Acetylcholine A neurotransmitter in both
the peripheral and central nervous system. Peripheral neurons release
acetylcholine, which binds to receptors on muscle cells initiating
Acupuncture Acupuncture-related therapies
stimulate specific skin points by inserting needles, applying heat or
pressure, or through contemporary energy-emitting devices. This
stimulation promotes the health-enhancing life-force energy called qi.
Acute Injury The early stages of an injury.
Pain from a stimulus which does not normally trigger pain.
Allogeneic Transplantation Donor cells are
from different individuals of the same species.
progressive, usually fatal, neurodegenerative disease caused by the
degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous
system that control voluntary movement - sometimes called Lou Gerhigs
Disease after the famous baseball player who died from the disorder.
Drugs used to relieve pain.
Andropause - The
decline in testosterone production in males during and after after
middle age together with its associated physiological effects.
- A key process involved in the growth of new blood vessels after wounds
and injuries. Nervous-system regeneration in the spinal cord may be
dependent upon such angiogenesis.
Antagonist An agent or drug that does not
intitate a biological response itself upon binding to a receptor but
blocks the response from the active substance.
Anterior - The
front of the body, as opposed to the backside or posterior.
A substance, such as penicillin or streptomycin, produced by or
derived from microorganisms that can destroy or inhibit the growth of
bacteria causing infectious disease.
Drugs that have been developed for
for the treatment of epileptic seizures.
They have been adopted for use in treating SCI pain because scientists
have noted a similarity between the underlying physiology or
biochemistry observed in seizure disorders and neuropathic pain, both of
which involve abnormal firing of neurons.
A substance that lessens oxidative damage, such as that caused by free
A form of cell death in which a programmed sequence of events leads to
the elimination of cells.
Arachnoid One of the three layers of the
spinal cord meinges, interposed between the dura and pia mater, and
separated from the pia mater by the subarachinoid space.
ASIA Impairment Scale Developed by the
American Spinal Injury Association, this scale classifies spinal cord
injuries from grade A (a complete injury) to grade E (complete recovery of
ASIA Motor Examination The testing of key
muscles reflecting different injury levels on a scale ranging from 0
(total paralysis) to 5 (normal). For example, the inability to move
elbow flexors would be indicative of a C5 injury.
ASIA Sensory Examination A key point in
each of 28 dermatomes on the right and left side of the body is tested
for appreciation of light-touch (using a cotton swab) and pinprick
sensation. Testing also includes assessment of deep pressure in the anal
Ashworth Scale - Commonly used as an
indicator of spasticity, measures the resistance of a muscle being
stretched with a five-point scale ranging from 1 (no increase in tone)
to 5 (limb rigid in flexion or extension).
Astrocyte A star-shaped glial or neuronal
support cell found in the brain and spinal cord.
Atelectasis - A collapsed or airless state
of the lungs.
ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) - A high-energy
molecule used to drive most biochemical processes.
Autologous Transplantation - Transplantable
donor cells are obtained from the patient who will be the recipient.
Autonomic Dysreflexia A condition
associated with damage to the spinal cord above the mid thoracic level
characterized by a marked increase in the sympathetic response to minor
stimuli such as bladder or rectal distention or a pressure ulcer.
Symptoms can include sweating, high blood pressure, headache, heart rate
changes, and flushing of the skin.
Autonomic Nervous System The part of the
nervous system that controls the bodys involuntary actions, including
heart muscle and glands.
Axon A long, slender nerve fiber that
conducts electrical impulses away from the neurons cell body to target
cells, including other nerves and muscles.
Ayurvedic Medicine The traditional medicine
- A commonly used animal test which measures recovery of hind-limb
function on a scale from 0 (no hind-limb movement) to 21 (normal
Blood-Brain Barrier - Restricts the passage of various substances between the
bloodstream and the CNS. Injury compromises this barrier allowing for
the passage of water and neuron-damaging substances into the CNS.
Bone Marrow: The soft, gelatinous tissue
within bone cavities, which is the source of red blood cells, stem
cells, progenitor cells, and precursor cells.
Bone-Marrow Stem Cells Stem cells produced
by the bone marrow, including hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells.
