Restoring voluntary control of locomotion after paralyzing spinal cord injury

Rubia van den Brand, Janine Heutschi, Quentin Barraud, Jack DiGiovanna, Kay Bartholdi, Michèle Huerlimann, Lucia Friedli, Isabel Vollenweider, Eduardo Martin Moraud, Simone Duis, Nadia Dominici, Silvestro Micera, Pavel Musienko, Grégoire Courtine

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Half of human spinal cord injuries lead to chronic paralysis. Here, we introduce an electrochemical neuroprosthesis and a robotic postural interface designed to encourage supraspinally mediated movements in rats with paralyzing lesions. Despite the interruption of direct supraspinal pathways, the cortex regained the capacity to transform contextual information into task-specific commands to execute refined locomotion. This recovery relied on the extensive remodeling of cortical projections, including the formation of brainstem and intraspinal relays that restored qualitative control over electrochemically enabled lumbosacral circuitries. Automated treadmill-restricted training, which did not engage cortical neurons, failed to promote translesional plasticity and recovery. By encouraging active participation under functional states, our training paradigm triggered a cortex-dependent recovery that may improve function after similar injuries in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1182-5
Number of pages4
Issue number6085
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Brain Stem
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Hindlimb
  • Locomotion
  • Motor Cortex
  • Nerve Fibers
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons
  • Paralysis
  • Pyramidal Tracts
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Recovery of Function
  • Robotics
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Spinal Cord
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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