J Neurophysiol, Apr 2015

Periodic modulation of repetitively elicited monosynaptic reflexes of the human lumbosacral spinal cord.


Hofstoetter US, Danner SM, Freundl B, Binder H, Mayr W, Rattay F, Minassian K

 

In individuals with motor-complete spinal cord injury, epidural stimulation of the lumbosacral spinal cord at 2 Hz evokes unmodulated reflexes in the lower limbs, while stimulation at 22-60 Hz can generate rhythmic burst-like activity. Here, we elaborated on an output pattern emerging at transitional stimulation frequencies with consecutively elicited reflexes alternating between large and small. We analyzed responses concomitantly elicited in thigh and leg muscle groups bilaterally by epidural stimulation in eight motor-complete spinal cord injured individuals. Periodic amplitude-modulation of at least 20 successive responses occurred in 31.4% of all available data sets with stimulation frequency set at 5-26 Hz, with highest prevalence at 16 Hz. It could be evoked in a single muscle group only, but was more strongly expressed and consistent when occurring in pairs of antagonists or in the same muscle group bilaterally. Latencies and waveforms of the modulated reflexes corresponded to those of the unmodulated, monosynaptic responses to 2-Hz stimulation. We suggest that the cyclical changes of the reflex excitability resulted from the interaction of facilitatory and inhibitory mechanisms emerging after specific delays and with distinct durations, including post-activation depression, recurrent inhibition and facilitation as well as reafferent feedback activation. The emergence of the large responses within the patterns at a rate of 5.5 or 8 per second may further suggest the entrainment of spinal mechanisms as involved in clonus. The study demonstrates that the human lumbosacral spinal cord can organize a simple form of rhythmicity through the repetitive activation of spinal reflex circuits.

Copyright © 2015, Journal of Neurophysiology.

 

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