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Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2013 Nov 1;189(2):450-64. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2013.07.002. Epub 2013 Jul 26.

Respiration following spinal cord injury: evidence for human neuroplasticity.

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Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine, University of Florida, McKnight Brain Institute, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA; Neurological Surgery, College of Medicine, University of Florida, McKnight Brain Institute, Gainesville, FL, 32611, USA.


Respiratory dysfunction is one of the most devastating consequences of cervical spinal cord injury (SCI) with impaired breathing being a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in this population. However, there is mounting experimental and clinical evidence for moderate spontaneous respiratory recovery, or "plasticity", after some spinal cord injuries. Pre-clinical models of respiratory dysfunction following SCI have demonstrated plasticity at neural and behavioral levels that result in progressive recovery of function. Temporal changes in respiration after human SCI have revealed some functional improvements suggesting plasticity paralleling that seen in experimental models-a concept that has been previously under-appreciated. While the extent of spontaneous recovery remains limited, it is possible that enhancing or facilitating neuroplastic mechanisms may have significant therapeutic potential. The next generation of treatment strategies for SCI and related respiratory dysfunction should aim to optimize these recovery processes of the injured spinal cord for lasting functional restoration.

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