The purpose of this study was to determine if spike-triggered intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) results in improved motor performance in an ambulatory rat model of spinal cord injury. Experiments were carried out in adult male Sprague Dawley rats with 175 kdyn moderate T8 contusion injury.
The purpose of this study was to determine if spike-triggered intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) results in improved motor performance in an ambulatory rat model of spinal cord injury (SCI). Experiments were carried out in adult male Sprague Dawley rats with 175 kdyn moderate T8 contusion injury. Rats were randomly assigned to one of two groups: Control or Activity Dependent Stimulation (ADS) therapy. Four weeks post-SCI, all rats were implanted with a recording electrode in the left hindlimb motor cortex and a fine-wire, custom-made stimulating electrode in the contralateral lumbar spinal cord. Intracortical and intraspinal microstimulation were used to find sites of similar hip representation areas, which were paired together for ADS therapy. In the ADS therapy group, spike-stimulus conditioning was administered for 4 hours/day, 4 days/week, for 4 weeks via a tethered cable in a testing chamber. During therapy sessions, single-unit spikes were discriminated in real time in the hindlimb motor cortex and used to trigger stimulation in the spinal cord ventral horn. The optimal stimulus intensity (50% ISMS movement threshold) and spike-stimulus delay (10ms) determined in preliminary anesthetized preparations were used during ADS. Control rats were similarly implanted with electrodes but did not receive stimulation therapy. Motor performances of each rat were evaluated before SCI contusion, once a week post-SCI for four weeks (prior to electrode implantation), and once a week post-conditioning for four weeks. Behavioral testing included BBB scoring, Ledged Beam walking, Horizontal Ladder walking, treadmill kinematics via the DigiGait and TreadScan system, and open field walking using OptiTrack kinematic analysis. BBB scores were significantly improved in ADS rats compared to Control rats after 1 week of therapy. In the ADS therapy rats, BBB scores were significantly improved after two weeks of ADS therapy when compared to pre-therapy. Foot fault scores on the Horizontal Ladder were significantly lower in ADS rats compared to pre-therapy ADS and Control rats after 1 week of therapy and returned to pre-injury measures after three weeks of ADS therapy. The Ledged Beam test and kinematic analysis using the DigiGait and TreadScan system showed deficits after SCI in both ADS and Control rats but there were no significant differences between groups after 4 weeks of ADS therapy. These results show that activity dependent stimulation after spinal cord injury using spike-triggered ISMS enhances behavioral recovery of locomotor function as measured by the BBB score and the Horizontal Ladder task.