Adaptive mechanisms of spinal locomotion

Funding Details
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Grant type: Operating Grant
  • Years: 2010/11 to 2013/14
  • Total Funding: $611,750
Keywords
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Project Summary

Several sensory and motor deficits result from spinal lesions. However, in most species, including humans, motor functions such as locomotion can recover to some degree depending on the severity of the spinal lesion. Various mechanisms may account for this recovery. Undamaged fiber tracts from the brain may undergo anatomical and physiological reorganization. Even some damaged fibers may regrow to reinnervate targets below the spinal lesion. However, based on our previous experiments on complete spinal cord lesion, it is clear that changes within the intrinsic spinal circuitry (named Central Pattern Generator or CPG) below the lesion may account for some recovery of function. The general hypothesis underlying this grant proposal is that this CPG is as important for the recovery of locomotion in cats with partial spinal lesions as those with complete lesions. This hypothesis is strongly supported by our preliminary experiments showing that cats trained to walk after a partial lesion can walk within 24 hours after a second and complete spinal section. Furthermore, the quality of locomotor recovery is highly correlated with the amount of treadmill locomotor training received after the first lesion. This work therefore suggests that the locomotor recovery after the first initial partial spinal lesion depends largely on intrinsic changes in the spinal cord since, after the second and complete lesion at T13, the isolated spinal cord shows an immediate ability to express locomotion. In this proposal, I intend to investigate the mechanisms involved in the recovery of locomotion after partial spinal lesions using electromyographic recordings, video recordings and also intracellular techniques to evaluate changes occurring within these spinal circuits. This research has important clinical implications for human rehabilitation since it will identify how locomotor training induces profound and persistent changes within the spinal cord itself.