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J Neurophysiol. 2014 Nov 15;112(10):2374-81. doi: 10.1152/jn.00422.2014. Epub 2014 Aug 20.

Persistent beneficial impact of H-reflex conditioning in spinal cord-injured rats.

Author information

  • 1Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Albany, New York;
  • 2Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Albany, New York; Department of Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York, Albany, New York; and Department of Neurology, Neurological Institute, Columbia University, New York, New York.
  • 3Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Albany, New York; Department of Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York, Albany, New York; and chenx@wadsworth.org.

Abstract

Operant conditioning of a spinal cord reflex can improve locomotion in rats and humans with incomplete spinal cord injury. This study examined the persistence of its beneficial effects. In rats in which a right lateral column contusion injury had produced asymmetric locomotion, up-conditioning of the right soleus H-reflex eliminated the asymmetry while down-conditioning had no effect. After the 50-day conditioning period ended, the H-reflex was monitored for 100 [±9 (SD)] (range 79-108) more days and locomotion was then reevaluated. After conditioning ended in up-conditioned rats, the H-reflex continued to increase, and locomotion continued to improve. In down-conditioned rats, the H-reflex decrease gradually disappeared after conditioning ended, and locomotion at the end of data collection remained as impaired as it had been before and immediately after down-conditioning. The persistence (and further progression) of H-reflex increase but not H-reflex decrease in these spinal cord-injured rats is consistent with the fact that up-conditioning improved their locomotion while down-conditioning did not. That is, even after up-conditioning ended, the up-conditioned H-reflex pathway remained adaptive because it improved locomotion. The persistence and further enhancement of the locomotor improvement indicates that spinal reflex conditioning protocols might supplement current therapies and enhance neurorehabilitation. They may be especially useful when significant spinal cord regeneration becomes possible and precise methods for retraining the regenerated spinal cord are needed.

Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.

KEYWORDS:

H-reflex conditioning; learning; locomotion; memory; motor control; rehabilitation; spinal cord injury; spinal cord plasticity

PMID:
25143542
[PubMed - in process]
PMCID:
PMC4233264
[Available on 2015-11-15]
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