve 

recovery from spinal cord injury, said researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the 

Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) in Switzerland.

All patients involved in the study recovered voluntary control of leg muscles that had been paralysed for many years, they 


Unlike the findings of two independent studies published recently in the US on a similar concept, neurological function was 

shown to persist beyond training sessions even when the electrical stimulation was turned off.

"Our findings are based on a deep understanding of the underlying mechanisms which we gained through years of 

research on animal models. We were thus able to mimic in real time how the brain naturally activates the spinal cord," said 

EPFL neuroscientist Gregoire Courtine.

"All the patients could walk using body weight support within one week. I knew immediately that we were on the right 

path," said CHUV neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch, who surgically placed the implants in the patients.

"The exact timing and location of the electrical stimulation are crucial to a patient's ability to produce an intended 

movement. It is also this spatiotemporal coincidence that triggers the growth of new nerve connections," said Courtine.

This study achieves an unprecedented level of precision in electrically stimulating spinal cords, researchers said.

"The targeted stimulation must be as precise as a Swiss watch. In our method, we implant an array of electrodes over the 

spinal cord which allows us to target individual muscle groups in the legs," said Bloch.