Neurorehabil Neural Repair, Jun 2015

Spinal Rhythm Generation by Step-Induced Feedback and Transcutaneous Posterior Root Stimulation in Complete Spinal Cord-Injured Individuals.

Minassian K, Hofstoetter US, Danner SM, Mayr W, Bruce JA, McKay WB, Tansey KE



The human lumbosacral spinal circuitry can generate rhythmic motor output in response to different types of inputs after motor-complete spinal cord injury.


To explore spinal rhythm generating mechanisms recruited by phasic step-related sensory feedback and tonic posterior root stimulation when provided alone or in combination.


We studied stepping in 4 individuals with chronic, clinically complete spinal cord injury using a robotic-driven gait orthosis with body weight support over a treadmill. Electromyographic data were collected from thigh and lower leg muscles during stepping with 2 hip-movement conditions and 2 step frequencies, first without and then with tonic 30-Hz transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) over the lumbar posterior roots.


Robotic-driven stepping alone generated rhythmic activity in a small number of muscles, mostly in hamstrings, coinciding with the stretch applied to the muscle, and in tibialis anterior as stance-phase synchronized clonus. Adding tonic 30-Hz tSCS increased the number of rhythmically responding muscles, augmented thigh muscle activity, and suppressed clonus. tSCS could also produce rhythmic activity without or independent of step-specific peripheral feedback. Changing stepping parameters could change the amount of activity generated but not the multimuscle activation patterns.


The data suggest that the rhythmic motor patterns generated by the imposed stepping were responses of spinal reflex circuits to the cyclic sensory feedback. Tonic 30-Hz tSCS provided for additional excitation and engaged spinal rhythm-generating networks. The synergistic effects of these rhythm-generating mechanisms suggest that tSCS in combination with treadmill training might augment rehabilitation outcomes after severe spinal cord injury.

© The Author(s) 2015.


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