A network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the
shoulder, arm, and hand. Brachial plexus injuries are caused by damage
to those nerves.
Brachial Plexus Nerve Root Avulsion
Injuries in which nerve roots are stretched or torn away from the cord.
cAMP (cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate) - A
molecular mediator or messenger of important cellular and neuronal processes.
Cannabis A genus of flowering plants
commonly used as a recreational drug (e.g., marijuana) but possessing a
number of medical applications, including potentially pain and
spasticity in spinal cord dysfunction.
Caudal: An anatomical term relating to the
tail or hind part (opposite of rostral). For example, caudal to the
injury site would mean below the injury site.
Cauda Equina - Because spinal cord ends far
above the tailbone, long nerve extensions, collectively called the cauda
equina, are required to reach the lower segments of the spine.
Central Nervous System (CNS) Nerves of the
brain and spinal cord.
Central Neuropathic Pain Neuropathic pain
caused by damage to the central nervous system.
Central Pattern Generator A spinal-cord
neuronal circuit responsible for coordinated rhythmic activity, such as
Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Serum-like fluid
that circulates through the spinal-cords subarachnoid space.
Cervical Region Corresponding to the neck
region. The cervical spine begins at the base of the skull and is composed
of seven vertebrae and eight pairs of cervical nerves.
Chakras - In Eastern healing traditions,
chakras are tornado-like energy vortexes, which convert higher
vibrational energy into energy that the body can assimilate.
Chiropractic - Focuses on diagnosing and
treating musculoskeletal disorders that affect the nervous system.
Chronic Injury Long-term injury, a term
often used for people injured more than a year.
Coccyx The coccyx or tailbone is the final
segment of vertebral column composed of typically four fused vertebrae.
Conus Medullaris The terminal end of the
Complete Injury - Loss of all function below
the injury site.
ComplexRegional Pain Syndrome A chronic
pain condition 1) not limited to the region of a single peripheral nerve
or nerve root, 2) out of proportion to what is expected, and 3)
associated with edema, skin blood-flow abnormality, or irregular
activity of the nerves that stimulate sweat glands. Associated with
diffuse hand pain, swelling and stiffness.
Contralateral On the opposite side.
Contusion Injury A common injury due to
impact, which bruises the spinal cord.
Corpus Cavernosa - Cylindrical, sponge-like
regions on each side of the penis shaft that become engorged with blood
in erectile tumescence.
Corticospinal Tract A collection of axons
that travel between the brains cerebral cortex and the spinal cord.
Craniosacral System A physiological system
surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Craniosacral Therapy - A gentle hands-on
procedure for evaluating and enhancing the function of the craniosacral
Crossed Phrenic Pathway - A normally
dormant, backup pathway that can be used to restore some respiratory
function after cervical injury.
Curanderismo Traditional Mexican-American
Daoyin - Physical and mental activities
simultaneously carried out in conjunction with acupunctural procedures
to direct the qi energy to affected body areas.
Pain Pain due to the loss
of sensory input into the central nervous system.
Decompression A surgical procedure in which
various tissue or bone fragments that compress the spinal cord and, in
turn, compromise cord function are removed.
Demyelination The conduction-compromising
loss of the insulating myelin around nerves due to injury or disease.
Dendrites The tree-like branches extending
from the neuron cell body that receive signals from other nerve cells at
Denervation The loss of nerve connection to,
for example, a muscle.
Detrusor Muscle Contracts
when urinating to squeeze out urine.
Deep Vein Thrombosis - A blood clot that
forms in a deep vein of usually the leg. This clot potentially can
dislodge and travel to the lungs, where it can create a life-threatening
Dermatome Map A body map that shows skin
sensitivity associated with various levels of spinal cord injury.
Diaphragm - The
main muscle of respiration that separates the chest cavity from the
Distal More distant from the center.
Dorsal - Relating to the back or posterior of
Dorsal Root - A collection of afferent nerves
from the periphery, which brings sensory information into the spinal cord.
Dorsal Root Entry Zone (DREZ) - The location
where the dorsal roots enter the spinal cord and a key area in
transmitting or processing pain stimuli.
