Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) can provide functional movements in people after central nervous system injury. The neuroplastic effects of long-term NMES-induced repetitive limb movement are not well understood. A rodent model of neurotrauma in which NMES can be implemented may be effective for such investigations. We present a rodent model for NMES of the flexor and extensor muscles of the hip, knee, and ankle hindlimb muscles. Custom fabricated intramuscular stimulating electrodes for rodents were implanted near identified motor points of targeted muscles in ten adult, female Long Evans rats. The effects of altering NMES pulse stimulation parameters were characterized using strength duration curves, isometric joint torque recruitment curves and joint angle measures. The data indicate that short pulse widths have the advantage of producing graded torque recruitment curves when current is used as the control parameter. A stimulus frequency of 75 Hz or more produces fused contractions. The data demonstrate ability to accurately implant the electrodes and obtain selective, graded, repeatable, strong muscle contractions. Knee and ankle angular excursions comparable to those obtained in normal treadmill walking in the same rodent species can be obtained by stimulating the target muscles. Joint torques (normalized to body weight) obtained were larger than those reported in the literature for small tailed therian mammals and for peak isometric ankle plantarflexion in a different rodent species. This model system could be used for investigations of NMES assisted hindlimb movement therapy.
- Intramuscular electrodes
- Isometric joint torque
- Joint angle measurements
- Muscle recruitment and strength duration curves
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