Human and animal studies have documented that neural circuitries in the spinal cord show adaptive changes caused by altered supraspinal and/or afferent input to the spinal circuitry in relation to learning, immobilization, injury and neurorehabilitation. Reversible adaptations following, e.g. the acquisition or refinement of a motor skill rely heavily on the functional integration between supraspinal and sensory inputs to the spinal cord networks. Accordingly, what is frequently conceived as a change in the spinal circuitry may be a change in either descending or afferent input or in the relative integration of these, i.e. a change in the neuronal weighting. This is evident from findings documenting only task-specific functional changes after periods of altered inputs whereas resting responses remain unaffected. In fact, the proximity of the spinal circuitry to the outer world may demand a more rigid organization compared to the highly flexible cortical circuits. The understanding of all of this is important for the planning and execution of neurorehabilitation.
Keywords: Humans; Motor control; Plasticity; Reflexes; Spinal cord.