Cutaneous inputs from the back abolish locomotor-like activity and reduce spastic-like activity in the adult cat following complete spinal cord injury.
Frigon A, Thibaudier Y, Johnson MD, Heckman CJ, Hurteau MF
Spasticity is a condition that can include increased muscle tone, clonus, spasms, and hyperreflexia. In this study, we report the effect of manually stimulating the dorsal lumbosacral skin on spontaneous locomotor-like activity and on a variety of reflex responses in 5 decerebrate chronic spinal cats treated with clonidine. Cats were spinalized 1 month before the terminal experiment. Stretch reflexes were evoked by stretching the left triceps surae muscles. Crossed reflexes were elicited by electrically stimulating the right tibial or superficial peroneal nerves. Wind-up of reflex responses was evoked by electrically stimulating the left tibial or superficial peroneal nerves. We found that pinching the skin of the back abolished spontaneous locomotor-like activity. We also found that back pinch abolished the rhythmic activity observed during reflex testing without eliminating the reflex responses. Some of the rhythmic episodes of activity observed during reflex testing were consistent with clonus with an oscillation frequency greater than 3 Hz. Pinching the skin of the back effectively abolished rhythmic activity occurring spontaneously or evoked during reflex testing, irrespective of oscillation frequency. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that locomotion and clonus are produced by common central pattern-generators. Stimulating the skin of the back could prove helpful in managing undesired rhythmic activity in spinal cord-injured humans.