Functional restoration of limb movement after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) remains the ultimate goal in SCI treatment and directs the focus of current research strategies. To date, most investigations in the treatment of SCI focus on repairing the injury site. Although offering some promise, these efforts have met with significant roadblocks because treatment measures that are successful in animal trials do not yield similar results in human trials. In contrast to biologic therapies, there are now emerging neural interface technologies, such as brain machine interface (BMI) and limb reanimation through electrical stimulators, to create a bypass around the site of the SCI. The BMI systems analyze brain signals to allow control of devices that are used to assist SCI patients. Such devices may include a computer, robotic arm, or exoskeleton. Limb reanimation technologies, which include functional electrical stimulation, epidural stimulation, and intraspinal microstimulation systems, activate neuronal pathways below the level of the SCI. We present a concise review of recent advances in the BMI and limb reanimation technologies that provides the foundation for the development of a bypass system to improve functional outcome after traumatic SCI. We also discuss challenges to the practical implementation of such a bypass system in both these developing fields.
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