Helene Bras
Helene Bras 
Helene Bras, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Marseille, France

Recovery of locomotion after spinal cord transection: plasticity of the inhibitory premotor networks

Funded in: 2012, 2013, 2014

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The spinal cord does not simply act as an information relay, but is rather a complex structure, composed by numerous cell types that are interconnected in an intricate network. For locomotion coordinated activation and inhibition of flexor and extensor motoneurons are necessary to produce appropriate flexion/extension and left-right alternations.

Unfortunately following spinal cord injury the loss of descending neural control triggers a defect in intrinsic properties of the neurons and neural networks caudal to the lesion.

Spasticity and other functional deficits associated with spinal cord injury are often attributed to hyperexitability of the spinal circuitries which can largely be explained by a significant impairment of the inhibitory networks caudal to the lesion.

The aim of this project is to elucidate the organization of the spinal circuitries following a spinal cord injury, especially the inhibitory premotor networks and the characteristics of the inhibitory synapses on lumbar motoneurons.

The research project includes:

  • The study how the inhibitory synaptic transmission is affected after complete spinal cord transection (SCT) by changes of synapses and by an alteration of the organization of the inhibitory premotor networks, including the formation of abnormal connections
  • The study of the synaptic mechanisms underlying the recovery of the stepping pattern generated by training and pharmacological treatments.

Results from this study should allow to limit undesired effects like spasticity and the data should serve as fundamental bases to address further neurorehabilitative strategies in patients with spinal cord.