[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Loading on the limbs has a powerful influence on locomotion. In the present study, we examined whether robotic-enhanced loading during treadmill training improved locomotor recovery in rats that were spinally transected as neonates. A robotic device applied a force on the ankle of the hindlimb while the rats performed bipedal stepping on a treadmill. The robotic force enhanced loading during the stance phase of the step cycle. One group of spinally transected rats received four weeks of bipedal treadmill training with robotic loading while another group received four weeks of bipedal treadmill training but without robotic loading. The two groups exhibited similar stepping performance during baseline tests of bipedal treadmill stepping. However, after four weeks, the spinally transected rats that received bipedal treadmill training with robotic loading performed significantly more weight bearing steps than the bipedal treadmill training only group. Bipedal treadmill training with robotic loading enhanced the ankle trajectory and ankle velocity during the step cycle. Based on immunohistochemical analyses, the expression of the presynaptic marker, synaptophysin, was significantly greater in the ventral horn of the lumbar spinal cord of the rats that received bipedal treadmill training with robotic loading. These findings suggested that robotic loading during bipedal treadmill training improved the ability of the lumbar spinal cord to generate stepping. The results have implications for the use of robotic-enhanced gait training therapies that encourage motor learning after spinal cord injury.
Preview · Article · May 2013 · Journal of Neurophysiology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: After spinal cord transection, the generation of stepping depends on neurotransmitter systems entirely contained within the local lumbar spinal cord. Glutamate and glycine likely play important roles, but surprisingly little is known about how the content of these two key neurotransmitters changes to achieve weight-bearing stepping after spinal cord injury. We studied the levels of glutamate and glycine in the lumbar spinal cord of spinally transected rats. Rats (n = 48) received spinal cord transection at 5 days of age, and 4 weeks later half were trained to step using a robotic treadmill system and the remaining half were untrained controls. Analyses of glutamate and glycine content via high-performance liquid chromatography showed training significantly raised the levels of both neurotransmitters in the lumbar spinal cord beyond normal. The levels of both neurotransmitters were significantly correlated with the ability to perform independent stepping during training. Glutamate and glycine levels were not significantly different between Untrained and Normal rats or between Trained and Untrained rats. There was a trend for higher expression of VGLUT1 and GLYT2 around motor neurons in Trained versus Untrained rats based on immunohistochemical analyses. Training improved the ability to generate stepping at a range of weight support levels, but normal stepping characteristics were not restored. These findings suggested that the remodeling of the lumbar spinal circuitry in Trained spinally transected rats involved adaptations in the glutamatergic and glycinergic neurotransmitter systems. These adaptations may contribute to the generation of novel gait patterns following complete spinal cord transection.
Preview · Article · Dec 2011 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is used to assist spinal cord injury patients during walking. However, FES has yet to be shown to have lasting effects on the underlying neurophysiology which lead to long-term rehabilitation. A new approach to FES has been developed by which stimulation is timed to robotically controlled movements in an attempt to promote long-term rehabilitation of walking. This approach was tested in a rodent model of spinal cord injury. Rats who received this FES therapy during a 2-week training period exhibited peak EMG activity during the appropriate phase of the gait cycle; whereas, rats who received stimulation which was randomly timed with respect to their motor activity exhibited no clear pattern in their EMG profile. These results from our newly developed FES system serve as a launching point for many future studies to test and understand the long-term effect of FES on spinal cord rehabilitation.
No preview · Article · Aug 2011 · Conference proceedings: ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Intensive weight-supported treadmill training (WSTT) improves locomotor function following spinal cord injury. Because of a number of factors, undergoing intensive sessions of training may not be feasible. Whether reduced amounts of training are sufficient to enhance spinal plasticity to a level that is necessary for improving function is not known. The focus of the present study was to assess differences in recovery of locomotor function and spinal plasticity as a function of the amount of steps taken during WSTT in a rodent model of spinal cord injury. Rats were spinally transected at 5 days of age. When they reached 28 days of age, a robotic system was used to implement a weight-supported treadmill training program of either 100 or 1000 steps/training session daily for 4 weeks. Antibodies for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), TrkB, and the pre-synaptic marker, synaptophysin, were used to examine the expression of these proteins in the ventral horn of the lumbar spinal cord. Rats that received weight-supported treadmill training performed better stepping relative to untrained rats, but only the rats that received 1000 steps/training session recovered locomotor function that resembled normal patterns. Only the rats that received 1000 steps/training session recovered normal levels of synaptophysin immunoreactivity around motor neurons. Weight-supported treadmill training consisting of either 100 or 1000 steps/training session increased BDNF immunoreactivity in the ventral horn of the lumbar spinal cord. TrkB expression in the ventral horn was not affected by spinal cord transection or weight-supported treadmill training. Synaptophysin expression, but not BDNF or TrkB expression was correlated with the recovery of stepping function. These findings suggested that a large amount of weight-supported treadmill training was necessary for restoring synaptic connections to motor neurons within the locomotor generating circuitry. Although a large amount of training was best for recovery, small amounts of training were associated with incremental gains in function and increased BDNF levels.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2011 · Journal of neurotrauma