New Research May Aid Future Treatments for Spinal Cord Injury
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"The more we learn about these types of changes, the more we may be able
to help patients in the future," Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, MD, PhD, tells
WebMD. "These findings are equally applicable to treatment of spinal cord
injury and brain injury." Ramachandran is professor and director of the
Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego.
Jain agrees that this research might eventually lead to new treatment
approaches in spinal cord injury and stroke. "Even without intervention,
the brain is capable of this kind of growth," he says. Perhaps we could
encourage remodeling of the brain to allow healthy parts of the brain to take
over functions ordinarily assumed by impaired areas."
Ramachandran explains that patients with spinal cord injury or stroke that
causes their arm to not have normal feeling may think you are touching their
arm if you touch their face. "The brain cells that ordinarily receive
sensation from the hand area are 'hungry' for sensory input, as the spinal cord
injury or stroke cuts off sensation from the affected hand and prevents it from
reaching the appropriate brain area," he says. "So sensory input from
the face now is redirected to the hand area of the brain."
And that's just what Jain found. Touching the spinal cord-injured monkeys on
the chin triggered nerve impulses that were recorded over the part of the brain
ordinarily receiving sensory input from the hand. Additionally, nerve fibers
grew from the area that responds to face stimuli to the area that responds to
hand stimuli in the brainstem.
More information on spinal cord injury and ongoing research can be found at
the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation web site.
A new study in monkeys shows that after spinal
cord injury, the lower part of the brain experiences new growth of nerve
In the past, scientists have believed that
nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord of adult humans have limited capacity
to grow back, but that belief is now being questioned.
The growth of even a few new fibers in the
brainstem can have far-reaching effects on the reorganization of the