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J Neurotrauma. 2008 Aug;25(8):1039-47. doi: 10.1089/neu.2007.0419.

Effect of cervical dorsolateral funiculotomy on reach-to-grasp function in the rat.

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Department of Physical Therapy, Arcadia University, Glenside, Pennsylvania 19038, USA.


Cervical spinal cord injury (SCI) can severely impair reaching and grasping ability, and several descending systems, including the rubrospinal tract and corticospinal tract, have been implicated in the control of reach-to-grasp movements. The primary aim of this study was to characterize further the forelimb deficits associated with a cervical dorsolateral funiculotomy, which ablates the rubrospinal tract but spares the dorsal and ventral corticospinal tract in the rat. Adult female rats that preferred to use their right forelimb to reach for single pellets received a lesion to the right cervical dorsolateral funiculus between the C3-4 dorsal roots. Gross forelimb motor function was assessed by measuring spontaneous forelimb usage during exploration in a cylinder, and fine motor function was assessed using staircase and single pellet reaching tests. Single pellet reaching was further evaluated by qualitative and quantitative kinematic scoring of the movement components. Histological analysis included the quantification of spared white matter. Cervical dorsolateral funiculotomy produced marked deficits in reaching performance on both the single pellet and staircase reaching tests, with transient deficits in gross forelimb usage in the cylinder. Quantitative kinematics also revealed a reduction in digit abduction during the reach, which persisted throughout the 8-week post-SCI period. Tests of reach-to-grasp function, therefore, were more sensitive than a test of gross forelimb usage after cervical dorsolateral funiculotomy and did not show recovery over the 8-week survival period. We suggest that the staircase test is a useful screening tool for intervention studies because of its ease of implementation, and that the single pellet test is valuable for examining reaching accuracy and detailed kinematics.

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