Tag: Susan Harkema
(CNN) — At her research lab at the University of Louisville, neuroscientist Susan Harkema turned her back to her study subject to check a reading on a computer screen.
“Hey Susie, look at this,” the patient called out to her. “I can move my toe!”
Startled, Harkema spun around. The purpose of her study, which involves sending electrical stimulation to broken spinal cords, was to learn more about nerve pathways, not to actually make patients move.
That must be an involuntary spasm, she thought. She asked the patient, Rob Summers, to lie down and close his eyes and follow her commands.
“Move your left toe,” she said to him — and he did. “Move your right toe,” she asked — and he did.
Holy s***!” she yelled out loud.
Victory Over Paralysis – It’s our goal. It’s what motivates us as we fashion each experiment after, document and categorize each participant’s progress with.
New treatments leverage “neuroplasticity,” the nervous system’s innate ability to repair itself
When Christopher Reeve became quadriplegic, there was little hope for patients with spinal cord injury. Now researchers are combining what they know about the central nervous system’s ability to rewire and regrow with a new understanding of the hidden smarts of the spinal cord to dramatically improve treatments.
Even the most devastating spinal cord injuries usually do not completely sever the link between the brain, spine and the rest of the body. Scientists are now finding ways to make the most of the remaining connections using a variety of technologies. Studies on electrical stimulation and locomotor training (a treatment that relies on human or robotic assistance during a walking exercise) suggest that it is possible to regrow damaged neuronal circuits in the brain and spine and recover some voluntary control. Some of these studies find that circuits in the spinal cord itself can be coaxed into helping the body move again.
Four scientists—and their star patient—received a 2011 PM Breakthrough Award for a new procedure that uses direct electrical stimulation to give spinal injury patients back some voluntary movement.
A hit-and-run accident in 2006 left Rob Summers paralyzed from the chest down, shattering the college baseball player’s Major League prospects. But his injury—and his athlete’s dedication—made him the ideal candidate for a one-of-a-kind experiment led by a scientific dream team.