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Repeated stimulation treatment can restore movement to paralyzed muscles


Conducted at the BioMag laboratory at the Helsinki University Hospital, a new patient study could open a new opportunity to rehabilitate patients with spinal cord damage. In a new study which two patients with spinal cord injuries received a form of treatment that combined transcranial magnetic stimulation with simultaneous peripheral nerve stimulation given repeatedly for nearly six months.

This was the first time that attempts were made to rehabilitate patients paralysed as a result of a spinal cord injury through long-term stimulation treatment of this type.

Both patients who participated in the study had spinal cord injuries caused by trauma. One patient was paraplegic, paralysed from the knees down, and the other was tetraplegic, with some voluntary movement of the hands but no capacity to grasp. Both patients had been injured more than two years ago and had received conventional rehabilitation treatments throughout their recovery, and continued to do so during the stimulation treatment.

After approximately six months of the stimulation treatment, the paraplegic patient could bend both ankles, and the tetraplegic could grasp an object.

“We observed strengthened neural connections and partial restoration of movement to muscles which the patients were previously entirely unable to use,” explains Dr Anastasia Shulga.

The movement restored during the treatment was still present a month after the stimulation treatment had ended. One of the patients is participating in a further study in which stimulation is given more extensively and for an even longer period.

Dr. Jyrki Mäkelä, head of the BioMag laboratory, points out that rehabilitation of patients with chronic spinal cord injuries is highly challenging, and new treatment methods are sorely needed:

“This is a case study with two patients only, but we think the results are promising. Further study is needed to confirm whether long-term paired associative stimulation can be used in rehabilitation after spinal cord injury by itself and, possibly, in combination with other therapeutic strategies.”

Shulga, A., Lioumis, P., Zubareva, A., Brandstack, N., Kuusela, L., Kirveskari, E., Savolainen, S., Ylinen, A., & Mäkelä, J. (2016). Long-term paired associative stimulation can restore voluntary control over paralyzed muscles in incomplete chronic spinal cord injury patients Spinal Cord Series and Cases, 2 DOI: 10.1038/scsandc.2016.16

3 responses

  1. quadslife

    Where is this located? Is it open for more patients?


    August 20, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    • Unfortunately this is in Helsinki, Finland. I’m sorry to read about your fiance, while I am not religious, I hope you find some hope be it from science, a higher power, or a combination of the two.

      There are studies being done here in the US that you might be interested in looking into. While I obviously don’t know your situation, if you can travel there are a few groups working on clinical trials currently. Also, we here at the labs are working on something similar, but even if we can ever go to trials, our clinical trials won’t be for several years at least.

      Clinicaltrials.gov offers a list of trials in the US that you can search through. The following is a link for trials involving paralysis that you can dig though and see if one fits your needs. New trails are added almost daily, so you might get lucky and find something that you could get involved with. I hope this helps!


      Liked by 1 person

      August 21, 2016 at 11:15 am

      • quadslife

        Thank you so much, I greatly appreciate it!


        August 21, 2016 at 11:18 am

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