Australian researchers say around half of patients suffering from major spinal cord injuries could still have some nerve connections intact.

Neuroscience Research Australia has used fMRI scans to investigate the nerve responses of 23 people living with spinal injuries.

They were surprised to find that almost half the group could not feel touch in paralysed areas, but still registered the stimulation in their brains.

This means that even though the communication to the brain had been severed in the injury, messages are still being received.

The finding brings hope to many severe spinal injury patients for when advanced treatments and rehabilitation techniques are developed.

The researchers say it is a new glimmer of hope for patients who may have been told they will never walk again.

Much work is needed to develop treatments that would enhance the surviving sensory nerve connections, but with a steady stream of advances in brain computer interfaces and other techniques, it is likely that some improvement is on the way.

The study was conducted in collaboration between Neuroscience Research Australia, the Pain Management Research Institute, and the University of Sydney and has been published in the journal Human Brain Mapping.