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1.  Cervical intraspinal microstimulation evokes robust forelimb movements before and after injury 
Journal of neural engineering  2013;10(3):036001.
Intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) is a promising method for reanimating paralyzed limbs following neurological injury. ISMS within the cervical and lumbar spinal cord is capable of evoking a variety of highly-functional movements prior to injury, but the ability of ISMS to evoke forelimb movements after cervical spinal cord injury is unknown. Here we examine the forelimb movements and muscles activated by cervical ISMS both before and after contusion injury.
We documented the forelimb muscles activated and movements evoked via systematic stimulation of the rodent cervical spinal cord both before injury and three, six and nine weeks following a moderate C4/C5 lateralized contusion injury. Animals were anesthetized with isoflurane to permit construction of somatotopic maps of evoked movements, and quantify evoked muscle synergies between cervical segments C3 and T1.
Main results
When ISMS was delivered to the cervical spinal cord, a variety of responses were observed at 68% of locations tested, with a spatial distribution that generally corresponded to the location of motor neuron pools. Stimulus currents required to achieve movement and the number of sites where movements could be evoked were unchanged by spinal cord injury. A transient shift toward extension-dominated movements and restricted muscle synergies were observed at three and six weeks following injury, respectively. By nine weeks after injury, however, ISMS-evoked patterns were similar to spinally-intact animals.
The results demonstrate the potential for cervical ISMS to reanimate hand and arm function following spinal cord injury. Robust forelimb movements can be evoked both before and during the chronic stages of recovery from a clinically-relevant and sustained cervical contusion injury.
PMCID: PMC3732065  PMID: 23548462
neuroprosthesis; spinal stimulation; spinal cord injury; reanimation
2.  Extensive Neuronal Differentiation of Human Neural Stem Cell Grafts in Adult Rat Spinal Cord 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(2):e39.
Effective treatments for degenerative and traumatic diseases of the nervous system are not currently available. The support or replacement of injured neurons with neural grafts, already an established approach in experimental therapeutics, has been recently invigorated with the addition of neural and embryonic stem-derived precursors as inexhaustible, self-propagating alternatives to fetal tissues. The adult spinal cord, i.e., the site of common devastating injuries and motor neuron disease, has been an especially challenging target for stem cell therapies. In most cases, neural stem cell (NSC) transplants have shown either poor differentiation or a preferential choice of glial lineages.
Methods and Findings
In the present investigation, we grafted NSCs from human fetal spinal cord grown in monolayer into the lumbar cord of normal or injured adult nude rats and observed large-scale differentiation of these cells into neurons that formed axons and synapses and established extensive contacts with host motor neurons. Spinal cord microenvironment appeared to influence fate choice, with centrally located cells taking on a predominant neuronal path, and cells located under the pia membrane persisting as NSCs or presenting with astrocytic phenotypes. Slightly fewer than one-tenth of grafted neurons differentiated into oligodendrocytes. The presence of lesions increased the frequency of astrocytic phenotypes in the white matter.
NSC grafts can show substantial neuronal differentiation in the normal and injured adult spinal cord with good potential of integration into host neural circuits. In view of recent similar findings from other laboratories, the extent of neuronal differentiation observed here disputes the notion of a spinal cord that is constitutively unfavorable to neuronal repair. Restoration of spinal cord circuitry in traumatic and degenerative diseases may be more realistic than previously thought, although major challenges remain, especially with respect to the establishment of neuromuscular connections.
When neural stem cells from human fetal spinal cord were grafted into the lumbar cord of normal or injured adult nude rats, substantial neuronal differentiation was found.
Editors' Summary
Every year, spinal cord injuries, many caused by road traffic accidents, paralyze about 11,000 people in the US. This paralysis occurs because the spinal cord is the main communication highway between the body and the brain. Information from the skin and other sensory organs is transmitted to the brain along the spinal cord by bundles of neurons, nervous system cells that transmit and receive messages. The brain then sends information back down the spinal cord to control movement, breathing, and other bodily functions. The bones of the spine normally protect the spinal cord but, if these are broken or dislocated, the spinal cord can be cut or compressed, which interrupts the information flow. Damage near the top of the spinal cord can paralyze the arms and legs (tetraplegia); damage lower down paralyzes the legs only (paraplegia). Spinal cord injuries also cause many other medical problems, including the loss of bowel and bladder control. Although the deleterious effects of spinal cord injuries can be minimized by quickly immobilizing the patient and using drugs to reduce inflammation, the damaged nerve fibers never regrow. Consequently, spinal cord injury is permanent.
Why Was This Study Done?
Scientists are currently searching for ways to reverse spinal cord damage. One potential approach is to replace the damaged neurons using neural stem cells (NSCs). These cells, which can be isolated from embryos and from some areas of the adult nervous system, are able to develop into all the specialized cells types of the nervous system. However, because most attempts to repair spinal cord damage with NSC transplants have been unsuccessful, many scientists believe that the environment of the spinal cord is unsuitable for nerve regeneration. In this study, the researchers have investigated what happens to NSCs derived from the spinal cord of a human fetus after transplantation into the spinal cord of adult rats.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers injected human NSCs that they had grown in dishes into the spinal cord of intact nude rats (animals that lack a functioning immune system and so do not destroy human cells) and into nude rats whose spinal cord had been damaged at the transplantation site. The survival and fate of the transplanted cells was assessed by staining thin slices of spinal cord with an antibody that binds to a human-specific protein and with antibodies that recognize proteins specific to NSCs, neurons, or other nervous system cells. The researchers report that the human cells survived well in the adult spinal cord of the injured and normal rats and migrated into the gray matter of the spinal cord (which contains neuronal cell bodies) and into the white matter (which contains the long extensions of nerve cells that carry nerve impulses). 75% and 60% of the human cells in the gray and white matter, respectively, contained a neuron-specific protein six months after transplantation but only 10% of those in the membrane surrounding the spinal cord became neurons; the rest developed into astrocytes (another nervous system cell type) or remained as stem cells. Finally, many of the human-derived neurons made the neurotransmitter GABA (one of the chemicals that transfers messages between neurons) and made contacts with host spinal cord neurons.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that human NSC grafts can, after all, develop into neurons (predominantly GABA-producing neurons) in normal and injured adult spinal cord and integrate into the existing spinal cord if the conditions are right. Although these animal experiments suggest that NSC transplants might help people with spinal injuries, they have some important limitations. For example, the spinal cord lesions used here are mild and unlike those seen in human patients. This and the use of nude rats might have reduced the scarring in the damaged spinal cord that is often a major barrier to nerve regeneration. Furthermore, the researchers did not test whether NSC transplants provide functional improvements after spinal cord injury. However, since other researchers have also recently reported that NSCs can grow and develop into neurons in injured adult spinal cord, these new results further strengthen hopes it might eventually be possible to use human NSCs to repair damaged spinal cords.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information on spinal cord injury and current spinal cord research
Spinal Research (a UK charity) offers information on spinal cord injury and repair
The US National Spinal Cord Injury Association Web site contains factsheets on spinal cord injuries
MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on spinal cord trauma and interactive tutorials on spinal cord injury
The International Society for Stem Cell Research offers information on all sorts of stem cells including NSCs
The US National Human Neural Stem Cell Resource provides information on human NSCs, including the current US government's stance on stem cell research
PMCID: PMC1796906  PMID: 17298165
3.  Therapeutic intraspinal microstimulation improves forelimb function after cervical contusion injury 
Journal of neural engineering  2013;10(4):044001.
Intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) is a promising method for activating the spinal cord distal to an injury. The objectives of this study were to examine the ability of chronically implanted stimulating wires within the cervical spinal cord to (1) directly produce forelimb movements, and (2) assess whether ISMS stimulation improved subsequent volitional control of paretic extremities following injury.
We developed a technique for implanting intraspinal stimulating electrodes within the cervical spinal cord segments C6-T1 of Long-Evans rats. Beginning 4 weeks after a severe cervical contusion injury at C4–C5, animals in the treatment condition received therapeutic ISMS 7 hours/day, 5 days/week for the following 12 weeks.
Main Results
Over 12 weeks of therapeutic ISMS, stimulus-evoked forelimb movements were relatively stable. We also explored whether therapeutic ISMS promotes recovery of forelimb reaching movements. Animals receiving daily therapeutic ISMS performed significantly better than unstimulated animals during behavioral tests conducted without stimulation. Quantitative video analysis of forelimb movements showed that stimulated animals performed better in the movements reinforced by stimulation, including extending the elbow to advance the forelimb and opening the digits. While threshold current to elicit forelimb movement gradually increased over time, no differences were observed between chronically stimulated and unstimulated electrodes suggesting that no additional tissue damage was produced by the electrical stimulation.
The results indicate that therapeutic intraspinal stimulation delivered via chronic microwire implants within the cervical spinal cord confers benefits extending beyond the period of stimulation, suggesting future strategies for neural devices to promote sustained recovery after injury.
PMCID: PMC3748939  PMID: 23715242
spinal cord injury; ISMS; regenerative stimulation; neuroprosthesis
4.  Reanimating the arm and hand with intraspinal microstimulation 
Journal of neural engineering  2011;8(5):054001.
To date, there is no effective therapy for spinal cord injury, and many patients could benefit dramatically from at least partial restoration of arm and hand function. Despite a substantial body of research investigating intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) in frogs, rodents and cats, little is known about upper-limb responses to cervical stimulation in the primate. Here, we show for the first time that long trains of ISMS delivered to the macaque spinal cord can evoke functional arm and hand movements. Complex movements involving coordinated activation of multiple muscles could be elicited from a single electrode, while just two electrodes were required for independent control of reaching and grasping. We found that the motor responses to ISMS were described by a dual exponential model that depended only on stimulation history. We demonstrate that this model can be inverted to generate stimulus trains capable of eliciting arbitrary, graded motor responses, and could be used to restore volitional movements in a closed-loop brain–machine interface.
PMCID: PMC3306897  PMID: 21828907
5.  The Effects of Intraspinal Microstimulation on Spinal Cord Tissue in the Rat 
Biomaterials  2010;31(21):5552-5563.
Intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) involves the implantation of microwires into the spinal cord below the level of an injury to excite neural networks involved in the control of locomotion in the lower limbs. The goal of this study was to examine the potential spinal cord damage that might occur with chronic ISMS. We employed functional measures of force recruitment and immunohistochemical processing of serial spinal cord sections to evaluate any damage induced by spinal transection, implantation of ISMS arrays, and electrical stimulation of 4 hours/day for 30 days. Functional measurements showed no change in force recruitment following transection and chronic ISMS, indicating no changes to underlying neural networks. The implantation of sham intraspinal microwires produced a spatially-limited increase in the density of microglia/macrophages and GFAP+ astrocytes adjacent to the microwire tracks, indicating a persistent immune response. Most importantly, these results were not different from those around microwires that were chronically pulsed with charge levels up to 48 nC/phase. Likewise, measurements of neuronal density indicated no decrease in neuronal cell bodies in the ventral grey matter surrounding ISMS microwires (243.6/mm2 ± 35.3/mm2) compared to tissue surrounding sham microwires (207.8/mm2 ± 38.8/mm2). We conclude that the implantation of intraspinal microwires and chronic application of ISMS are well tolerated by spinal cord tissue.
PMCID: PMC2875271  PMID: 20430436
6.  Spinal Commissural Connections to Motoneurons Controlling the Primate Hand and Wrist 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(23):9614-9625.
Left–right coordination is essential for locomotor movements and is partly mediated by spinal commissural systems. Such coordination is also essential for reaching and manipulation in primates, but the role of spinal commissural systems here has not been studied. We investigated commissural connectivity to motoneurons innervating forelimb muscles using intracellular recordings in acutely anesthetized macaque monkeys. In 57 of 81 motoneurons, synaptic responses (52 of 57 excitatory) were evoked after contralateral intraspinal microstimulation in the gray matter (cISMS; 300 μA maximum current intensity). Some responses (15 of 57) occurred at latencies compatible with a monosynaptic linkage, including in motoneurons projecting to intrinsic hand muscles (9 cells). Three pieces of evidence suggest that these effects reflected the action of commissural interneurons. In two cells, preceding cISMS with stimulation of the contralateral medial brainstem descending pathways facilitated the motoneuron responses, suggesting that cISMS acted on cell bodies whose excitability was increased by descending inputs. Pairing cISMS with stimulation of the contralateral corticospinal tract yielded no evidence of response occlusion in 16 cells tested, suggesting that the effects were not merely axon reflexes generated by stimulation of corticospinal axon branches, which cross the midline. Finally, stimulation of contralateral peripheral nerves evoked responses in 28 of 52 motoneurons (7 of 9 projecting to the hand). Our results demonstrate the existence of commissural neurons with access to spinal motoneurons in primate cervical spinal cord that receive inputs from the periphery as well as descending pathways. Most importantly, commissural neurons also innervate motoneurons of intrinsic hand muscles.
