Does the damaged central nervous system benefit from therapeutic stimulation?
We have observed that stimulation within the spinal cord below an injury leads to improved motor function even beyond the period of stimulation. In the uninjured central nervous system, synchronizing stimulation can be used to strengthen connections among neurons via mechanisms of Hebbian plasticity. We are investigating whether intraspinal stimulation, triggered by appropriate cortical activity, is capable of guiding spared pathways to functional targets after spinal cord injury.
In collaboration with Phil Horner, we are exploring the combined approach of stem cell therapies and electrical stimulation. Pre-clinical studies utilize adult human fibroblasts, induced to pluripotency, and fated to neural progenitors. Intrapspinal stimulation then provides activity to promote integration of transplanted cells.
Human iPS cells within the rodent spinal cord described in Nutt et al (2013)