The Spinal Cord Injury Research Program investigates ways to help people living with paralysis regain the ability to move, including epidural stimulation or use of robotic leg braces.

Epidural stimulation to enable volitional movement after chronic complete paralysis

In the program's study on epidural stimulation to regain movement, people with complete paralysis of the legs resulting from spinal cord injuries are implanted with epidural stimulators — devices commonly used to treat pain.

The study aims to replicate promising findings from the University of Louisville and the University of California, Los Angeles. In combination with intense rehabilitative therapy (locomotor therapy or activity-based therapy), stimulation from the epidural stimulator allowed some intentional movement of participants' previously paralyzed legs, and participants were able to stand unassisted.

Replicating this breakthrough in spinal cord injury treatment is only one step in advancing the science of epidural stimulation. Further research is critically needed to understand why epidural stimulation has worked, which patients will respond to epidural stimulation, and whether the enormous amount of rehabilitation that has been shown to be effective can be reduced.

Mobility and therapeutic benefits of exoskeleton use

The Spinal Cord Injury Research Program at Mayo Clinic is part of a multisite study in which participants with paralysis train with robotic leg braces (exoskeletons) for eight weeks to gain the ability to walk or to improve their ability to walk.

Participants' ability to walk is tested both in the clinical setting and at home in the community. For participants who have partial paralysis, their ability to walk without the exoskeleton is measured before and after training.

The exoskeleton utilized in this study is unique because it features electrical stimulation to the paralyzed muscles, allowing each participant's body to do some of the work.

Learn more or enroll.