PMCID: PMC3951829  PMID: 23739958
7.  An Implantable Neural Stimulator for Intraspinal MicroStimulation 
This paper reports on a wireless stimulator device for use in animal experiments as part of an ongoing investigation into intraspinal stimulation (ISMS) for restoration of walking in humans with spinal cord injury. The principle behind using ISMS is the activation of residual motor-control neural networks within the spinal cord ventral horn below the level of lesion following a spinal cord injury. The attractiveness to this technique is that a small number of electrodes can be used to induce bilateral walking patterns in the lower limbs. In combination with advanced feedback algorithms, ISMS has the potential to restore walking for distances that exceed that produced by other types of functional electrical stimulation. Recent acute animal experiments have demonstrated the feasibility of using ISMS to produce the coordinated walking patterns. Here we described a wireless implantable stimulation system to be used in chronic animal experiments and for providing the basis for a system suitable for use in humans. Electrical operation of the wireless system is described, including a demonstration of reverse telemetry for monitoring the stimulating electrode voltages.
PMCID: PMC3795508  PMID: 23366038
8.  Infiltrating Blood-Derived Macrophages Are Vital Cells Playing an Anti-inflammatory Role in Recovery from Spinal Cord Injury in Mice 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(7):e1000113.
Using a mouse model of spinal injury, Michal Schwartz and colleagues tested the effect of macrophages on the recovery process and demonstrate an important anti-inflammatory role for a subset of infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages that is dependent upon their expression of interleukin 10.
Although macrophages (MΦ) are known as essential players in wound healing, their contribution to recovery from spinal cord injury (SCI) is a subject of debate. The difficulties in distinguishing between different MΦ subpopulations at the lesion site have further contributed to the controversy and led to the common view of MΦ as functionally homogenous. Given the massive accumulation in the injured spinal cord of activated resident microglia, which are the native immune occupants of the central nervous system (CNS), the recruitment of additional infiltrating monocytes from the peripheral blood seems puzzling. A key question that remains is whether the infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ contribute to repair, or represent an unavoidable detrimental response. The hypothesis of the current study is that a specific population of infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ is functionally distinct from the inflammatory resident microglia and is essential for recovery from SCI.
Methods and Findings
We inflicted SCI in adult mice, and tested the effect of infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ on the recovery process. Adoptive transfer experiments and bone marrow chimeras were used to functionally distinguish between the resident microglia and the infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ. We followed the infiltration of the monocyte-derived MΦ to the injured site and characterized their spatial distribution and phenotype. Increasing the naïve monocyte pool by either adoptive transfer or CNS-specific vaccination resulted in a higher number of spontaneously recruited cells and improved recovery. Selective ablation of infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ following SCI while sparing the resident microglia, using either antibody-mediated depletion or conditional ablation by diphtheria toxin, impaired recovery. Reconstitution of the peripheral blood with monocytes resistant to ablation restored the lost motor functions. Importantly, the infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ displayed a local anti-inflammatory beneficial role, which was critically dependent upon their expression of interleukin 10.
The results of this study attribute a novel anti-inflammatory role to a unique subset of infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ in SCI recovery, which cannot be provided by the activated resident microglia. According to our results, limited recovery following SCI can be attributed in part to the inadequate, untimely, spontaneous recruitment of monocytes. This process is amenable to boosting either by active vaccination with a myelin-derived altered peptide ligand, which indicates involvement of adaptive immunity in monocyte recruitment, or by augmenting the naïve monocyte pool in the peripheral blood. Thus, our study sheds new light on the long-held debate regarding the contribution of MΦ to recovery from CNS injuries, and has potentially far-reaching therapeutic implications.
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, spinal cord injuries paralyze about 11,000 people in the US. The spinal cord, which contains bundles of nervous system cells called neurons, is the communication highway between the brain and the body. Messages from the brain travel down the spinal cord to control movement, breathing and other bodily functions; messages from the skin and other sensory organs travel up the spinal cord to keep the brain informed about the body. The bones of the spine normally protect the spinal cord but, if these are broken or displaced, the spinal cord can be cut or compressed, which interrupts the information flow. Damage near the top of the spinal cord paralyzes the arms and legs (tetraplegia); damage lower down paralyzes the legs only (paraplegia). Spinal cord injuries also cause other medical problems, including the loss of bladder and bowel control. Currently, there is no effective treatment for spinal cord injuries, which usually cause permanent disability because the damaged nerve fibers rarely regrow.
Why Was This Study Done?
After a spinal cord injury, immune system cells called macrophages accumulate at the injury site. Some of these macrophages—so-called monocyte-derived macrophages—come into (infiltrate) the spinal cord from the blood in response to the injury, whereas others—microglia—are always in the nervous system. Although macrophages are essential for wound healing in other parts of the body, it is unclear whether they have good or bad effects in the spinal cord. Many experts believe that immune system cells hinder healing in the spinal cord and should be suppressed or eliminated, but other scientists claim that macrophages secrete factors that stimulate nerve regrowth. Furthermore, although some macrophages elsewhere in the body have proinflammatory (potentially deleterious) effects, others have anti-inflammatory (beneficial) effects. So do the infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages and the resident microglia (which are proinflammatory) have different functions at spinal cord injury sites? In this study, the researchers try to answer this important question.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers bruised a small section of the spinal cord of adult mice and then investigated the effect of infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages on the recovery process. Monocyte-derived macrophages and microglia cannot be distinguished using standard staining techniques so to study their behavior after spinal cord injury the researchers introduced labeled monocyte-derived macrophages into their experimental animals by using adoptive transfer (injection of genetically labeled monocytes into the animals) or by making bone marrow chimeras. In this second technique, the animals' monocyte-derived macrophages (but not their microglia) were killed by irradiating the animals before injection of genetically labeled bone marrow, the source of monocytes. Using these approaches, the researchers found that monocyte-derived macrophages collected at the margins of spinal cord injury sites whereas microglia accumulated throughout the sites. When the pool of monocyte-derived macrophages in the mice was increased by adoptive transfer or by using a technique called “CNS-specific vaccination,” more monocyte-derived macrophages infiltrated the injury site and the animals' physical recovery from injury improved. Conversely, removal of the infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages from the injury site reduced the animals' physical recovery. Other experiments indicated that the infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages have a beneficial, local anti-inflammatory effect that is dependent on their expression of interleukin-10 (an anti-inflammatory signaling molecule).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide new information about the contribution of monocyte-derived macrophages to spontaneous recovery from spinal cord injury, a contribution that has long been debated. In particular, the findings suggest that this subset of macrophages (but not the resident microglia) has a beneficial effect on spinal cord injuries that is mediated by their production of the anti-inflammatory molecule interleukin-10. The findings also show that the effect of these monocyte-derived macrophages can be boosted, at least in mice. Although results obtained in experiments done in animals do not always accurately reflect what happens in people, this new understanding of the different functions of microglia and infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages after injury to the spinal cord may eventually lead to the development of better treatments for spinal cord injuries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia provides information about spinal cord injuries (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides detailed information about spinal cord injury, including information on current research into the problem (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides an interactive tutorial on spinal cord injury and a list of links to additional information (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2707628  PMID: 19636355
9.  Two Faces of Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycan in Spinal Cord Repair: A Role in Microglia/Macrophage Activation 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(8):e171.
Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG) is a major component of the glial scar. It is considered to be a major obstacle for central nervous system (CNS) recovery after injury, especially in light of its well-known activity in limiting axonal growth. Therefore, its degradation has become a key therapeutic goal in the field of CNS regeneration. Yet, the abundant de novo synthesis of CSPG in response to CNS injury is puzzling. This apparent dichotomy led us to hypothesize that CSPG plays a beneficial role in the repair process, which might have been previously overlooked because of nonoptimal regulation of its levels. This hypothesis is tested in the present study.
Methods and Findings
We inflicted spinal cord injury in adult mice and examined the effects of CSPG on the recovery process. We used xyloside to inhibit CSPG formation at different time points after the injury and analyzed the phenotype acquired by the microglia/macrophages in the lesion site. To distinguish between the resident microglia and infiltrating monocytes, we used chimeric mice whose bone marrow-derived myeloid cells expressed GFP. We found that CSPG plays a key role during the acute recovery stage after spinal cord injury in mice. Inhibition of CSPG synthesis immediately after injury impaired functional motor recovery and increased tissue loss. Using the chimeric mice we found that the immediate inhibition of CSPG production caused a dramatic effect on the spatial organization of the infiltrating myeloid cells around the lesion site, decreased insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) production by microglia/macrophages, and increased tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) levels. In contrast, delayed inhibition, allowing CSPG synthesis during the first 2 d following injury, with subsequent inhibition, improved recovery. Using in vitro studies, we showed that CSPG directly activated microglia/macrophages via the CD44 receptor and modulated neurotrophic factor secretion by these cells.
Our results show that CSPG plays a pivotal role in the repair of injured spinal cord and in the recovery of motor function during the acute phase after the injury; CSPG spatially and temporally controls activity of infiltrating blood-borne monocytes and resident microglia. The distinction made in this study between the beneficial role of CSPG during the acute stage and its deleterious effect at later stages emphasizes the need to retain the endogenous potential of this molecule in repair by controlling its levels at different stages of post-injury repair.
Michal Schwartz and colleagues describe the role of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan in the repair of injured tissue and in the recovery of motor function during the acute phase after spinal cord injury.
Editors' Summary
Every year, spinal cord injuries paralyze about 10,000 people in the United States. The spinal cord, which contains bundles of nervous system cells called neurons, is the communication superhighway between the brain and the body. Messages from the brain travel down the spinal cord to control movement, breathing, and other bodily functions; messages from the skin and other sensory organs travel up the spinal cord to keep the brain informed about the body. All these messages are transmitted along axons, long extensions on the neurons. The spinal cord is protected by the bones of the spine but if these are displaced or broken, the axons can be compressed or cut, which interrupts the information flow. Damage near the top of the spinal cord paralyzes the arms and legs (tetraplegia); damage lower down paralyzes the legs only (paraplegia). Spinal cord injuries also cause other medical problems, including the loss of bowel and bladder control. Currently there is no effective treatment for spinal cord injuries. Treatment with drugs to reduce inflammation has, at best, only modest effects. Moreover, because damaged axons rarely regrow, most spinal cord injuries are permanent.
Why Was This Study Done?
One barrier to recovery after a spinal cord injury seems to be an inappropriate immune response to the injury. After an injury, microglia (immune system cells that live in the nervous system), and macrophages (blood-borne immune system cells that infiltrate the injury) become activated. Microglia/macrophage activation can be either beneficial (the cells make IGF-1, a protein that stimulates axon growth) or destructive (the cells make TNF-α, a protein that kills neurons), so studies of microglia/macrophage activation might suggest ways to treat spinal cord injuries. Another possible barrier to recovery is “chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan” (CSPG). This is a major component of the scar tissue (the “glial scar”) that forms around spinal cord injuries. CSPG limits axon regrowth, so attempts have been made to improve spinal cord repair by removing CSPG. But if CSPG prevents spinal cord repair, why is so much of it made immediately after an injury? In this study, the researchers investigate this paradox by asking whether CSPG made in the right place and in the right amount might have a beneficial role in spinal cord repair that has been overlooked.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers bruised a small section of the spinal cord of mice to cause hind limb paralysis, and then monitored the recovery of movement in these animals. They also examined the injured tissue microscopically, looked for microglia and infiltrating macrophages at the injury site, and measured the production of IGF-1 and TNF-α by these cells. Inhibition of CSPG synthesis immediately after injury impaired the functional recovery of the mice and increased tissue loss at the injury site. It also altered the spatial organization of infiltrating macrophages at the injury site, reduced IGF-1 production by these microglia/macrophages, and increased TNF-α levels. In contrast, when CSPG synthesis was not inhibited until two days after the injury, the mice recovered well from spinal cord injury. Furthermore, the interaction of CSPG with a cell-surface protein called CD44 activated microglia/macrophages growing in dishes and increased their production of IGF-1 but not of molecules that kill neurons.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, immediately after a spinal cord injury, CSPG is needed for the repair of injured neurons and the recovery of movement, but that later on the presence of CSPG hinders repair. The findings also indicate that CSPG has these effects, at least in part, because it regulates the activity and localization of microglia and macrophages at the injury site and thus modulates local immune responses to the damage. Results obtained from experiments done in animals do not always accurately reflect the situation in people, so these findings need to be confirmed in patients with spinal cord injuries. However, they suggest that the effect of CSPG on spinal cord repair is not an inappropriate response to the injury, as is widely believed. Consequently, careful manipulation of CSPG levels might improve outcomes for people with spinal cord injuries.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia provides information about spinal cord injuries; MedlinePlus provides an interactive tutorial and a list of links to additional information about spinal cord injuries (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke also provides information about spinal cord injury (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on glial scars (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2517615  PMID: 18715114
10.  Therapeutic intraspinal stimulation to generate activity and promote long-term recovery 
Neuroprosthetic approaches have tremendous potential for the treatment of injuries to the brain and spinal cord by inducing appropriate neural activity in otherwise disordered circuits. Substantial work has demonstrated that stimulation applied to both the central and peripheral nervous system leads to immediate and in some cases sustained benefits after injury. Here we focus on cervical intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) as a promising method of activating the spinal cord distal to an injury site, either to directly produce movements or more intriguingly to improve subsequent volitional control of the paretic extremities. Incomplete injuries to the spinal cord are the most commonly observed in human patients, and these injuries spare neural tissue bypassing the lesion that could be influenced by neural devices to promote recovery of function. In fact, recent results have demonstrated that therapeutic ISMS leads to modest but sustained improvements in forelimb function after an incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI). This therapeutic spinal stimulation may promote long-term recovery of function by providing the necessary electrical activity needed for neuron survival, axon growth, and synaptic stability.
