Kinematic study of locomotor recovery after spinal cord clip compression injury in rats

J Neurotrauma. 2011 Sep;28(9):1963-81. doi: 10.1089/neu.2011.1840. Epub 2011 Sep 6.


After spinal cord injury (SCI), precise assessment of motor recovery is essential to evaluate the outcome of new therapeutic approaches. Very little is known on the recovery of kinematic parameters after clinically-relevant severe compressive/contusive incomplete spinal cord lesions in experimental animal models. In the present study we evaluated the time-course of kinematic parameters during a 6-week period in rats walking on a treadmill after a severe thoracic clip compression SCI. The effect of daily treadmill training was also assessed. During the recovery period, a significant amount of spontaneous locomotor recovery occurred in 80% of the rats with a return of well-defined locomotor hindlimb pattern, regular plantar stepping, toe clearance and homologous hindlimb coupling. However, substantial residual abnormalities persisted up to 6 weeks after SCI including postural deficits, a bias of the hindlimb locomotor cycle toward the back of the animals with overextension at the swing/stance transition, loss of lateral balance and impairment of weight bearing. Although rats never recovered the antero-posterior (i.e. homolateral) coupling, different levels of decoupling between the fore and hindlimbs were measured. We also showed that treadmill training increased the swing duration variability during locomotion suggesting an activity-dependent compensatory mechanism of the motor control system. However, no effect of training was observed on the main locomotor parameters probably due to a ceiling effect of self-training in the cage. These findings constitute a kinematic baseline of locomotor recovery after clinically relevant SCI in rats and should be taken into account when evaluating various therapeutic strategies aimed at improving locomotor function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology*
  • Female
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Compression / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord Compression / rehabilitation