Spinal cord injuries sever the connections between the brain and the spinal cord resulting in paralysis. There are networks of neurons contained within the spinal cord termed central pattern generators, which generate the muscle commands necessary for walking, without requiring coordinating input from the brain. Understanding the neuronal circuits underlying locomotion will be critical for the design and development of better therapies to help paralyzed individuals regain muscle control. Such insights will allow classes of neurons to be targeted either for activation or regeneration in order to help paralyzed individuals regain muscle control, potentially allowing us to ‘bypass’ the initiation signal from the brain altogether, which in these individuals has been severed.
Jason MacLean, Ph.D.