Background: Most spinal cord injuries (SCI) are not full transections, indicating that residual nerve circuits are retained. Rehabilitation interventions have been shown to beneficially reorganize motor pathways in the brain, corticospinal tract, and at the spinal level. However, rehabilitation training require a large number of repetitions, and intervention effects may be absent or show transient retention. Therefore, the need remains for an effective approach to synergistically improve the amount and duration of neuroplasticity in combination with other interventions. Remote ischemic conditioning (RIC) demonstrates several potential advantages as a candidate for such an approach. Therefore, we propose a protocol to investigate RIC coupled with physical training to promote neuroplasticity in hand muscles. Methods: This will be a prospective randomized-order crossover trial to be performed in eight able-bodied participants and eight participants with chronic cervical SCI. Patients will participate in two experimental sessions consisting of either active or sham RIC preceding a bout of pinch movement exercise. Serial evaluations will be conducted at baseline, after RIC, immediately after pinch exercise, and follow up 15-minutes later. The primary outcome is the change in corticospinal excitability (primarily measured by the motor evoked potential of abductor pollicis brevis muscle). Secondary outcomes will include maximal volitional pinch force, and inflammatory biomarkers. To ensure safety, we will monitor tolerability and hemodynamic responses during RIC. Discussion: This protocol will be the first to test RIC in people with cervical SCI and to investigate whether RIC alters corticospinal excitability. By sharing the details of our protocol, we hope other interested researchers will seek to investigate similar approaches - depending on overlap with the current study and mutual sharing of participant-level data, this could increase the sample size, power, and generalizability of the analysis and results. Trial registration: ClinicalTrial.gov, ID: NCT03851302; Date of registration: February 22, 2019.
Keywords: Remote ischemic conditioning; Spinal cord injury; TLR pathway; corticospinal; neural plasticity.
Copyright: © 2022 Wu YK et al.