Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a life-altering event that leads to long-lasting motor impairment, and currently, there is no cure for paralysis. In this talk, I introduce my previous work on the combination of epidural spinal cord stimulation (SCS) and activity-based training as a rehabilitation strategy to restore movement to paralyzed muscles as well as studies in sensorimotor cortex control of locomotion in non-human primates. I then present recent advances by our group toward (i) improving access to SCS technologies, (ii) expanding the repertoire of functions that can be enabled by non-invasive SCS approaches, (iii) gaining an understanding of the neural mechanisms mediating long-lasting SCS-mediated recovery, and (iv) re-enabling the voluntary control of movement. Together, this work can facilitate the development of novel neurotechnologies that allow us to improve motor function through a better understanding of neuroplasticity.
Ismael Seáñez, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neurosurgery. He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (2010) from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and an M.S. (2013) and Ph.D. (2016) in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University with a specialization in rehabilitation at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. He spent four years at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) as a postdoc before joining Washington University in St. Louis. His current work focuses on the development of neuro-rehabilitation tools and programs that promote the active use of residual mobility to maximize recovery and improve the quality of life of people with neurological disorders. He has expertise in spinal cord injury, rehabilitation, motor control and motor learning, spinal cord stimulation, and brain- and body-machine interfaces. Dr. Seáñez is the recipient of multiple fellowships and career development awards from the NSF (2010), NIH (2013, 2022), and the Whitaker Foundation (2016).