Double Blind An investigative procedure
designed to reduce experimental bias; neither subject nor patient knows
who is receiving placebo or active agent.
Dura Mater The tough and fibrous outer
membrane of the three membranes (i.e., meninges) that cover the spinal
Dysesthesia Uncomfortable and abnormal
sensations (e.g., burning, wetness, itching, electric shock, and pins
and needles) for which there is no external cause.
Dystonia A movement disorder which causes
involuntary, sometimes painful, twisting and repetitive movements.
Edema Swelling of the spinal cord after
injury due to the accumulation of fluids.
Freedom Technique (EFT) - A form of acupressure-assisted exposure
therapy, where one taps on various acupressure points while focusing on
troublesome emotional issues
The electrical recording of muscle activity for diagnostic purposes.
Electrophysiology The study of electrical
activity or conduction in nerves.
Endogenous Originating or produced from
within the body.
Energy Fields Higher level electromagnetic
fields that surround the physical body, which it is believed is composed
of at least seven consecutive layers of increasing vibrational energy.
A device for evaluating the amount of work done by a muscle or group
Evoked Potentials Measures nerve-fiber
viability by sending an electromagnetic signal from the brain and
recording the signal after it passes through the cord.
Excitatory Amino Acids Amino acid
neurotransmitters (e.g., glutamate) released from a pre-synaptic neuron
that promulgates the nerve impulse in a nearby post-synaptic neuron.
Excitotoxicity - The process
by which nerve cells are damaged by glutamate and similar substances.
The movement of a joint that results in increased angle between two
bones or body surfaces at a joint.
Joints - Small
stabilizing joints located between and behind adjacent vertebrae.
A small bundle of nerve fibers.
Independence Measure, a predictor of the amount of assistance or
adaptive equipment an individual may need in everyday life.
Flexion - The bending of a joint so that the
bones forming the joint are brought closer together.
Frankel Scale A predecessor to the
ASIA-impairment scale that measure neurological status after spinal cord
- The initial mechanical injury generates free radical molecules.
Because these molecules possess unpaired electrons, they steal electrons
from lipids in nearby neuronal membranes, in turn, causing further cell
Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) The
use of low levels of electrical current to
stimulate physical or bodily functions lost through nervous-system
Functional Magnetic Stimulation (FMS) - The
use of magnetic fields to promote functional benefits.
- gamma-amino butyric acid, a key amino-acid neurotransmitter
which often exerts an inhibitory role in neural transmission.
Glia Cells Neuronal support cells, such as
oligodendrocytes and astrocytes in the spinal cord, and Schwann cells in
the peripheral nervous system.
Granulocytic Colony-Stimulating Factor -A
growth factor that stimulates the bone marrow to produce stem cells.
Gray Matter The portion of the spinal cord
comprised mainly of neuronal cell bodies and dendrites, and not myelinated
A specialized structure at
the tip of an extending axon that regulates axonal extension during
development and regeneration.
- An energy therapy in which practitioners consciously use their hands
in an in a heart-centered and intentional way to support and facilitate
physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
Hematopoietic Stem Cells Bone-marrow-derived
stem cells that replenish blood cells.
Hippotherapy - Uses equine rhythmic movement
to help individuals with a variety of neurological disorders, including
The anatomical study of the
microscopic structure of tissues. Such studies are often carried out in
SCI research to evaluate the neuroprotective impact of various
interventions at the injury site.
A chemical created by one tissue and transported through the blood to
influence the function (e.g., growth & metabolism) of other tissues.
Hyperbaric Oxygen The use of pressurized
oxygen to treat oxygen-deprived CNS tissue resulting from injury.
Hypnosis - A trance-like state of
consciousness distinguished by increased susceptibility to suggestion,
relaxation, and imagination.
Hypogonadism - A medical
term for decreased functional activity of the gonads, e.g., low
testosterone production by the testicles.
- A region of the brain located above the brain stem that
produces and secretes important neurohormones.
Hypothermia Therapy The use of cooling
procedures, which potentially preserve post-injury neurological function
by reducing the cords metabolic and energetic requirements.
Hypoxia A deficiency in oxygen reaching
Iliac Bone The largest bone of the pelvis,
which is a source of autologous, bone-marrow stem cells.
