From cortex to cord: motor circuit plasticity after spinal cord injury.
ABSTRACT: Spinal cord injury is associated with chronic sensorimotor deficits due to the interruption of ascending and descending tracts between the brain and spinal cord. Functional recovery after anatomically complete spinal cord injury is limited due to the lack of long-distance axonal regeneration of severed fibers in the adult central nervous system. Most spinal cord injuries in humans, however, are anatomically incomplete. Although restorative treatment options for spinal cord injury remain currently limited, research from experimental models of spinal cord injury have revealed a tremendous capability for both spontaneous and treatment-induced plasticity of the corticospinal system that supports functional recovery. We review recent advances in the understanding of corticospinal circuit plasticity after spinal cord injury and concentrate mainly on the hindlimb motor cortex, its corticospinal projections, and the role of spinal mechanisms that support locomotor recovery. First, we discuss plasticity that occurs at the level of motor cortex and the reorganization of cortical movement representations. Next, we explore downstream plasticity in corticospinal projections. We then review the role of spinal mechanisms in locomotor recovery. We conclude with a perspective on harnessing neuroplasticity with therapeutic interventions to promote functional recovery.
Project description:Anatomically incomplete spinal cord injuries are often followed by considerable functional recovery in patients and animal models, largely because of processes of neuronal plasticity. In contrast to the corticospinal system, where sprouting of fibers and rearrangements of circuits in response to lesions have been well studied, structural adaptations within descending brainstem pathways and intraspinal networks are poorly investigated, despite the recognized physiological significance of these systems across species. In the present study, spontaneous neuroanatomical plasticity of severed bulbospinal systems and propriospinal neurons was investigated following unilateral C4 spinal hemisection in adult rats. Injection of retrograde tracer into the ipsilesional segments C3-C4 revealed a specific increase in the projection from the ipsilesional gigantocellular reticular nucleus in response to the injury. Substantial regenerative fiber sprouting of reticulospinal axons above the injury site was demonstrated by anterograde tracing. Regrowing reticulospinal fibers exhibited excitatory, vGLUT2-positive varicosities, indicating their synaptic integration into spinal networks. Reticulospinal fibers formed close appositions onto descending, double-midline crossing C3-C4 propriospinal neurons, which crossed the lesion site in the intact half of the spinal cord and recrossed to the denervated cervical hemicord below the injury. These propriospinal projections around the lesion were significantly enhanced after injury. Our results suggest that severed reticulospinal fibers, which are part of the phylogenetically oldest motor command system, spontaneously arborize and form contacts onto a plastic propriospinal relay, thereby bypassing the lesion. These rearrangements were accompanied by substantial locomotor recovery, implying a potential physiological relevance of the detour in restoration of motor function after spinal injury.
Project description:Although axonal regeneration after CNS injury is limited, partial injury is frequently accompanied by extensive functional recovery. To investigate mechanisms underlying spontaneous recovery after incomplete spinal cord injury, we administered C7 spinal cord hemisections to adult rhesus monkeys and analyzed behavioral, electrophysiological and anatomical adaptations. We found marked spontaneous plasticity of corticospinal projections, with reconstitution of fully 60% of pre-lesion axon density arising from sprouting of spinal cord midline-crossing axons. This extensive anatomical recovery was associated with improvement in coordinated muscle recruitment, hand function and locomotion. These findings identify what may be the most extensive natural recovery of mammalian axonal projections after nervous system injury observed to date, highlighting an important role for primate models in translational disease research.
Project description:After incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI), neural circuits may be plastically reconstructed to some degree, resulting in extensive functional locomotor recovery. The present study aimed to observe the post-SCI locomotor recovery of rhesus monkey hindlimbs and compare the recovery degrees of different hindlimb parts, thus revealing the recovery process of locomotor function. Four rhesus monkeys were chosen for thoracic hemisection injury. The hindlimb locomotor performance of these animals was recorded before surgery, as well as 6 and 12 weeks post-lesion. Via principal component analysis, the relevant parameters of the limb endpoint, pelvis, hindlimb segments, and joints were processed and analyzed. Twelve weeks after surgery, partial kinematic recovery was observed at the limb endpoint, shank, foot, and knee joints, and the locomotor performance of the ankle joint even recovered to the pre-lesion level; the elevation angle of the thigh and hip joints showed no obvious recovery. Generally, different parts of a monkey hindlimb had different spontaneous recovery processes; specifically, the closer the part was to the distal end, the more extensive was the locomotor function recovery. Therefore, we speculate that locomotor recovery may be attributed to plastic reconstruction of the motor circuits that are mainly composed of corticospinal tract. This would help to further understand the plasticity of motor circuits after spinal cord injury.
Project description:Tenascin-C (TNC), a major component of the extracellular matrix, is strongly upregulated after injuries of the central nervous system (CNS) but its role in tissue repair is not understood. Both regeneration promoting and inhibiting roles of TNC have been proposed considering its abilities to both support and restrict neurite outgrowth in vitro. Here, we show that spontaneous recovery of locomotor functions after spinal cord injury is impaired in adult TNC-deficient (TNC(-/-)) mice in comparison to wild-type (TNC(+/+)) mice. The impaired recovery was associated with attenuated excitability of the plantar Hoffmann reflex (H-reflex), reduced glutamatergic input, reduced sprouting of monaminergic axons in the lumbar spinal cord and enhanced post-traumatic degeneration of corticospinal axons. The degeneration of corticospinal axons in TNC(-/-) mice was normalized to TNC(+/+) levels by application of the alternatively spliced TNC fibronectin type III homologous domain D (fnD). Finally, overexpression of TNC-fnD via adeno-associated virus in wild-type mice improved locomotor recovery, increased monaminergic axons sprouting, and reduced lesion scar volume after spinal cord injury. The functional efficacy of the viral-mediated TNC indicates a potentially useful approach for treatment of spinal cord injury.
