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How is the Zebrafish approach different from other neurological recovery methods?

The therapeutic demands of spinal cord injury recovery are fundamentally different from other conditions.

After spinal cord injury, communication and control of the body have generally been disrupted by a single, traumatic event, as opposed to a progressive path of slow decline of function (multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson’s) or a congenital disease (cerebral palsy, spina bifida). This disconnect has also occurred in the spinal cord, rather than in the brain (stroke/CVA, traumatic brain injury/TBI) or in the peripheral nervous system.

This immediate and dramatic loss of function requires that the practitioner see the client’s disconnects as a complete package. When postural muscles are so weak that even sitting-up independently is a battle, the client will require far more support – and awareness – than is typical of able-bodied or even other neuro-clients.

Practitioners must understand the nature of these difficulties to know what to expect from clients when programming. Spinal cord injury clients will also often require physical support to allow for movement learning in proper alignment.

Because of these unique needs, spinal cord injury cannot be grouped in the same category when considering therapeutic protocols for other “neurological populations.”

Why Pilates over other mindful disciplines?

With so many well-trained and highly-motivated Pilates practitioners around the world, there is an incredible opportunity for those with spinal cord injury to benefit from this vast pool of expertise.

We believe that Pilates principles provide a crucial, missing piece in popular spinal cord injury recovery protocols. Sure, Joe may not have had this population in mind when he wrote Return to Life, but with some modification, his method provides an ideal framework for the client to explore bodily reconnection.

  • In contrast to “traditional gym exercises,” the nuanced approach of Pilates is perfectly suited for connecting muscles in a deliberate way which leads to lasting change, rather than relying on spastic, reflexive motions.

  • Already built into the method is an emphasis on noticing subtle changes in posture. The development of this kinesthetic awareness is crucial for the brain to incorporate new associations.

  • Pilates practitioners are already well-versed in anatomy and biomechanics; they are creative problem-solvers already primed to help people move better.

  • The Pilates equipment itself offers critical support for individuals with paralysis, sparing the trainer chronic over-exertion.

The stage is set for quality training for those working to recover function after spinal cord injury!

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Wait...why 'Zebrafish'?

Zebrafish are stunning creatures. These inch-long darlings of biology labs share 70% of our genes and have the ability to regrow their spinal cord. Eight weeks after complete spinal injury, they’re back to swimming normally.

Why can’t humans do that?!

Studies of zebrafish have contributed to our understanding of stem-cells in the retina, bone regeneration, genetics of skin pigmentation, and the role friction plays in embryonic development of the nervous system.

The fish are also transparent when they’re young, which makes it possible to study them in-vivo. Instead of waiting for an animal’s death to study the mechanisms of disease, gene modifications can be made and within days, the effects can be measured. These experiments save human lives.

Real-time study of the body is what we’re all about at Zebrafish Neuro. Reconnecting a paralyzed body requires an intimate awareness of what is going on inside, and the practitioner’s greatest asset is to intuitively sense where bodily communication is hindered, and then to understand how to bridge the gap. We humans may not be able to regrow our spinal cords like zebrafish, but there are so many ways to reconnect the body if we are open to the possibilities.