Incomplete Injury Some sensation or motor
function below the injury site.
Indigenous Healing The traditional healing
practices of indigenous cultures (e.g., Native American).
Inert Gases An elemental family with
unique properties, which includes helium, neon, argon, krypton, and
Innervate To supply with nerves; to make
contact with target muscles or nerves.
Intracavernosal Within the corpus
injection of a substance into the peritoneum or body cavity.
Intrathecal An injection into the
intrathecal space surrounding the spinal cord.
Intravenous - Administered
by injection into a vein.
Intervertebral Disc A spongy,
shock-absorbing, cartilaginous tissue lying between
In Vitro Undertaking an
experiment outside of a living organism, e.g., in a test tube.
- Experimentation done in living tissue of a whole, living organism.
Molecules with an electrical charge.
Ion Channel A protein that serves as a
pore in the cell membrane, allowing the regulated flow of ions (e.g.,
potassium, sodium, and calcium ions) across the membrane and, in turn,
Ipsilateral On the same side, in contrast to
Ischemia A reduction in blood flow.
Laminectomy A surgical procedure which
removes a portion of vertebral structures and is used for a variety of
purposes, such as decompressing or accessing the spinal cord.
Laparoscopic Surgery A surgical technique
in which abdominal operations are carried out with small incisions with
the assistance of a laparoscope.
Lasers Amplify light by producing coherent
light beams. Laser is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated
emission of radiation.
Lipid Peroxidation A biochemical process
that mediates secondary neurological damage to the injured cord.
Locomotion The ability to move from one
place to the next.
Lower Motor Neurons - Nerves that leave the
spinal cord to connect to muscles.
Low-Level Laser Therapy The use of coherent
light beams for biostimulation.
Lumbar Puncture A procedure in which
a needle is carefully inserted into the spinal canal in the backs lower
lumbar area. It is a mechanism by which stem cells can be transplanted
into the cerebrospinal fluid and, hopefully, be transported to the
spinal-cord injury site.
Lumbar Region Corresponding to the lower
back; the lumbar spine
has five lumbar vertebrae.
Macrophages - A key player in the immune
response, macrophages are a type of white blood cell that ingests foreign
material such as infectious agents.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) An imaging
method used to visualize the inside of living organisms,
including organs and tissues, such as the spinal cord.
A hormone produced by the pineal gland and a commonly available,
sleep-inducing nutritional supplement that may be neuroprotective after
spinal cord injury.
Meninges The three membranes that cover the
spinal cord, including the dura (outside), arachnoid, and pia mater
Meridians Under Traditional Chinese
Medicine, meridians are channels for life-force energy called qi. Energy
flow through these meridians can be balanced through the use of
Mesenchymal Stem Cells A bone-marrow-derived
stem cell that has the capability of differentiating into a variety of
A component of the cell cytoskeleton, which helps to maintain cell
structure, and provide platforms for intracellular transport and the
separation of chromosomes during mitosis.
Mitochondria - Membrane-enclosed organelles
found within most cells involved in generating energy for the cells.
Motor Evoked Potentials
Electrophysiological response recorded from muscles following direct
electromagnetic stimulation of brain.
Motor Neuron Spinal cord neurons that
synapse with muscles and facilitate muscle contraction.
Myelin A fatty insulating material
enveloping neuronal axons produced by oligodendrocytes in the spinal cord
and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system.
Myelography - A form of x-ray examination of
the spinal cord using an injected dye for contrast.
Myelomeningocele - A neural tube birth
defect in which some of the spinal cord protrudes throught the vertebral
Surgical incision of the spinal cord.
Necrosis The death of living cells or
Neurite: Any process, including both dendrites
and axons, growing out of a neuron. The term is often used when
referring to immature or developing neurons, especially when grown in
culture, where it is difficult to distinguish axons from dendrites.
Neuron A nerve cell that transmits and
receives information, composed of dendrites, a cell body, and a axon.
Neuropathic Pain - Pain resulting from
damage to neural tissue either within the peripheral (nerves outside of
the brain and spinal cord) or central nervous system.
