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Neuroscience. 1983 Dec;10(4):1471-86.

Axonal physiology of chronic spinal cord injury in the cat: intracellular recording in vitro.


The properties of action potential conduction in single axons of the cat thoracic spinal cord were examined with microelectrode recording and electrical stimulation in vitro. The study included normal animals, animals chronically paralyzed by contusion of the cord, and animals showing some degree of locomotory recovery following a similar injury and several weeks of transient paralysis. The control studies were designed to compare the results of microelectrode sampling in vitro with morphological and in vivo physiological data. The pathophysiological studies were intended to investigate the continuity and function of axons identified morphologically in paralyzing lesions, and to examine the hypothesis that functional loss is associated with chronic axonal dysfunction, as well as direct axonal loss. Most of the recordings were made from dorsal columns and ventral tracts at 23-25 degrees C. The conduction velocities recorded in the normal cord were consistent with morphological data on caliber spectra, given the selectivity of the microelectrodes for larger axons. The refractory period of transmission was approximately 2-4 ms at 23-25 degrees C and 0.7-2 ms at 37 degrees C. Prolonged depolarizing after-potentials were recorded, following action potentials greater than 70 mV amplitude. Axons outside the lesion in injured cord showed only slight reductions from control in the mean and range of conduction velocity and refractory period distributions. The number of axons impaled per electrode track was reduced by up to one half. Relatively few impaled axons conducted through the lesion site in the injured cords: 16% in recovering animals and 7% in chronically paralyzed, as compared with 61% in uninjured controls. The mean conduction velocity of these through-conducting axons was significantly less than that of the normal population, particularly in paralyzed animals, and refractory period was significantly prolonged for conduction through the lesion in the paralyzed group. When axons conducting through the middle of the isolated spinal tract were challenged by raising the temperature, conduction block occurred below physiological temperature (37 degrees C) for 7% of axons in controls, 14% in recovering and 73% in paralyzed cats. The mean temperature of heat block in normal axons was 41 degrees C. Some axons appear to survive in paralyzing contusion trauma of this type. Those axons that remain in the lesion site project through it but their conduction properties are abnormal, particularly in animals that remain chronically paralyzed. Action potentials in many axons may be effectively blocked at the chronic lesion site, contributing to the overall functional d.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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