The mechanisms underlying the effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) induced repetitive limb movement therapy after incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI) are unknown. This study establishes the capability of using therapeutic NMES in rodents with iSCI and evaluates its ability to promote recovery of interlimb control during locomotion. Ten adult female Long Evans rats received thoracic spinal contusion injuries (T9; 156 9.52 Kdyne). 7 days post-recovery, 6/10 animals received NMES therapy for 15 min/day for 5 days, via electrodes implanted bilaterally into hip flexors and extensors. Six intact animals served as controls. Motor function was evaluated using the BBB locomotor scale for the first 6 days and on 14th day post-injury. 3D kinematic analysis of treadmill walking was performed on day 14 post-injury. Rodents receiving NMES therapy exhibited improved interlimb coordination in control of the hip joint, which was the specific NMES target. Symmetry indices improved significantly in the therapy group. Additionally, injured rodents receiving therapy more consistently displayed a high percentage of 1:1 coordinated steps, and more consistently achieved proper hindlimb touchdown timing. These results suggest that NMES techniques could provide an effective therapeutic tool for neuromotor treatment following iSCI.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience