Here’s what the Science Friday website says: Reporting in the journal Brain, researchers write of reawakening the legs of four men paralyzed from the waist down. They did so by implanting electronic devices in the men’s spines. The devices send out electrical stimulation that re-trains the nerves to listen more carefully for signals, allowing voluntary movements after years of paralysis. Study author Susan Harkema of the University of Louisville and Roderic Pettigrew, director of the National Institute of Bioimaging and Bioengineering, discuss the device and the path towards commercially available treatments.
Nice to hear some positive news, something that brings people hope. The researchers talked about how the spinal cord might be more “intelligent” than they’ve believed … how the body might be able to recover the ability for movement with a combination of stimulation and specialized physical therapy. Okay, I didn’t follow everything they said, but I did think – this is wonderful.
Would there be people in wheelchairs who would choose NOT to walk again? If someone’s been paralyzed for years, if that’s become part of one’s accepted identity – would the change be too frightening?
Most people would probably leap at the chance (pun intended), but even positive change can be scary – so I can imagine that it’d be a complicated path. Of course, according to the researchers, it takes lots of focused work over months too, so it’s not like they implant a device and people get up and walk a few miles. Way slower than that … which would also make it easier to accept and embrace.