PMCID: PMC3936503  PMID: 24578680
spinal cord injury; electrical activity; regenerative stimulation; neuroprosthesis; ISMS
11.  Restoring Stepping After Spinal Cord Injury Using Intraspinal Microstimulation and Novel Control Strategies 
Conference Proceedings  2011;2011:5798-5801.
The overall objective of this project is to develop a feedback-driven intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) system. We hypothesize that ISMS will enhance the functionality of stepping by reducing muscle fatigue and producing synergistic movements by activating neural networks in the spinal cord. In the present pilot study, the controller was tested with ISMS and external sensors (force plates, gyroscopes, and accelerometers). Cats were partially supported in a sling and bi-laterally stepped overground on a 4-m instrumented walkway. The walkway had variable friction. Limb angle was controlled to within 10° even in the presence of variable friction. Peak ground reaction forces in each limb were approximately 12% of body weight (12.5% was full load bearing in this experimental setup); rarely, the total supportive force briefly decreased to as low as 4.1%. Magnetic resonance images were acquired of the excised spinal cord and the implanted array. The majority of electrodes (75%) were implanted successfully into their target regions. This represents the first successful application of ISMS for overground walking.
PMCID: PMC3276678  PMID: 22255658
12.  Muscle Plasticity in Rat Following Spinal Transection and Chronic Intraspinal Microstimulation 
Intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) employs electrical stimulation of the ventral grey matter to reactivate paralyzed skeletal muscle. This work evaluated the transformations in the quadriceps muscle that occurred following complete transection and chronic stimulation with ISMS or a standard nerve cuff (NCS). Stimulation was applied for 30 days, 4 hours/day. Both methods induced significant increases in time-to-peak tension (ISMS 35%, NCS 25%) and ½ rise-time (ISMS 39%, NCS 25%) compared to intact controls (IC). Corresponding increases in type-IIA myosin heavy chain (MHC) and decreases in type-IID MHC were noted compared to IC. These results were unexpected because ISMS recruits motor units in a near-normal physiological order while NCS recruits motor units in a reversed order. Spinal cord transection and 30 days of stimulation did not alter either recruitment profile. The slope of the force recruitment curves obtained through ISMS following transection and 30 days of stimulation was similar to that obtained in intact animals, and 3.4-fold shallower than that obtained through NCS. The transformations observed in the current work are best explained by the near maximal level of motor unit recruitment, the total daily time of activity and the tonic nature of the stimulation paradigm.
PMCID: PMC3037113  PMID: 20813653
Functional electrical stimulation; muscle plasticity; spinal motoneurons
13.  Bilateral Bulbospinal Projections to Pudendal Motoneuron Circuitry after Chronic Spinal Cord Hemisection Injury as Revealed by Transsynaptic Tracing with Pseudorabies Virus 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2011;28(4):595-605.
Complications of spinal cord injury in males include losing brainstem control of pudendal nerve–innervated perineal muscles involved in erection and ejaculation. We previously described, in adult male rats, a bulbospinal pathway originating in a discrete area within the medullary gigantocellularis (GiA/Gi), and lateral paragigantocellularis (LPGi) nuclei, which when electrically microstimulated unilaterally, produces a bilateral inhibition of pudendal motoneuron reflex circuitry after crossing to the contralateral spinal cord below T8. Microstimulation following a long-term lateral hemisection, however, revealed reflex inhibition from both sides of the medulla, suggesting the development or unmasking of an injury-induced bulbospinal pathway crossing the midline cranial to the spinal lesion. In the present study, we investigated this pathway anatomically using the transsynaptic neuronal tracer pseudorabies virus (PRV) injected unilaterally into the bulbospongiosus muscle in uninjured controls, and ipsilateral to a chronic (1–2 months) unilateral lesion of the lateral funiculus. At 4.75 days post-injection, PRV-labeled cells were found bilaterally in the GiA/Gi/LPGi with equal side-to-side labeling in uninjured controls, and with significantly greater labeling contralateral to the lesion/injection in lesioned animals. The finding of PRV-labeled neurons on both sides of the medulla after removing the mid-thoracic spinal pathway on one side provides anatomical evidence for the bilaterality in both the brainstem origin and the lumbosacral pudendal circuit termination of the spared lateral funicular bulbospinal pathway. This also suggests that this bilaterality may contribute to the quick functional recovery of bladder and sexual functions observed in animals and humans with lateral hemisection injury.
PMCID: PMC3070146  PMID: 21265606
animal studies; electrophysiology; immunohistochemistry; in vivo studies; spinal cord injury
14.  Convergence of Pyramidal and Medial Brain Stem Descending Pathways Onto Macaque Cervical Spinal Interneurons 
Journal of Neurophysiology  2010;103(5):2821-2832.
We investigated the control of spinal interneurons by corticospinal and medial brain stem descending tracts in two macaque monkeys. Stimulating electrodes were implanted in the left pyramidal tract (PT), and the right medial longitudinal fasciculus (MLF), which contains reticulospinal, vestibulospinal, and some tectospinal fibers. Single unit discharge was recorded from 163 interneurons in the intermediate zone of the right spinal cord (segmental levels C6–C8) in the awake state; inputs from descending pathways were assessed from the responses to stimulation through the PT and MLF electrodes. Convergent input from both pathways was the most common finding (71/163 cells); responses to PT and MLF stimulation were of similar amplitude. Interneuron discharge was also recorded while the animal performed a reach and grasp task with the right hand; the output connections of the recorded cells were determined by delivering intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) at the recording sites. Convergent input from MLF/PT stimulation was also common when analysis was restricted to cells that increased their rate during grasp (14/23 cells) or to cells recorded at sites where ISMS elicited finger or wrist movements (23/57 cells). We conclude that medial brain stem and corticospinal descending pathways have largely overlapping effects on spinal interneurons, including those involved in the control of the hand. This may imply a more important role for the brain stem in coordinating hand movements in primates than commonly assumed; brain stem pathways could contribute to the restoration of function seen after lesions to the corticospinal tract.