Neurotransmitter Chemicals that are released
by nerve cells at synapses that excite or inhibit adjacent neurons or
Nociceptive Pain - Pain occuring from damage
to non-neural tissues, such as bones, connective tissue, muscle, skin,
or other organs, that are still partially or fully innervated. It can be
mechanical or musculoskeletal in nature, or arise from damage to or
irritation of internal visceral organs.
Nucleus Caudalis An area of the spinal
cord located near the dorsal root entry zone.
Pertaining to the sense of smell. Because olfactory tissue has
considerable regenerative potential, it has been transplanted into the
injured spinal cord.
Olfactory Ensheathing Cells (OECs) A part of
nasal tissue, OECs appear to have special regeneration-promoting
properties when transplanted into the injured spinal cord.
Oligodendrocytes A neuronal support or glial
cell that produces insulating myelin.
Omentum - A highly vascular,
stem-cell-containing fatty tissue that hangs like an apron over the
intestines and lower abdomen area.
- Psychoactive, naturally occurring and synthetic molecules that bind to
various receptors on the surface of neurons, including those in the
Osteoporosis Loss in bone density.
Paraplegia Spinal cord injury below the
cervical level, affecting lower body function.
Parasympathetic Nervous System A
part of the autonomic nervous system that serves to slow the heart rate,
increase the intestinal and gland activity, and relax sphincter muscles.
Paraesthesias - Tingling, burning,
numbness sensations of the skin.
Peripheral Nervous System Nerves outside of
the brain and spinal cord.
Pain sensations an individual experiences from a limb or organ that is
no longer a part of the body or due to spinal cord injury or nerve
Studies - Studies which how a
drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolized,
and eliminated by the body.
Phase I Clinical Trial: A preliminary
evaluation in a relatively small group of subjects to evaluate safety,
determine side effects, and establish safe dosing.
Phase II Clinical Trial: A study in which a
treatment is given to a larger group of subjects to determine if it is
effective and further evaluate safety.
Phrenic Nerve Pacing Provides respiratory
assistance for individuals with higher-level, respiration-compromising
injuries by electrically stimulating diaphragmatic contractions.
Pia Mater The innermost
layer of the meninges, the membrane system surrounding the spinal cord.
An endocrine gland located near the hypothalmus at the base of the brain
that secretes various hormones.
Placebo An inactive substance given to
control subjects to compare with the active-agent treatment group.
Plasticity Adaptive processes by which the
nervous system returns to normal levels of function after injury.
Posterior - The
back of the body, as opposed to the frontside or anterior.
A condition in which polio survivors experience new weakenings in
muscles initially affected by the polio infection
Postsynaptic - Situated
after a synapse. A postsynaptic cell (e.g., another neuron or a
muscle cell) contains receptors that bind to neurotransmitters released
by presynaptic neurons.
Prana - Under ancient Hindu Ayurvedic and
yoga philosophy, life-force energy prana is circulated throughout the
Presynaptic - Situated in front of or
occurring before a synapse. A presynaptic neuron releases
neurotransmitters that bind with the receptors of a postsynaptic cell
(e.g., another neuron or a muscle cell).
Priapism - A prolonged, often painful
erection, in which the penis does not return to its flaccid state within
about four hours due to blood retention.
Prosthesis A device that replaces a
missing body part.
Psychogenic Erection A penile erection
produced by erotic stimuli.
Pulmonary Embolism - A blockage of the main
artery of the lung or one of its branches by a blood clot that has
travelled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream.
Qi Under Traditional Chinese Medicine, the
life-force energy that permeates all living things.
Qigong A system of self healing encompassing
gentle movements, breathing, and meditative practices.
Quadriplegia An injury in the cervical area,
affecting all four limbs (also called tetraplegia).
Quercetin A commonly available,
antioxidant nutritional supplement found in many many foods. Inhibits
damage-mediating, post-injury lipid peroxidation.
Pain caused caused by damage to nerve roots where they connect to the
spinal column due to damage from the initial injury or impingement by
bone fragments or disk or scar material.
A penile erection produced by touch.
Swellings at the tip of the proximal stumps of injured CNS neurons
that lack the regenerative potential of growth cones.
