Locomotor Training: As a Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury and in the Progression of Neurologic Rehabilitation
ABSTRACT Scientists, clinicians, administrators, individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI), and caregivers seek a common goal: to improve the outlook and general expectations of the adults and children living with neurologic injury. Important strides have already been accomplished; in fact, some have labeled the changes in neurologic rehabilitation a "paradigm shift." Not only do we recognize the potential of the damaged nervous system, but we also see that "recovery" can and should be valued and defined broadly. Quality-of-life measures and the individual's sense of accomplishment and well-being are now considered important factors. The ongoing challenge from research to clinical translation is the fine line between scientific uncertainty (ie, the tenet that nothing is ever proven) and the necessary burden of proof required by the clinical community. We review the current state of a specific SCI rehabilitation intervention (locomotor training), which has been shown to be efficacious although thoroughly debated, and summarize the findings from a multicenter collaboration, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation's NeuroRecovery Network.
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ABSTRACT: Plasticity constitutes the basis of behavioral changes as a result of experience. It refers to neural network shaping and re-shaping at the global level and to synaptic contacts remodeling at the local level, either during learning or memory encoding, or as a result of acute or chronic pathological conditions. 'Plastic' brain reorganization after central nervous system lesions has a pivotal role in the recovery and rehabilitation of sensory and motor dysfunction, but can also be "maladaptive". Moreover, it is clear that brain reorganization it is not a "static" phenomenon but rather a very dynamic process. Spinal cord injury immediately initiates a change in brain state and starts cortical reorganization. In the long term, the impact of injury - with or without accompanying therapy - on the brain is a complex balance between supraspinal reorganization and spinal recovery. The degree of cortical reorganization after spinal cord injury is highly variable, and can range from no reorganization (i.e. "silencing") to massive cortical remapping. This variability critically depends on the species, the age of the animal when the injury occurs, the time after the injury has occurred, and the behavioral activity and possible therapy regimes after the injury. We will briefly discuss these dependencies, trying to highlight their translational value. Overall, it is not only necessary to better understand how the brain can reorganize after injury with or without therapy, it is also necessary to clarify when and why brain reorganization can be either "good" or "bad" in terms of its clinical consequences. This information is critical in order to develop and optimize cost-effective therapies to maximize functional recovery while minimizing maladaptive states after spinal cord injury.Neuroscience 07/2014; 283. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.06.056 · 3.33 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: New appreciation of the adaptive capabilities of the nervous system, recent recognition that most spinal cord injuries are incomplete, and progress in enabling regeneration are generating growing interest in novel rehabilitation therapies. Here we review the 35-year evolution of one promising new approach, operant conditioning of spinal reflexes. This work began in the late 1970's as basic science; its purpose was to develop and exploit a uniquely accessible model for studying the acquisition and maintenance of a simple behavior in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS). The model was developed first in monkeys and then in rats, mice, and humans. Studies with it showed that the ostensibly simple behavior (i.e., a larger or smaller reflex) rests on a complex hierarchy of brain and spinal cord plasticity; and current investigations are delineating this plasticity and its interactions with the plasticity that supports other behaviors. In the last decade, the possible therapeutic uses of reflex conditioning have come under study, first in rats and then in humans. The initial results are very exciting, and they are spurring further studies. At the same time, the original basic science purpose and the new clinical purpose are enabling and illuminating each other in unexpected ways. The long course and current state of this work illustrate the practical importance of basic research and the valuable synergy that can develop between basic science questions and clinical needs.Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 03/2014; 8:25. DOI:10.3389/fnint.2014.00025
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ABSTRACT: In recent years, several investigators have successfully regenerated axons in animal spinal cords without locomotor recovery. One explanation is that the animals were not trained to use the regenerated connections. Intensive locomotor training improves walking recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI) in people and >90% of people with incomplete SCI recover walking with training. Although the optimal timing, duration, intensity, and type of locomotor training are still controversial, many investigators have reported beneficial effects of training on locomotor function. The mechanisms by which training improves recovery are not clear, but an attractive theory is available. In 1949, Donald Hebb proposed a famous rule that has been paraphrased as "neurons that fire together, wire together." This rule provided a theoretical basis for a widely accepted theory that homosynaptic and heterosynaptic activity facilitate synaptic formation and consolidation. In addition, the lumbar spinal cord has a locomotor center, called the central pattern generator (CPG), which can be activated non-specifically with electrical stimulation or neurotransmitters to produce walking. The CPG is an obvious target to reconnect after SCI. Stimulating motor cortex, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves can modulate lumbar spinal cord excitability. Motor cortex stimulation causes long term changes in spinal reflexes and synapses, increases sprouting of the corticospinal tract, and restores skilled forelimb function in rats. Long used to treat chronic pain, motor cortex stimuli modify lumbar spinal network excitability and improve lower extremity motor scores in humans. Similarly, epidural spinal cord stimulation has long been used to treat pain and spasticity. Subthreshold epidural stimulation reduces the threshold for locomotor activity. In 2011, Harkemaet al. reported lumbosacral epidural stimulation restores motor control in chronic motor complete patients. Peripheral nerve or functional electrical stimulation (FES) has long been used to activate sacral nerves to treat bladder and pelvic dysfunction, and to augment motor function. In theory, FES should facilitate synaptic formation and motor recovery after regenerative therapies. Upcoming clinical trials provide unique opportunities to test the theory.Cell Transplantation 02/2015; 24(3). DOI:10.3727/096368915X686904 · 3.57 Impact Factor