Rob Summers, a 25-year-old man, has been paralyzed for the past several years. After being hit by a car, he lost all motor control in his legs but was able to use his hands and arms. Rob, an athlete, was determined to walk again and play baseball.
In December 2009, Rob underwent a surgery where electrodes were implanted in the lower part of his back to stimulate his spinal cord. Similar to a pace maker, the electrodes are attached to a pulse generator which was attached to a remote control outside of the body. The device was turned on for a few hours a day during therapy. After the third day of therapy, Rob was able to stand on his own, managing to support his own weight once the harness that was holding him was released.
According to the New York Times, this device is still in the experimental stage and has not been made available to more than a few patients. Researchers say, however, that this work is an important advance in technology because it shows that a small amount of electrical stimulation can unlock the spinal cord’s ability to control movement even if the signals from the brain have been corrupted.