Locomotor capacities after complete and partial lesions of the spinal cord

Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 1996;56(1):449-63.


This paper first reviews some of the observations made on the locomotor capabilities of several animal species with a special emphasis on cats and including primates and man after complete spinal lesions. We show that animals can perform well-coordinated walking movements of the hindlimbs when they are placed on a treadmill belt and this locomotion is also adaptable to speed and perturbations. Cats with partial spinal lesions of the ventral and ventrolateral parts of the cord can perform voluntary quadrupedal locomotion overground or on the treadmill albeit with deficits in weight support and interlimb coordination. We also show that some drugs such as clonidine (an alpha-2 noradrenergic agonist) can be used to trigger locomotion in early-spinal cats and discuss the effects of various neurotransmitter systems on the expression of the locomotor pattern in both complete and partial spinal cats. It is concluded that a pharmacological approach could be used, in combination with other approaches, such as locomotor training and functional electrical stimulation, to improve locomotor functions after spinal cord injuries in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*