top of page

What is the research study about?


Complete spinal cord injury (SCI) is associated with a complete loss of function such as mobility or sensation. However, for many, this clinical diagnosis may not be true in anatomical or even physiological senses.


We recently revealed that 50% of people clinically diagnosed with complete SCI still have surviving spinal sensory nerve fibres. Our study included people categorised with complete SCI undertaking a brain imaging scan while we simultaneously stimulated their big toe. Even though they did not feel the big toe stimulation, we detected a significant signal in 50% of them in their brain areas generating the perception of touch. This became the first objective evidence of dis-complete SCI – the idea that many spinal cord injured people who cannot feel still have touch information forwarded from the periphery (parts of their body, e.g., big toe) to the brain.  

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) will shortly be recruiting SCI participants for a trial investigating a novel virtual reality haptic walking (VRHapticWalk) treatment to restore sensation. 

What does the research involve?


We aim to investigate whether a new approach, a novel virtual reality haptic walking (VRHapticWalk) therapy, can help people with discomplete paraplegia restore touch perception. 

The virtual reality (VR) haptic walking (VRHapticWalk) treatment will simultaneously enhance the function of the surviving spinal somatosensory nerve fibres and touch signals in the brain in an effort to restore touch perception among people with discomplete SCI. The 30 min treatment will be conducted on 20 consecutive days. In detail, participants will wear VR googles while their feet will be placed on a novel somatosensory training platform. Looking through the VR google and exploring different worlds, the platform will provide tactile stimulation to the sole of the feet while the participant is experiencing walking through the virtual world. For example, while participant walk over sand or rocks and gravels in the virtual world, the feet will be hectically stimulated by the platform in a way which stimulates the gait and walking feeling. In other words, haptic virtual reality will be used to re-train the nervous system to identify the distorted signals from toe to head as sensation. 

If you are interested in finding out more about this upcoming trial, please complete the form.

Register your interest

Type of Spinal Cord Injury?
Do you have neuropathic (nerve) pain below or at your level of injury?
Do you consent for us to keep your details in our secure, password protected database and we will contact you to see if you are interested in other trials we conduct? Your details will only be accessible by researchers from the NeuroRecovery Research Hub and will not be shared with anyone else.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our research team:

bottom of page