Rehabilitation following spinal cord injury: how animal models can help our understanding of exercise-induced neuroplasticity.
Loy K, Bareyre FM
Spinal cord injury is a devastating condition that is followed by long and often unsuccessful recovery after trauma. The state of the art approach to manage paralysis and concomitant impairments is rehabilitation, which is the only strategy that has proven to be effective and beneficial for the patients over the last decades. How rehabilitation influences the remodeling of spinal axonal connections in patients is important to understand, in order to better target these changes and define the optimal timing and onset of training. While clinically the answers to these questions remain difficult to obtain, rodent models of rehabilitation like bicycling, treadmill training, swimming, enriched environments or wheel running that mimic clinical rehabilitation can be helpful to reveal the axonal changes underlying motor recovery. This review will focus on the different animal models of spinal cord injury rehabilitation and the underlying changes in neuronal networks that are improved by exercise and rehabilitation.