Stepwise motor and all-or-none sensory recovery is associated with nonlinear sparing after incremental spinal cord injury in rats

Exp Neurol. 2005 Feb;191(2):251-65. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2004.09.016.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes motor and sensory deficits that impair functional performance. While more functional recovery occurs with greater white matter sparing (WMS), it is unclear which locomotor features are more vulnerable to SCI than others, if recovery of certain features depends on specific amounts of WMS, and whether motor recovery patterns differ from sensory recovery. Locomotor and sensory recovery after graded contusive SCI with cord displacements of 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, 1.1, 1.25, and 1.3 mm was examined for 6 weeks in 80 female Sprague-Dawley rats. Seven SCI gradations resulted in three locomotor performance levels measured with BBB (P < 0.01): High: laminectomy (LAM) controls and 0.3 (19.87 +/- 0.35 SEM); Intermediate: 0.5-0.9 (13.71 +/- 0.32); and Low: 1.1-1.3 (9.23 +/- 0.36). Normal paw position was most susceptible to SCI requiring 90% WMS, while consistent plantar stepping was least susceptible depending on 10% WMS. A threshold at the 0.9 severity for coordination, toe clearance, and nearly normal trunk stability and tail usage required 25% WMS. Analysis of interlimb coordination using new phase dispersion (PD) techniques delineated three recovery patterns: synchronous (0.3), modified concordance (0.5, 0.7), and disengaged (0.9, 1.1). Lesion severity correlated to WMS (r(2) = 0.96) and to BBB (r(2) = 0.87) by nonlinear polynomial regressions. Mechanical allodynia developed only after injuries resulting in < or =10% WMS. Nonlinear motor and sensory recovery patterns suggest that small reparative changes may substantially improve function in individuals with SCI. A hierarchical locomotor recovery based on simple segmental versus complex supraspinal motor control is proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ataxia / etiology
  • Ataxia / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hyperalgesia / etiology
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology
  • Motor Activity
  • Movement Disorders / etiology
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Trauma Severity Indices*