The recovery of postural reflexes and locomotion following low thoracic hemisection in adult cats involves compensation by undamaged primary afferent pathways

Exp Neurol. 1993 Sep;123(1):17-34. doi: 10.1006/exnr.1993.1137.


Spinal hemisection in the adult cat results in motor impairments followed by substantial recovery of function (16, 20, 39, 53). The present study was undertaken to assess the contribution of undamaged ipsilateral segmental and contralateral descending systems to recovery of motor function. Quantitative behavioral methods were used to examine monopedal reflex and bipedal locomotor functions after thoracic hemisection. Different facets of motor behavior recover at different times. The recovery of monopedal postural reflexes precedes the recovery of more complex motor behavior. Since the reflexes tested are initiated by segmental afferent input and show recovery and normal motor patterns during locomotion, as defined by kinematic analysis show recovery, it is likely that dorsal root input compensates for the loss of descending input to one side of the spinal cord. Quantitative immunocytochemical methods for visualizing the central projections of dorsal root fibers (monoclonal antibody RAT-102; 49) and the descending serotoninergic pathway were used to examine the response of these pathways to hemisection. Hemisection results in a permanent decrease in the density of serotoninergic projections and a permanent increase in dorsal root projections in the spinal cord. The increased density of RAT-102 may represent an increase in the projection of dorsal root fibers and provide the increased input necessary to mediate enhanced reflex control. A transient increase in GAP-43 in the dorsal horn ipsilateral to the hemisection suggests that the increased density of RAT-102 immunoreactivity is associated with growth. Taken together, our results suggest that sprouting of primary afferents within the spinal cord is one mechanism underlying the recovery of function after hemisection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Afferent Pathways / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cats
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Denervation
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Locomotion*
  • Male
  • Postoperative Period
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Reflex*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Thorax