Intensive training post-spinal cord injury can stimulate repair in brain and spinal cord

Dec 18, 2007

Intensive rehabilitation training for patients with spinal cord injuries can stimulate new branches growing from severed nerve fibers, alongside compensatory changes in the brain, say Canadian researchers. Most importantly, it could lead to restoring hand function and the ability to walk.

A study recently published in the journal Brain highlights the remarkable benefits of rehabilitation training after a cervical spinal cord injury—something that has been overshadowed in recent years by the promise of cutting-edge stem cell research.

“It may be that it is neglected because it seems so simple,” says the study’s senior author Karim Fouad of the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

“Some people take very desperate steps when they are paraplegic. They go to other countries to receive treatments like stem cell transplantations, and most of these approaches are not really controlled trials. They undergo a lot of risk and spend a lot of money, when in fact they could see more benefits with fewer risks from sustained, intensive rehab training.”

The study led by Fouad shows that when animal models with incomplete spinal cord injuries received intensive training over many weeks on a reaching task which they were able to do before their injuries, they performed significantly better than their untrained counterparts. In fact, the animals trained post-injury nearly doubled the success rate achieved by the untrained animals.

“Research has found that after incomplete spinal cord injury, there is a moderate amount of recovery based on a rewiring process, a response of the nervous system to the injury,” says Fouad. “This is a naturally occurring process. What we found is that intensive rehabilitation training actually promotes this naturally occurring process. It actually enables changes in the brain and spinal cord similar to a repair process.”

“The way the animals succeeded in the grasping task post-injury was not the way they did it before. They compensated. They adapted. They developed a new way to do it. What people with these injuries can take from this is that you don’t have to do things the way you used to do them before— what matters is that you attempt, practice hard and find your own adaptive strategy.”

Source: University of Alberta

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Experts disagree on horses with incoordination

Apr 10, 2014

A trip to the veterinarian may prove fatal to a horse, even if it is not necessary to put the animal down. In Europe if the horse is found to be ataxic, which is most often due to the disease 'wobbler syndrome', ...

Professor Finally Publishes Controversial Brain Theory

Nov 19, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- In the late '90s, Asim Roy, a professor of information systems at Arizona State University, began to write a paper on a new brain theory. Now, 10 years later and after several rejections and ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.