The dense network of neural pathways and axons found in the spinal cord may provide insights into how people with spinal cord injuries heal, researchers say.
They describe the results in a paper published Thursday in the journal Nature.
The team used brain scans to image the neurons in the neck of a person who suffered spinal cord injury and who was recovering from a stroke.
They found the nerve connections in the brainstem are more than 30 times more dense than normal.
The findings have broad implications for understanding the mechanisms by which spinal cord damage results in other neurological disorders.
Dr. Stephen O’Brien, a neurologist at the University of Sydney in Australia and a co-author of the paper, said the finding helps explain the difference between spinal cord fractures and other injuries, such as strokes, where the brain is damaged but not severed.
“It’s a good illustration of what’s going on in the neural pathways of the spinal system that might be important in these different neurological disorders,” Dr. O’Briens said.
The study was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Medical Research Board, and the Wellcome Trust. ______