Rhizotomy - A
neurosurgical procedure that selectively severs spinal nerve roots.
Rostral: An anatomical adjective indicating
toward the head (opposite of caudal).
Sacral Region Sacral vertebrae are situated
in the spinal column below the lumbar vertebrae and above the coccyx.
Schwann Cells Neuronal support or glial
cells responsible for myelinating axons in the peripheral nervous system.
Secondary Injury The physiological and
biochemical changes that occur after the initial mechanical injury that
further damage the spinal cord.
Septicemia A bodywide infection due to
virulent bacteria enetering the bloodsteam from a local infection, i.e.,
Somatic Nervous System The part of the
nervous system that controls most voluntary activities in the body.
Somatosensory Evoked Potential An
electrophysiological measurement of spinal cord function. Recorded by
stimulating peripheral nerves and measuring the response from the
Spina Bifida - A birth defect in which the
spinal cord is malformed and lacks its usual protective skeletal and
Spinous Process A
vertebral rearward projection that provides an attachment point for
muscles and ligaments.
A class of drugs used to lower cholesterol in an effort to lessen
cardiovascular disease risk.
Stem Cells Precursor or progenitor cells
that have the potential to differentiate into a wide variety of tissue.
Although often dichotomously categorized as either embryonic or adult,
they actually represent a continuum of cell types that eventually
transform into our end-product tissue.
Subarachnoid Space - A space, filled with
cerebrospinal fluid, between the spinal-cords arachnoid membrane and
inner most pia mater membrane.
Substance P A neuropeptide or
neurotransmitter found in the brain and spinal cord associated with pain
Sudomotor Activity Relating to the nerves
that stimulate the sweat glands.
Above the spinal cord or vertebral column.
Sympathetic Nervous System A part of the
autonomic nervous system that mobilizes energy and resources during times
of stress and arousal.
Synapses The junction between a neuron and
another neuron or muscle or gland cells. At the synapse, the axon releases
a neurotransmitter that diffuse across a tiny gap to a target-cell
receptor, triggering a response.
Syringomyelia The formation of a
fluid-filled cavity or syrinx in the area of the spinal cord injury.
Thoracic Region The 12 thoracic vertebrae
are located in the chest/trunk region below the cervical vertebrae and
above the lumbar vertebrae.
electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) A pain-relief method in which
a device transmits low-voltage electrical impulses at various
frequencies through electrodes attached to the skin in areas associated
Transverse Myelitis - A neurological
disorder involving inflammation of the spinal cord, which can damage the
myelin sheaths surrounding neurons.
Umbilical Stem Cells Isolated from umbilical
cord blood and possessing less rejection potential than most other
allogeneic donor tissue.
Upper Motor Neurons - Nerves within the spinal
cord that are involved in controlling movement.
Urodynamic Studies - Diagnostic
tests used to evaluate urinary-flow.
A urinary tract infection.
Ventilator A mechanical device that
promotes breathing in individuals with impaired daiphraphm function.
Relating to the belly or front of the body.
Ventral Root A collection of efferent, motor
nerves that exit the spinal cord.
Vertebra The individual bones that make up
the vertebral column or spine.
Visual Analog Scale (VAS) A scale in which
individuals subjects rate their pain levels on a scale usually ranging
from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain imaginable).
Vitamin E A lipid soluble antioxidant that
protects cell membranes from the free radicals generated through
lipid-peroxidation, a process that spreads damage after the initial
spinal cord injury. Also called alpha-tocopherol.
WISCI - Walking Index for Spinal Cord
Injury, a measurement which assesses the amount of assistance required
Shoulder Pain Index (WUSPI)
- With this index, subjects reported the amount of shoulder pain
associated with 15 activities of daily living (e.g., transfers, etc.).
Each activity is assessed using a 1 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain ever
experienced) scale. The scores for all activities are combined, giving
an aggregate score ranging from 0-150.
White Matter The portion of the spinal cord
that contains myelinated axons.
Xenogeneic Transplantation Donor cells
obtained from different species.
Yoga - A system of exercises for attaining
bodily or mental control and well-being. Derived from a Sanskrit word
which means yoke or union.