Calven Goza Hopes to Overcome Paralysis from a Severed Spinal Cord and Walk Some Day with the Help of Epidural Electrical Stimulation

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Doctors told Calven Goza he wouldn’t ever move his legs again. Watch him prove them wrong.

Calven Goza was a student at Montana Tech was out with friends who were drinking at area bars. The five friends were traveling east in a 2003 Grand Prix on Highway 43 between Dewey and Divide. The car hit a rock wall on the south side of Highway 43 rolled several times. The crash killed one of the men in the car and severed Goza’s spinal cord. He suffered a “T4 complete” — a completely severed spinal cord at the level of the fourth thoracic vertebra. He instantly became a paraplegic and has been confined to a wheel chair since the crash. Recently he has been accepted as a subject

Susan Harkema, Ph.D with researchers at the Human Locomotion Center at the University of Louisville use patterns of electric charges to find the correct combination to regain motor control below the level of the severed spinal cord.

Dr. Harkema is coordinator of the Gait and Biomechanics Laboratory at the Frazier Rehab Institute and holds the positions of Associate Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at University of Louisiana, Rehabilitation Research Director at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center and Director of Research at Frazier.

The technique involves continual direct epidural electrical stimulation of a Calven’s lower spinal cord, which mimicks signals the brain normally transmits to initiate movement. Once the signal is applied, the research shows, the spinal cord’s own neural network combined with the sensory input derived from the legs to the spinal cord is able to direct the muscle and joint movements.

The research was funded by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Harkema is Director of the Reeve Foundation’s NeuroRecovery Network, which translates scientific advances into activity-based rehabilitation treatments.

Dr. Harkema and their colleagues envision a day when at least some individuals with complete spinal cord injuries will be able to use a portable stimulation unit and use a walker to stand independently, maintain balance and execute some effective stepping.

Epidural electrical stimulation may also relieve secondary complications of complete spinal cord injury, including impairment or loss of bladder control, loss of sphincter control and loss of sexual response.

See also …

University of Louisville Epidural Stimulation

Harkema S, Gerasimenko Y, Hodes J, Burdick J, Angeli C, Chen Y, Ferreira C, Willhite A, Rejc E, Grossman RG, Edgerton VR. Effect of epidural stimulation of the lumbosacral spinal cord on voluntary movement, standing, and assisted stepping after motor complete paraplegia: a case study. Lancet. 2011 Jun 4;377(9781):1938-47 (Link to PubMed.gov abstract)

Harkema S, Gerasimenko Y, Hodes J, Burdick J, Angeli C, Chen Y, Ferreira C, Willhite A, Rejc E, Grossman RG, Edgerton VR. Effect of epidural stimulation of the lumbosacral spinal cord on voluntary movement, standing, and assisted stepping after motor complete paraplegia: a case study. Lancet. 2011 Jun 4;377(9781):1938-47 (Link to full article [PDF])


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