Nov 25, 2016

A Brain–Spine Interface Alleviating Gait Deficits after Spinal Cord Injury in Primates

Marco Capogrosso, Tomislav Milekovic, David Borton, Fabien Wagner, Eduardo Martin Moraud, Jean-Baptiste Mignardot, Nicolas Buse, Jerome Gandar, Quentin Barraud, David Xing, Elodie Rey, Simone Duis, Yang Jianzhong, Wai Kin D. Ko, Qin Li, Peter Detemple, Tim Denison, Silvestro Micera, Erwan Bezard, Jocelyne Bloch, and Grégoire Courtine, in Nature, Volume 539, Issue 7628, pp. 284 – 288, 10 November 2016

A Brain–Spine Interface Alleviating Gait Deficits after Spinal Cord Injury in Primates  

IT’IS collaborator Dr. Marco Capogrosso, currently a group leader at the University of Fribourg, is the lead author of a publication in the November 10, 2016 issue of Nature on the development and implementation of a wireless brain-spine interface. In this study, the interface was used to restore movement in the paralyzed limbs of Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) with spinal cord injuries. The work, led by Prof. Grégoire Courtine of the Center for Neuroprosthetics and Brain Mind Institute, School of Life Sciences at EPFL, was conducted in parts in Switzerland and China.

In order to being able to walk, electrical signals from the motor cortex in the brain need to travel down to the lumbar region in the lower spinal cord to activate motor neurons that coordinate the movement of muscles. Spinal cord injury can disrupt the communication between the brain and the spinal circuit, leading to a complete loss of sensation and mobility below the injury. The “brain-spine interface” in this study used an implanted intracortical microelectrode array to record signals produced in the motor cortex during normal movement. A “neurosensor” was used to receive and transfer the signals to a computer, where the information was decoded. In a next step, the information was transferred to an electrical spinal stimulator in the lumbar spine to trigger coordinated electrical stimulation of the nerves. The “brain-spine interface” used wireless communication throughout to link cortical activity to electrical stimulation of muscles. The study demonstrates that the approach may also have therapeutic potential for the treatment of spinal cord injury in human patients.

IT’IS has been involved in jointly developing neuro-functionalized anatomical models in order to assess and optimize stimulation selectivity through simulation of the electrode design- and placement-dependence of neural activation. The tools developed were directly combined with Sim4Life and will become available soon, allowing multi-goal optimized placement of electrodes. We plan to extend the collaboration on image-based treatment personalization and planning.