(CNN) – In a new study released today in the Journal Brain, researchers demonstrate a promising new technique to help people with paralysis.
Elizabeth Cohen explains how it all works.
Dustin Shillcox is paralyzed from the chest down
Dustin Shillcox – Paralysis Patient: “OK, try to move your right leg.”
He can’t move it, even a tiny bit.
But doctors implanted this device sending electrical stimulation to his spine. And when Dustin turns it on.
Dustin Shillcox – Paralysis Patient: “Wow! There you go. Oh my gosh.”
HE CAN MOVE ON DEMAND.
Dustin Shillcox – Paralysis Patient: “OK right leg back and then forward.”
When the stimulator is turned off, Dustin can’t even sit up, because his torso muscles don’t work.
But turn it on, and Dustin can sit up without any support at all.
Dustin Shillcox – Paralysis Patient: “The first time I turned it on it was exciting and emotional for me at the same time. Emotional because I was told that I’d never be able to walk or move my legs again.”
Dustin is one of four patients in a new study published Tuesday. Despite their gains, none can walk on their own. The device works by activating one leg at a time.
It’s not the first time electrical stimulation has helped paralyzed patients…but experts say this technique may become another tool in the toolbox.
Susan Harkema – Neuroscientist, University of Louisville: “I think what’s incredibly exciting is we’ve open up a realm of possibilities of what we can do now with people who are paralyzed and we’ve just scratched the surface.”
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, New York.