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Looking to babies to help spinal injury victims walk again

When someone suffers an injury to the spinal cord their life may be changed forever. Among other things, it could render them unable to walk. While some individuals in this situation will never be able to use their limbs again, for others, relearning to walk may be a goal. This, of course, is a challenging endeavour. Researchers located in Netherlands are studying one possible approach.

The researchers, who are based at VU University, are focusing on the neural patterns necessary to walk, specifically looking at a baby’s first steps. To do this activity independently, the four locomotor primitives that make it possible do the following must be present:

  • Direct legs to bend and extend
  • Move legs forward in an alternating pattern
  • Control balance
  • Time steps and shift weight

According to researchers, upon birth, humans have only the first two walking primitives. It is believed the last two are learned by babies as they learn to walk independently. It is also believed that other animal groups display similar primitives.

After conducting a study on injured rats that found that walking can be improved through the use of neural primitives, one researcher indicated they are looking to see how the method might be applied to, among other people, adults who have suffered an injury to the spine.

There is no question that learning to live the new life that often accompanies a spinal injury is difficult. It can also be expensive. This is one of multiple reasons why when the negligence of another party is believed to have been a cause of the injury, it may make sense to take legal action.

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