It looks like a cross between an abdominal exerciser and a stationary bike, but it’s a revolutionary approach to treating patients with spinal cord injuries.
Designed and constructed by two graduate students in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Engineering, this device, called “Neuro Mechano Stimulator Pedals,” stimulates mechano-receptors on the lateral ridge of the sole of the foot. The hypothesis behind this device development is that simultaneous stimulation of sensory inputs and spinal reflexes may lead to neuroplasticity, causing generation of new neural pathways in the spine.
“NASA has been using special shoes to stimulate the mechanoreceptors of the foot sole for astronauts to compensate for the void of stimulation due to being in zero-gravity; hence enabling them to walk normally when they get back to earth,” says Zahra Moussavi, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Manitoba. “What we’ve done here is to use that idea, combine it with other sensory input stimulation, and apply it to patients with spinal cord injuries.”
The first eight-week trial of this device is coming to a close, with patients reporting a noticeable and liberating improvement in their mobility. “When I began the program I was using a walker, and tiring quickly,” says Rod, a patient who has suffered a spinal cord injury for 11 years. “Now I’m able to walk without my walker!” Fellow patient, Carry, had difficulty walking and standing due to her spinal cord injury. She can now stand longer, walk easier, and even dance again!
To learn more about this exciting new device, and to see it in action, you are invited to:
What: Demonstration of New Device, Meet Patients and Researchers
Where: Room #RR267, Rehab Hospital, 820 Sherbrook St., Health Sciences Centre
When: Monday, April 25th, 2011, at 1:00 pm