The intriguing gecko lizard — known for shedding a tail that can flip, jump and lunge even after it’s severed — could shine a new light on how humans with spinal cord injuries might regain loss of movement.
Anthony Russell at the University of Calgary and a colleague in Southern Carolina have made the connection, looking at how gecko tails can exhibit complex movements within two minutes, and rythmic movement for up to 30 minutes after being shed to distract animals that are hunting them.
Clearly, Russel explains, the movement in the severed tail can happen without receiving any signals from the brain.
“Something in the tail is saying to the tail, ‘Lets use this muscle to move a lot, then take a break, then move again,’ ” says Russell.
The most plausible explanation is the tail is relying on sensory feedback from the environment, temperature, pressure, or other sensors on its surface, telling it to jump, pivot or travel in a certain direction, he said.
In much the same way, humans have also been known to experience movement or tremors even after a serious spinal cord injury that has led to permanent disability. more...