PMCID: PMC2867561  PMID: 20457863
15.  Restoring Motor Functions in Paralyzed Limbs through Intraspinal Multielectrode Microstimulation Using Fuzzy Logic Control and Lag Compensator 
Basic and Clinical Neuroscience  2013;4(3):232-243.
In this paper, a control strategy is proposed for control of ankle movement on animals using intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS). The proposed method is based on fuzzy logic control. Fuzzy logic control is a methodology of intelligent control that mimics human decision making process. This type of control method can be very useful for the complex uncertain systems that their mathematical model is unknown. To increase the stability and speed of the system's response and reduce the steady-state error, we combine the FLC with a lead (lag) compensator. The experiments are conducted on five rats. Microelectrodes are implanted into the spinal cord to provide selective stimulation of plantarflexor and dorsiflexor. The results show that motor functions can be restored using ISMS. Despite the complexity of the spinal neuronal networks and simplicity of the proposed control strategy, our results show that the proposed strategy can provide acceptable tracking control with fast convergence.
PMCID: PMC4202566  PMID: 25337352
Functional Electrical Stimulation; Intraspinal Microstimulation; Fuzzy Logic Control; Motor Function
16.  Neuromodulation of lower limb motor control in restorative neurology 
Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery  2012;114(5):489-497.
One consequence of central nervous system injury or disease is the impairment of neural control of movement, resulting in spasticity and paralysis. To enhance recovery, restorative neurology procedures modify altered, yet preserved nervous system function. This review focuses on functional electrical stimulation (FES) and spinal cord stimulation (SCS) that utilize remaining capabilities of the distal apparatus of spinal cord, peripheral nerves and muscles in upper motor neuron dysfunctions. FES for the immediate generation of lower limb movement along with current rehabilitative techniques is reviewed. The potential of SCS for controlling spinal spasticity and enhancing lower limb function in multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury is discussed. The necessity for precise electrode placement and appropriate stimulation parameter settings to achieve therapeutic specificity is elaborated. This will lead to our human work of epidural and transcutaneous stimulation targeting the lumbar spinal cord for enhancing motor functions in spinal cord injured people, supplemented by pertinent human research of other investigators. We conclude that the concept of restorative neurology recently received new appreciation by accumulated evidence for locomotor circuits residing in the human spinal cord. Technological and clinical advancements need to follow for a major impact on the functional recovery in individuals with severe damage to their motor system.
PMCID: PMC3341569  PMID: 22464657
Functional electrical stimulation; Locomotion; Motor control; Multiple sclerosis; Neuromodulation; Restorative neurology; Spinal cord injury; Spinal cord stimulation
17.  Recovery of control of posture and locomotion after a spinal cord injury: solutions staring us in the face 
Progress in brain research  2009;175:393-418.
Over the past 20 years, tremendous advances have been made in the field of spinal cord injury research. Yet, consumed with individual pieces of the puzzle, we have failed as a community to grasp the magnitude of the sum of our findings. Our current knowledge should allow us to improve the lives of patients suffering from spinal cord injury. Advances in multiple areas have provided tools for pursuing effective combination of strategies for recovering stepping and standing after a severe spinal cord injury. Muscle physiology research has provided insight into how to maintain functional muscle properties after a spinal cord injury.
Understanding the role of the spinal networks in processing sensory information that is important for the generation of motor functions has focused research on developing treatments that sharpen the sensitivity of the locomotor circuitry and that carefully manage the presentation of proprioceptive and cutaneous stimuli to favor recovery. Pharmacological facilitation or inhibition of neurotransmitter systems, spinal cord stimulation, and rehabilitative motor training, which all function by modulating the physiological state of the spinal circuitry, have emerged as promising approaches. Early technological developments, such as robotic training systems and high-density electrode arrays for stimulating the spinal cord, can significantly enhance the precision and minimize the invasiveness of treatment after an injury.
Strategies that seek out the complementary effects of combination treatments and that efficiently integrate relevant technical advances in bioengineering represent an untapped potential and are likely to have an immediate impact. Herein, we review key findings in each of these areas of research and present a unified vision for moving forward. Much work remains, but we already have the capability, and more importantly, the responsibility, to help spinal cord injury patients now.
PMCID: PMC2904312  PMID: 19660669
spinal cord injury; rehabilitation; robotic motor training; pharmacological intervention; skeletal muscle adaptation; proprioception; epidural stimulation; locomotion
18.  Large Animal Model for Development of Functional Restoration Paradigms Using Epidural and Intraspinal Stimulation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81443.
Restoration of movement following spinal cord injury (SCI) has been achieved using electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves and skeletal muscles. However, practical limitations such as the rapid onset of muscle fatigue hinder clinical application of these technologies. Recently, direct stimulation of alpha motor neurons has shown promise for evoking graded, controlled, and sustained muscle contractions in rodent and feline animal models while overcoming some of these limitations. However, small animal models are not optimal for the development of clinical spinal stimulation techniques for functional restoration of movement. Furthermore, variance in surgical procedure, targeting, and electrode implantation techniques can compromise therapeutic outcomes and impede comparison of results across studies. Herein, we present a protocol and large animal model that allow standardized development, testing, and optimization of novel clinical strategies for restoring motor function following spinal cord injury. We tested this protocol using both epidural and intraspinal stimulation in a porcine model of spinal cord injury, but the protocol is suitable for the development of other novel therapeutic strategies. This protocol will help characterize spinal circuits vital for selective activation of motor neuron pools. In turn, this will expedite the development and validation of high-precision therapeutic targeting strategies and stimulation technologies for optimal restoration of motor function in humans.
PMCID: PMC3855281  PMID: 24339929
19.  Role of electrical stimulation for rehabilitation and regeneration after spinal cord injury: an overview 
European Spine Journal  2008;17(9):1256-1269.
