ESI Lecture by Grégoire Courtine

Targeted neurotechnologies restore walking after paralysis

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 500000 people suffer from a spinal cord injury each year, with dramatic consequences for the quality of life of affected individuals. Over the past 15 years, my research team have developed a multipronged intervention that reestablished voluntary control of paralyzed legs in animal models of spinal cord injury, and recently in humans. This intervention acts over two time-windows. Immediately, electrical and chemical stimulations applied to the lumbar spinal cord reawaken the neuronal networks below the injury that coordinate leg movements, enabling voluntary control of paralyzed muscles during locomotion. In the long term, will-powered training regimens enabled by these electrochemical stimulations and cutting-edge robotic assistance promote an extensive neuroplasticity of residual connections that restores locomotion without electrochemical stimulation. During my talk, I will discuss the development of the targeted neurotechnologies that supported the implementation of this therapy in rodent and nonhuman primate models, before their application in humans.