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Clin Neurophysiol. 2012 Jan;123(1):45-53. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2011.06.036. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Effect of spinal cord injury and of intrathecal baclofen on brainstem reflexes.

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Institut Guttmann, Hospital de Neurorehabilitació, Institut Universitari adscript a la Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.


Reorganization of neural circuits within the central nervous system following injury appears to be a means of compensatory mechanism for loss of function. Reorganization following spinal cord injury is known to evoke changes at the cortical and spinal cord levels. Recent studies, however, provide evidence of enhanced brainstem reflexes and alterations in excitatory and inhibitory interneuronal brainstem circuits, suggesting that reorganization following spinal cord injury occurs also at the brainstem level. Reversal of these changes by continuous intrathecal baclofen infusion to normal levels or beyond indicates strong GABAergic involvement. Rapid changes in the blink reflex and its prepulse inhibition following intrathecal baclofen bolus application that parallel clinical changes in muscle hypertonia suggest a muscle tone regulating effect of baclofen at the brainstem level. Enhanced brainstem reflexes in spinal cord injury patients may be the consequence of decreased GABA-mediated inhibition and/or strengthening of facilitatory connections due to either direct or indirect plastic changes occurring at the brainstem level. Modulation of brainstem reflexes by baclofen may foster the understanding of pathophysiological mechanisms underlying diseases with increased brainstem activity. Rehabilitation after central nervous system injury will always be a challenge, but understanding the mechanisms of reorganization of undamaged neural pathways may help to develop better strategies for enhancing neuronal plasticity and for implementing neuronal reorganization into carefully planned therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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