Researchers at Aalborg University’s Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction (SMI) have received the 2010 Danish Research Result of the Year award for work on utilizing the known nociceptive involuntary withdrawal reflex to try to help some paralyzed patients to walk. Touching a burning hot plate doesn’t require too much thinking before moving the hand away, and electrodes stimulating nerves in the legs can take advantage of the same effect to produce motion.
The treatment, called functional electrical therapy, has been tested for a longer period at the Neuro-Rehabilitation Center at Vendsyssel Hospital in Brønderslev with patients who need rehabilitation following a stroke.
"We’ve developed a method of using electrical stimulation of the withdrawal reflex in a way that can help in patients’ rehabilitation. The electrical impulse triggers a natural reflex such that the leg is pulled up and the foot moves, so the patient is helped to move their leg even though he or she was partially paralyzed after a stroke," says Ole Andersen Kæseler.
Currently, there are negotiations with an investor who wants to place venture capital in the project.