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J Neurosci. 2014 Jul 9;34(28):9190-5. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5303-13.2014.

Tonic pain experienced during locomotor training impairs retention despite normal performance during acquisition.

Author information

1
Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en réadaptation et intégration sociale, Québec City, Québec G1M 2S8, Canada, and Département de réadaptation, Faculté de médecine, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada.
2
Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en réadaptation et intégration sociale, Québec City, Québec G1M 2S8, Canada, and Département de réadaptation, Faculté de médecine, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada catherine.mercier@rea.ulaval.ca.

Abstract

Many patients are in pain when they receive gait training during rehabilitation. Based on animal studies, it has been proposed that central sensitization associated to nociception (maladaptive plasticity) and plasticity related to the sensorimotor learning (adaptive plasticity) share similar neural mechanisms and compete with each other. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether experimental tonic pain influences motor learning (acquisition and next-day retention) of a new locomotor task. Thirty healthy human subjects performed a locomotor adaptation task (perturbing force field applied to the ankle during swing using a robotized orthosis) on 2 consecutive days. Learning was assessed using kinematic measures (peak and mean absolute plantarflexion errors) and electromyographic (EMG) activity. Half of the participants performed the locomotor adaptation task with pain on Day 1 (capsaicin cream around the ankle), while the task was performed pain-free for all subjects on Day 2 to assess retention. Pain had no significant effect on baseline gait parameters nor on performance during the locomotor adaptation task (for either kinematic or EMG measures) on Day 1. Despite this apparently normal motor acquisition, pain-free Day 2 performance was markedly and significantly impaired in the Pain group, indicating that pain during training had an impact on the retention of motor memories (interfering with consolidation and/or retrieval). These results suggest that the same motor rehabilitation intervention could be less effective if administered in the presence of pain.

KEYWORDS:

experimental pain; gait; motor learning; motor performance; plasticity; rehabilitation

PMID:
25009252
PMCID:
PMC4087202
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5303-13.2014
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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