The most common spinal cord injuries are located in the cervical (neck) region, causing profound loss of leg, arm and breathing functions. Unfortunately, unlike peripheral nerves, the spinal cord is unable to regenerate, leaving those afflicted with life-long deficits. Although some focus on treatment strategies overcome this limitation and regrow the spinal cord, others focus on the idea that most spinal cord injuries are incomplete, leaving some spared neural tissue. By inducing neural plasticity through physical rehabilitation or other novel treatment strategies, our team at UF is devoted to harness plasticity as a means of restoring walking, arm movements, core strength and breathing ability.
Our multi-disciplinary team leads the way in new treatment strategies including: 1) harnessing motor plasticity through a novel treatment developed by our team known as therapeutic acute intermittent hypoxia; 2) electrical phrenic/diaphragm stimulation to reanimate the diaphragm and enable breathing independent from mechanical ventilators; and 3) electrical stimulation of the spinal cord to reanimate breathing (and other) movements. Additional information about our research in this area can be found at https://crrr.phhp.ufl.edu.