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J Neurophysiol. 2013 Jun;109(12):2909-22. doi: 10.1152/jn.01044.2012. Epub 2013 Apr 3.

Treadmill training promotes spinal changes leading to locomotor recovery after partial spinal cord injury in cats.

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Groupe de Recherche sur le Système Nerveux Central, Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec, Département de Physiologie, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


After a spinal hemisection at thoracic level in cats, the paretic hindlimb progressively recovers locomotion without treadmill training but asymmetries between hindlimbs persist for several weeks and can be seen even after a further complete spinal transection at T13. To promote optimal locomotor recovery after hemisection, such asymmetrical changes need to be corrected. In the present study we determined if the locomotor deficits induced by a spinal hemisection can be corrected by locomotor training and, if so, whether the spinal stepping after the complete spinal cord transection is also more symmetrical. This would indicate that locomotor training in the hemisected period induces efficient changes in the spinal cord itself. Sixteen adult cats were first submitted to a spinal hemisection at T10. One group received 3 wk of treadmill training, whereas the second group did not. Detailed kinematic and electromyographic analyses showed that a 3-wk period of locomotor training was sufficient to improve the quality and symmetry of walking of the hindlimbs. Moreover, after the complete spinal lesion was performed, all the trained cats reexpressed bilateral and symmetrical hindlimb locomotion within 24 h. By contrast, the locomotor pattern of the untrained cats remained asymmetrical, and the hindlimb on the side of the hemisection was still deficient. This study highlights the beneficial role of locomotor training in facilitating bilateral and symmetrical functional plastic changes within the spinal circuitry and in promoting locomotor recovery after an incomplete spinal cord injury.


cat; locomotor training; plasticity; recovery; spinal cord injury

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