AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 2, 2020


New Neural Network Can Restore Diaphragm Function after Spinal Cord Injury

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Bottom Line: A team of neuroscientists has uncovered a neural network that can restore diaphragm function after spinal cord injury. The network allows the diaphragm to contract without input from the brain, which could help paralyzed spinal cord injury patients breathe without a respirator.

Background: Spinal cord injury, most commonly caused by vehicle accidents or falls, leaves approximately 17,000 Americans paralyzed each year. The damage can be severe, with less than 1% of those injured experiencing complete neurologic recovery. Many of those injured must rely on mechanical ventilators to breathe. Explained Cregg, “Respiratory signals originate in the brain and are relayed to motor neurons in the spinal cord, which then allow the diaphragm to contract. These signals are cut off after cervical spinal cord injury.”

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