Media Coverage

Thinking outside the brain

The spinal cord, long understood to be dutiful courier of information between the body and the brain, might actually have a mind of its own.

 

 

For a long time, the spinal cord was thought to be a slave to the brain," explains Paul Zehr of the UVic's School of Physical Education. That was before the discovery of Central Pattern Generators (CPGs), collections of nerurons in the spinal cord that perform brain like functions, allowing parts of the body to be coordinated with one another. By synchronizing rhythmic movements without having to rely on the brain, CPGs help us to perform everyday activities like walking, running, or swimming, without having to concentrate on how our arms and legs are moving.

Zehr's basic research on CPGs is now leading to more applied work, developing new rehabilitation therapies for victims of stroke and spinal cord injury. "We want to exploit what is still there in the spinal cord in people for whom the connection with the brain has been altered," says Zehr.