Structural discontinuity in the spinal cord after injury results in a disruption in the impulse conduction resulting in loss of various bodily functions depending upon the level of injury. This article presents a summary of the scientific research employing electrical stimulation as a means for anatomical or functional recovery for patients suffering from spinal cord injury. Electrical stimulation in the form of functional electrical stimulation (FES) can help facilitate and improve upper/lower limb mobility along with other body functions lost due to injury e.g. respiratory, sexual, bladder or bowel functions by applying a controlled electrical stimulus to generate contractions and functional movement in the paralysed muscles. The available rehabilitative techniques based on FES technology and various Food and Drug Administration, USA approved neuroprosthetic devices that are in use are discussed. The second part of the article summarises the experimental work done in the past 2 decades to study the effects of weakly applied direct current fields in promoting regeneration of neurites towards the cathode and the new emerging technique of oscillating field stimulation which has shown to promote bidirectional regeneration in the injured nerve fibres. The present article is not intended to be an exhaustive review but rather a summary aiming to highlight these two applications of electrical stimulation and the degree of anatomical/functional recovery associated with these in the field of spinal cord injury research.
PMCID: PMC2527422  PMID: 18677518
Spinal cord injury; Oscillating field stimulation; Functional electrical stimulation; Axonal regeneration; Advances in spinal cord research
20.  Electronic bypass of spinal lesions: activation of lower motor neurons directly driven by cortical neural signals 
Lower motor neurons in the spinal cord lose supraspinal inputs after complete spinal cord injury, leading to a loss of volitional control below the injury site. Extensive locomotor training with spinal cord stimulation can restore locomotion function after spinal cord injury in humans and animals. However, this locomotion is non-voluntary, meaning that subjects cannot control stimulation via their natural “intent”. A recent study demonstrated an advanced system that triggers a stimulator using forelimb stepping electromyographic patterns to restore quadrupedal walking in rats with spinal cord transection. However, this indirect source of “intent” may mean that other non-stepping forelimb activities may false-trigger the spinal stimulator and thus produce unwanted hindlimb movements.
We hypothesized that there are distinguishable neural activities in the primary motor cortex during treadmill walking, even after low-thoracic spinal transection in adult guinea pigs. We developed an electronic spinal bridge, called “Motolink”, which detects these neural patterns and triggers a “spinal” stimulator for hindlimb movement. This hardware can be head-mounted or carried in a backpack. Neural data were processed in real-time and transmitted to a computer for analysis by an embedded processor. Off-line neural spike analysis was conducted to calculate and preset the spike threshold for “Motolink” hardware.
We identified correlated activities of primary motor cortex neurons during treadmill walking of guinea pigs with spinal cord transection. These neural activities were used to predict the kinematic states of the animals. The appropriate selection of spike threshold value enabled the “Motolink” system to detect the neural “intent” of walking, which triggered electrical stimulation of the spinal cord and induced stepping-like hindlimb movements.
We present a direct cortical “intent”-driven electronic spinal bridge to restore hindlimb locomotion after complete spinal cord injury.
PMCID: PMC4094416  PMID: 24990580
Spinal cord injury; Multielectrode array; Extracellular recording; Neural spikes; Functional electrical stimulation; Intraspinal microstimulation; Intracortical microstimulation; Locomotion; Neuromotor prostheses
21.  Maladaptive spinal plasticity opposes spinal learning and recovery in spinal cord injury 
Synaptic plasticity within the spinal cord has great potential to facilitate recovery of function after spinal cord injury (SCI). Spinal plasticity can be induced in an activity-dependent manner even without input from the brain after complete SCI. A mechanistic basis for these effects is provided by research demonstrating that spinal synapses have many of the same plasticity mechanisms that are known to underlie learning and memory in the brain. In addition, the lumbar spinal cord can sustain several forms of learning and memory, including limb-position training. However, not all spinal plasticity promotes recovery of function. Central sensitization of nociceptive (pain) pathways in the spinal cord may emerge in response to various noxious inputs, demonstrating that plasticity within the spinal cord may contribute to maladaptive pain states. In this review we discuss interactions between adaptive and maladaptive forms of activity-dependent plasticity in the spinal cord below the level of SCI. The literature demonstrates that activity-dependent plasticity within the spinal cord must be carefully tuned to promote adaptive spinal training. Prior work from our group has shown that stimulation that is delivered in a limb position-dependent manner or on a fixed interval can induce adaptive plasticity that promotes future spinal cord learning and reduces nociceptive hyper-reactivity. On the other hand, stimulation that is delivered in an unsynchronized fashion, such as randomized electrical stimulation or peripheral skin injuries, can generate maladaptive spinal plasticity that undermines future spinal cord learning, reduces recovery of locomotor function, and promotes nociceptive hyper-reactivity after SCI. We review these basic phenomena, how these findings relate to the broader spinal plasticity literature, discuss the cellular and molecular mechanisms, and finally discuss implications of these and other findings for improved rehabilitative therapies after SCI.
PMCID: PMC3468083  PMID: 23087647
pain; nociception; plasticity; spinal cord injury; spinal cord learning; recovery of function
22.  Evaluation of Respiratory Muscle Activation Using Respiratory Motor Control Assessment (RMCA) in Individuals with Chronic Spinal Cord Injury 
Short Abstract
The purpose of this publication is to present our original work on a multi-muscle surface electromyographic approach to quantitatively characterize respiratory muscle activation patterns in individuals with chronic spinal cord injury using vector-based analysis.
Long Abstract
During breathing, activation of respiratory muscles is coordinated by integrated input from the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord. When this coordination is disrupted by spinal cord injury (SCI), control of respiratory muscles innervated below the injury level is compromised1,2 leading to respiratory muscle dysfunction and pulmonary complications. These conditions are among the leading causes of death in patients with SCI3. Standard pulmonary function tests that assess respiratory motor function include spirometrical and maximum airway pressure outcomes: Forced Vital Capacity (FVC), Forced Expiratory Volume in one second (FEV1), Maximal Inspiratory Pressure (PImax) and Maximal Expiratory Pressure (PEmax)4,5. These values provide indirect measurements of respiratorymuscle performance6. In clinical practice and research, a surface electromyography (sEMG) recorded from respiratory muscles can be used to assess respiratory motor function and help to diagnose neuromuscular pathology. However, variability in the sEMG amplitude inhibits efforts to develop objective and direct measures of respiratory motor function6. Based on a multi-muscle sEMG approach to characterize motor control of limb muscles7, known as the voluntary response index (VRI)8, we developed an analytical tool to characterize respiratory motor control directly from sEMG data recorded from multiple respiratory muscles during the voluntary respiratory tasks. We have termed this the Respiratory Motor Control Assessment (RMCA)9. This vector analysis method quantifies the amount and distribution of activity across muscles and presents it in the form of an index that relates the degree to which sEMG output within a test-subject resembles that from a group of healthy (non-injured) controls. The resulting index value has been shown to have high face validity, sensitivity and specificity9–11. We showed previously9 that the RMCA outcomes significantly correlate with levels of SCI and pulmonary function measures. We are presenting here the method to quantitatively compare post-spinal cord injury respiratory multi-muscle activation patterns to those of healthy individuals.
