Open Access Research

Development of a multi-electrode array for spinal cord epidural stimulation to facilitate stepping and standing after a complete spinal cord injury in adult rats

Parag Gad13, Jaehoon Choe23, Mandheerej Singh Nandra7, Hui Zhong3, Roland R Roy36, Yu-Chong Tai789 and V Reggie Edgerton345*

  • * Corresponding author: V Reggie Edgerton vre@ucla.edu

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Biomedical Engineering IDP, University of California, 90095, Los Angeles, CA, USA

2 Neuroscience IDP, University of California, 90095, Los Angeles, CA, USA

3 Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, University of California, Los Angeles, Terasaki Life Sciences Building, 610 Charles E. Young Drive East, 90095-7239, Los Angeles, CA, USA

4 Department of Neurobiology, University of California, 90095, Los Angeles, CA, USA

5 Department of Neurosurgery, University of California, 90095, Los Angeles, CA, USA

6 Brain Research Institute, University of California, 90095, Los Angeles, CA, USA

7 Department of Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 91125, Pasadena, CA, USA

8 Department of Mechanical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 91125, Pasadena, CA, USA

9 Department of Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology, 91125, Pasadena, CA, USA

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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2013, 10:2  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-10-2

Published: 21 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Stimulation of the spinal cord has been shown to have great potential for improving function after motor deficits caused by injury or pathological conditions. Using a wide range of animal models, many studies have shown that stimulation applied to the neural networks intrinsic to the spinal cord can result in a dramatic improvement of motor ability, even allowing an animal to step and stand after a complete spinal cord transection. Clinical use of this technology, however, has been slow to develop due to the invasive nature of the implantation procedures, the lack of versatility in conventional stimulation technology, and the difficulty of ascertaining specific sites of stimulation that would provide optimal amelioration of the motor deficits. Moreover, the development of tools available to control precise stimulation chronically via biocompatible electrodes has been limited. In this paper, we outline the development of this technology and its use in the spinal rat model, demonstrating the ability to identify and stimulate specific sites of the spinal cord to produce discrete motor behaviors in spinal rats using this array.

Methods

We have designed a chronically implantable, rapidly switchable, high-density platinum based multi-electrode array that can be used to stimulate at 1–100 Hz and 1–10 V in both monopolar and bipolar configurations to examine the electrophysiological and behavioral effects of spinal cord epidural stimulation in complete spinal cord transected rats.

Results

In this paper, we have demonstrated the effectiveness of using high-resolution stimulation parameters in the context of improving motor recovery after a spinal cord injury. We observed that rats whose hindlimbs were paralyzed can stand and step when specific sets of electrodes of the array are stimulated tonically (40 Hz). Distinct patterns of stepping and standing were produced by stimulation of different combinations of electrodes on the array located at specific spinal cord levels and by specific stimulation parameters, i.e., stimulation frequency and intensity, and cathode/anode orientation. The array also was used to assess functional connectivity between the cord dorsum to interneuronal circuits and specific motor pools via evoked potentials induced at 1 Hz stimulation in the absence of any anesthesia.

Conclusions

Therefore the high density electrode array allows high spatial resolution and the ability to selectively activate different neural pathways within the lumbosacral region of the spinal cord to facilitate standing and stepping in adult spinal rats and provides the capability to evoke motor potentials and thus a means for assessing connectivity between sensory circuits and specific motor pools and muscles.

Keywords:
Spinal cord electrode array; Spinal cord injury; Epidural stimulation; Motor recovery