Restoring cortical control of locomotion after spinal cord injury in rats

Date(s) - 02/11/2015
1:00 pm

Jack DiGiovanna, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Translational Neural Engineering Lab, Center for Neuroprosthetics, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland


Spinal cord injuries (SCI) disrupt both sensory and motor pathways, which causes paralysis. The paralyzed areas depend on the lesion location; most lesions will affect locomotion. However, spinal circuits maintain remarkable capacity for generating stepping. This talk will present multi-systems rehabilitation of rats after SCI that can restore voluntary control of locomotion. In addition, in healthy rats, we have characterized the cortical modulations underlying locomotion. This ensemble modulation adapts to the demands for the behavioral paradigm, e.g., a runway vs. ladder. Overall, we have found task-specific cortical activation that complements the observed outcomes for rehabilitation. Finally, we have combined these elements in brain-spinal interfaces, which aim to restore locomotor function by exploiting the existing spinal circuitry. I will illustrate the multiple facets of such interfaces. Specifically, I will present advanced stimulation strategies to create complex locomotion and evaluate different brain states for controlling the prosthetic.

Brief Bio:

Dr. Jack DiGiovanna is a senior scientist in the Translational Neural Engineering Lab of the Center for Neuroprosthetics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland. His research focuses on robust and adaptable neural interfaces. Currently, he is developing brain-spinal interfaces to restore locomotion and vestibular prosthetics to restore sensation of head rotation. Jack earned a PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Florida in 2008. He received his BS degree in electrical engineering from Penn State University, University Park, in 2002. He holds one patent in neuroprosthetic design, has authored over 30 peer-reviewed journal and conference articles, and serves as a reviewer for multiple journals and conferences.