PMCID: PMC3740445  PMID: 23912611
Respiratory Muscles; Motor Control; Electromyography; Pulmonary Function Test; Spinal Cord Injury
23.  Shaping the Dynamics of a Bidirectional Neural Interface 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(7):e1002578.
Progress in decoding neural signals has enabled the development of interfaces that translate cortical brain activities into commands for operating robotic arms and other devices. The electrical stimulation of sensory areas provides a means to create artificial sensory information about the state of a device. Taken together, neural activity recording and microstimulation techniques allow us to embed a portion of the central nervous system within a closed-loop system, whose behavior emerges from the combined dynamical properties of its neural and artificial components. In this study we asked if it is possible to concurrently regulate this bidirectional brain-machine interaction so as to shape a desired dynamical behavior of the combined system. To this end, we followed a well-known biological pathway. In vertebrates, the communications between brain and limb mechanics are mediated by the spinal cord, which combines brain instructions with sensory information and organizes coordinated patterns of muscle forces driving the limbs along dynamically stable trajectories. We report the creation and testing of the first neural interface that emulates this sensory-motor interaction. The interface organizes a bidirectional communication between sensory and motor areas of the brain of anaesthetized rats and an external dynamical object with programmable properties. The system includes (a) a motor interface decoding signals from a motor cortical area, and (b) a sensory interface encoding the state of the external object into electrical stimuli to a somatosensory area. The interactions between brain activities and the state of the external object generate a family of trajectories converging upon a selected equilibrium point from arbitrary starting locations. Thus, the bidirectional interface establishes the possibility to specify not only a particular movement trajectory but an entire family of motions, which includes the prescribed reactions to unexpected perturbations.
Author Summary
Brain-machine interfaces establish new communication channels between the brain and the external world with the goal of restoring sensory and motor functions for people with severe paralysis or sensory impairments. Current methodologies are based on decoding the motor intent from the recorded neural activity and transforming the extracted information into motor commands to control external devices as robotic arms. We developed a novel computational approach, based on the concept of programming dynamical behaviors trough the bi-directional sensory-motor interaction between the brain and the connected external device. This approach is based on the emulation of some control features of a biological interface, the spinal cord. The first prototype of our interface controls the state of motion of a simulated point mass in a viscous medium. The position of the point mass is encoded into a stimulus to the somatosensory cortex of an anesthetized rat. The evoked activity of a population of motor cortical neurons is decoded into a force vector applied to the point mass. The parameters of the encoder and of the decoder are set to approximate a desired force field. In the first test of the interface, we obtained a family of trajectories that converged upon a stable attractor.
PMCID: PMC3400597  PMID: 22829754
24.  Changes in Afferent Activity After Spinal Cord Injury 
Neurourology and urodynamics  2010;29(1):63-76.
To summarize the changes that occur in the properties of bladder afferent neurons following spinal cord injury.
Literature review of anatomical, immunohistochemical, and pharmacologic studies of normal and dysfunctional bladder afferent pathways.
Studies in animals indicate that the micturition reflex is mediated by a spinobulbospinal pathway passing through coordination centers (periaqueductal gray and pontine micturition center) located in the rostral brain stem. This reflex pathway, which is activated by small myelinated (Aδ) bladder afferent nerves, is in turn modulated by higher centers in the cerebral cortex involved in the voluntary control of micturition. Spinal cord injury at cervical or thoracic levels disrupts voluntary voiding, as well as the normal reflex pathways that coordinate bladder and sphincter function. Following spinal cord injury, the bladder is initially areflexic but then becomes hyperreflexic due to the emergence of a spinal micturition reflex pathway. The recovery of bladder function after spinal cord injury is dependent in part on the plasticity of bladder afferent pathways and the unmasking of reflexes triggered by unmyelinated, capsaicin-sensitive, C-fiber bladder afferent neurons. Plasticity is associated with morphologic, chemical, and electrical changes in bladder afferent neurons and appears to be mediated in part by neurotrophic factors released in the spinal cord and the peripheral target organs.
Spinal cord injury at sites remote from the lumbosacral spinal cord can indirectly influence properties of bladder afferent neurons by altering the function and chemical environment in the bladder or the spinal cord.
PMCID: PMC2891065  PMID: 20025033
afferent neurons; micturition; neuropeptides; neuroplasticity; neurotrophic factors; urinary bladder; voltage-gated ion channels
25.  Multimodal intraoperative monitoring: an overview and proposal of methodology based on 1,017 cases 
European Spine Journal  2007;16(Suppl 2):153-161.
To describe different currently available tests of multimodal intraoperative monitoring (MIOM) used in spine and spinal cord surgery indicating the technical parameters, application and interpretation as an easy understanding systematic overview to help implementation of MIOM and improve communication between neurophysiologists and spine surgeons. This article aims to give an overview and proposal of the different MIOM-techniques as used daily in spine and spinal cord surgery at our institution. Intensive research in neurophysiology over the past decades has lead to a profound understanding of the spinal cord, nerve functions and their intraoperative functional evaluation in anaesthetised patients. At present, spine surgeons and neurophysiologist are faced with 1,883 publications in PubMed on spinal cord monitoring. The value and the limitations of single monitoring methods are well documented. The diagnostic power of the multimodal approach in a larger study population in spine surgery, as measured with sensitivity and specificity, is dealt with elsewhere in this supplement (Sutter et al. in Eur Spine J Suppl, 2007). This paper aims to give a detailed description of the different modalities used in this study. Description of monitoring techniques of the descending and ascending spinal cord and nerve root pathways by motor evoked potentials of the spinal cord and muscles elicited after transcranial electrical motor cortex, spinal cord, cauda equina and nerve root stimulation, continuous EMG, sensory cortical and spinal evoked potentials, as well as direct spinal cord evoked potentials applied on 1,017 patients. The method of MIOM, continuously adapted according to the site, stage of surgery and potential danger to nerve tissues, proved to be applicable with online results, reliable and furthermore teachable.
PMCID: PMC2072900  PMID: 17653777
Spine surgery; Intraoperative monitoring; Method

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