Electrical stimulation combined with exercise increase axonal regeneration after peripheral nerve injury

Exp Neurol. 2009 Sep;219(1):258-65. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2009.05.034. Epub 2009 Jun 3.


Although injured peripheral axons are able to regenerate, functional recovery is usually poor after nerve transection. In this study we aim to elucidate the role of neuronal activity, induced by nerve electrical stimulation and by exercise, in promoting axonal regeneration and modulating plasticity in the spinal cord after nerve injury. Four groups of adult rats were subjected to sciatic nerve transection and suture repair. Two groups received electrical stimulation (3 V, 0.1 ms at 20 Hz) for 1 h, immediately after injury (ESa) or during 4 weeks (1 h daily; ESc). A third group (ES+TR) received 1 h electrical stimulation and was submitted to treadmill running during 4 weeks (5 m/min, 2 h daily). A fourth group performed only exercise (TR), whereas an untreated group served as control (C). Nerve conduction, H reflex and algesimetry tests were performed at 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 weeks after surgery, to assess muscle reinnervation and changes in excitability of spinal cord circuitry. Histological analysis was made at the end of the follow-up. Groups that received acute ES and/or were forced to exercise in the treadmill showed higher levels of muscle reinnervation and increased numbers of regenerated myelinated axons when compared to control animals or animals that received chronic ES. Combining ESa with treadmill training significantly improved muscle reinnervation during the initial phase. The facilitation of the monosynaptic H reflex in the injured limb was reduced in all treated groups, suggesting that the maintenance of activity helps to prevent the development of hyperreflexia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axotomy
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Growth Cones / physiology
  • H-Reflex / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries*
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / therapy*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / methods
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Reflex, Abnormal / physiology
  • Sciatic Neuropathy / physiopathology
  • Sciatic Neuropathy / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome