KINGSTON, Ontario, March 22 (UPI) -- The spinal cord processes information just like areas of the brain, a Canadian researcher says, a finding that could improve treatment of spinal cord injuries.
"Basic physiology books describe the spinal cord as a relay system, but it's part of the central nervous system and processes information just like parts of the brain do," Patrick Stroman of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario said.
Stroman has been using this finding to map the area above and below spinal cord injuries with MRI images, the Kingston Herald reported Tuesday. When medical research reaches the point at which doctors can bridge an injury to the spinal cord, Stroman says, such mapping will be key in pinpointing the exact location to be bridged.
Stroman and colleagues also discovered that levels of attention affected information processing in the spinal cord, just as in the brain.
Levels of spinal cord activity picked up by an MRI scanner were altered, depending on whether a person alert of distracted, Stroman said.
"We already knew that a person's level of attention affects information processing in the brain, but this finding has made us aware that level of attention has to be properly controlled in research that aims to accurately map spinal cord function," he said.