Here is the abstract for Dr. Ramer’s presentation. See you next week!

Peril atop the porcelain throne: the problem of blood pressure control after spinal cord injury

“It is … autonomic functions that we take for granted when we have them and that dominate our lives when we lose them.”

Kim Anderson, PhD: Spinal cord injury researcher (and a quadriplegic)    

We can appreciate that spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts communication between the brain and parts of the body below the injury, and the most obvious consequence of this disconnect between brain and body is paralysis. In reality, of course, the ramifications of damage to the spinal cord extend far beyond the inability to move voluntarily. In addition to motor circuitry, SCI also affects the autonomic nervous system, the nerves that govern internal organs. A host of dysfunctions ensue. SCI alters cardiovascular function, respiration, gastrointestinal, lower urinary tract, sexual function and temperature regulation: in short, everything we normally take for granted suddenly becomes a problem.

A recent survey of individuals with SCI has identified recovery of autonomic functions as a high priority for improving quality of life. For the majority of individuals, regaining sexual function, bladder function, bowel function, and cardiovascular control were top priorities – rated as more important than recovering walking movement. Despite these findings, the great majority of SCI research continues to focus on “curing paralysis”.

In this conversation, we will discuss autonomic dysfunction after SCI, and research that addresses these issues. We will focus to some extent on the cardiovascular complications of SCI, which are debilitating, chronic, and life-threatening, and the related phenomenon of “boosting” in wheelchair athletics. Finally, I hope the larger discussion might consider what and who drives the direction of biomedical research, including the role of the media, and to what extent researchers can or do consider the needs of the “consumer”.


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