Yingchun Ni, Children’s Hospital Boston / Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA

Spinal motoneuron connections associated with spontaneuous functional recovery after spinal cord injury

Funded in: 2011, 2012

Back to overview

The underlying mechanism of spontaneous functional recovery after incomplete spinal cord injury is mostly attributed to the reorganization of neural circuit. Past experiments suggest that motoneurons in the dennervated spinal cord receive compensatory inputs from spared descending or intraspinal axons leading to the reconnection of local spinal cord with supraspinal motor centers.

This anatomical change parallels the recovery of motor function. However, the molecular nature of the compensatory circuitry and how new connections are formed remain unclear. This project is going to use mutant rabies virus together with transgenic mouse lines to study the rearrangement of premotor circuitry during the functional recovery process after thoracic lateral hemisection injury.

Injection of the deficient rabies virus into specific muscles in transgenic mice enables clear visualization of motoneurons and their presynaptic interneurons in the spinal cord and the brain. It has been shown that mouse can gradually recover its hindlimb motor functions after a spinal cord injury at T10 lateral. To test the hypothesis that this recovery is mediated by the reorganization of neural circuit, a T10 SCI model in combination with the deficient rabies virus-based tracing technique will be used to study the anatomical and/or functional plasticity of motoneuron connections during the recovery process.