Processing capability of the spinal cord

eladyt at eladyt at
Sun Dec 6 06:38:12 EST 1998

Well, it appears that the move animals are developed, the less functions they
have in their spinal cord. For example, frogs will try to wipe of an
irritating material applied to their body even if their spine is cut, cats
with cut spinal cords can walk on a treadmill but until Harkem et al published
their work it has not been demonstrated with people.

In article <74di74$60t$1 at>,
  wej3715 at (Walter Eric Johnson) wrote:
> I read about Susan Harkema's work in rehabilitating patients
> with complete SCIs.  For those not familiar with this, she
> provided appropriate sensory input to her SCI patients on
> a treadmill while a trainer helped the patient perform
> stepping motions by extending the leg, placing the foot on
> the treadmill, picking up the foot, ... .  After several
> months of therapy, all seven patients developed rudimentary
> walking skills including the ability to support some of their
> own weight.  They were able to step as they were taught by
> the trainer in spite of the fact that they had no conscious
> perception of joint positioning.  They also did not develop
> much balance, if any.
> It is normal for some level of reflex actions to return
> after a short period of time following a spinal column
> injury.  But this doesn't appear to be related to the
> reflexes (at least to me).
> The obvious question is how extensive are the processing
> capabilities of the spinal cord?  According to a book I
> read last Christmas (the chapters on neuroscience anyway)
> the spinal cord provides a very large portion of the processing
> required by many insects.  I asked a recent PhD in neuroscience
> about this and he claimed it was nonsense.  Since then, I've
> often wondered how extensive are the processing capabilities
> of the spinal cord.  I haven't seem much mention of this in
> any books (other then discussions relating to reflexes) but
> I haven't performed any systematic searches for this information,
> either.  (I'll have to correct that error in the near future.)
> Also, what other bodily processes might also benefit from
> this?  For example, does it seem possible that SCI patients
> might be able to develop some bladder control by such
> techniques or does the lack of a connection to the pontine
> micturition center remove that from any such possibility?
> Would the presence of micturition related reflexes be a
> good indication that with proper training, this might be
> possible?
> How about injuries near the C3 level?  Is it possible that
> this technique might be able to restore some ability to
> breathe without support?  (Obviously, they would not want
> to depend on this ability but it might be nice in an
> emergency.)
> I also have some questions about Dr. Harkema's results, too.
> In particular, when someone is "walking" on the treadmill,
> what happens when the treadmill stops?  Does the stepping
> motion continue?  Or does the spinal cord receive information
> that a foot has stopped and break the sequence of nerve
> impulses?
> Eric Johnson

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