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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 16;860:360-76.

Evidence for a spinal central pattern generator in humans.

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  • 1Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Non-patterned electrical stimulation of the posterior structures of the lumbar spinal cord in subjects with complete, long-standing spinal cord injury, can induce patterned, locomotor-like activity. We show that epidural spinal cord stimulation can elicit step-like EMG activity and locomotor synergies in paraplegic subjects. An electrical train of stimuli applied over the second lumbar segment with a frequency of 25 to 60 Hz and an amplitude of 5-9 V was effective in inducing rhythmic, alternating stance and swing phases of the lower limbs. This finding suggests that spinal circuitry in humans has the capability of generating locomotor-like activity even when isolated from brain control, and that externally controlled sustained electrical stimulation of the spinal cord can replace the tonic drive generated by the brain.

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