Imagine being told that you will never be able to walk again. Injury to the spinal cord has immobilized many people all around the world. But what if there was a way to reverse paralysis? One recent development made by Dr. Gregoire Courtine’s lab in Switzerland called Stimulation Movement Overground, or STIMO, may be that solution.
STIMO can help people with paralysis (specifically leg paralysis in this case due to spinal cord injury) be able to regain some movement in their legs and thus step outside of the wheelchairs they thought they would be confined to for their entire lives.
While this outcome may seem relatively simplified, the actual technique is very complicated. The lab created stimulation patterns that targeted very specific muscles and were very precise with the timing of the stimulation. The location and timing of stimulation derived from studying the person’s natural brain and spinal cord activation patterns and muscle functionality.
*Pictured above is David Mzee, a patient who was eventually able to walk without stimulation thanks to STIMO (Photo: Jamani Caillet/EPFL).
The actual STIMO device is a wireless, surgically implanted network of electrodes placed below the spinal cord injury and connected to a modified neurostimulation device that is placed inside the abdomen. The device mimics electrical communication between the brain and spinal cord; therefore, these electric signals can be personalized for each patient thanks to the device’s specificity.
The great thing about STIMO as opposed to previous attempts to restore brain-to-spinal cord communication is that the leg movement regained due to STIMO stimulation was maintained even after the device was turned off, which has never previously been accomplished.
So, as you can see, neurotechnology has some amazing clinical applications with great potential to impact people’s lives in a very profound way! This is why the neurotechnology industry continues to grow and expand, as research is continuously done on how it can be used to treat neurological disorders.
Ps - Here is a short video about STIMO including a testimony from Dr. Gregoire Courtine himself (10/10 recommend watching it).