Project description:Spinal cord injury (SCI) often results in impaired or absent sensorimotor function below the level of the lesion. Recent electrophysiological studies in humans with chronic incomplete SCI demonstrate that voluntary motor output can be to some extent potentiated by noninvasive stimulation that targets the corticospinal tract. We discuss emerging approaches that use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the primary motor cortex and electrical stimulation over a peripheral nerve as tools to induce plasticity in residual corticospinal projections. A single TMS pulse over the primary motor cortex has been paired with peripheral nerve electrical stimulation at precise interstimulus intervals to reinforce corticospinal synaptic transmission using principles of spike-timing dependent plasticity. Pairs of TMS pulses have also been used at interstimulus intervals that mimic the periodicity of descending indirect (I) waves volleys in the corticospinal tract. This data, along with information about the extent of the injury, provides a new framework for exploring the contribution of the corticospinal tract to recovery of function following SCI.
Project description:Locomotor function, mediated by lumbar neural circuitry, is modulated by descending spinal pathways. Spinal cord injury (SCI) interrupts descending projections and denervates lumbar motor neurons (MNs). We previously reported that retrogradely transported neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) to lumbar MNs attenuated SCI-induced lumbar MN dendritic atrophy and enabled functional recovery after a rostral thoracic contusion. Here we functionally dissected the role of descending neural pathways in response to NT-3-mediated recovery after a T9 contusive SCI in mice. We find that residual projections to lumbar MNs are required to produce leg movements after SCI. Next, we show that the spared descending propriospinal pathway, rather than other pathways (including the corticospinal, rubrospinal, serotonergic, and dopaminergic pathways), accounts for NT-3-enhanced recovery. Lastly, we show that NT-3 induced propriospino-MN circuit reorganization after the T9 contusion via promotion of dendritic regrowth rather than prevention of dendritic atrophy.
Project description:Axon regeneration failure causes neurological deficits and long-term disability after spinal cord injury (SCI). Here, we found that the ?2?2 subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels negatively regulates axon growth and regeneration of corticospinal neurons, the cells that originate the corticospinal tract. Increased ?2?2 expression in corticospinal neurons contributed to loss of corticospinal regrowth ability during postnatal development and after SCI. In contrast, ?2?2 pharmacological blockade through gabapentin administration promoted corticospinal structural plasticity and regeneration in adulthood. Using an optogenetic strategy combined with in vivo electrophysiological recording, we demonstrated that regenerating corticospinal axons functionally integrate into spinal circuits. Mice administered gabapentin recovered upper extremity function after cervical SCI. Importantly, such recovery relies on reorganization of the corticospinal pathway, as chemogenetic silencing of injured corticospinal neurons transiently abrogated recovery. Thus, targeting ?2?2 with a clinically relevant treatment strategy aids repair of motor circuits after SCI.
Project description:Rehabilitative training is one of the most successful therapies to promote motor recovery after spinal cord injury, especially when applied early after injury. Polytrauma and management of other medical complications in the acute post-injury setting often preclude or complicate early rehabilitation. Therefore, interventions that reopen a window of opportunity for effective motor training after chronic injury would have significant therapeutic value. Here, we tested whether this could be achieved in rats with chronic (8 weeks) dorsolateral quadrant sections of the cervical spinal cord (C4) by inducing mild neuroinflammation. We found that systemic injection of a low dose of lipopolysaccharide improved the efficacy of rehabilitative training on forelimb function, as assessed using a single pellet reaching and grasping task. This enhanced recovery was found to be dependent on the training intensity, where a high-intensity paradigm induced the biggest improvements. Importantly, in contrast to training alone, the combination of systemic lipopolysaccharide and high-intensity training restored original function (reparative plasticity) rather than enhancing new motor strategies (compensatory plasticity). Accordingly, electrophysiological and tract-tracing studies demonstrated a recovery in the cortical drive to the affected forelimb muscles and a restructuration of the corticospinal innervation of the cervical spinal cord. Thus, we propose that techniques that can elicit mild neuroinflammation may be used to enhance the efficacy of rehabilitative training after chronic spinal cord injury.
Project description:Rats have been the primary model to study the process and underlying mechanisms of recovery after spinal cord injury. Two weeks after a severe spinal cord contusion, rats can regain weight-bearing abilities without therapeutic interventions, as assessed by the Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan locomotor scale. However, many human patients suffer from permanent loss of motor function following spinal cord injury. While rats are the most understood animal model, major differences in sensorimotor pathways between quadrupeds and bipeds need to be considered. Understanding the major differences between the sensorimotor pathways of rats, non-human primates, and humans is a start to improving targets for treatments of human spinal cord injury. This review will discuss the neuroplasticity of the brain and spinal cord after spinal cord injury in rats, non-human primates, and humans. A brief overview of emerging interventions to induce plasticity in humans with spinal cord injury will also be discussed.
Project description:Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a severe condition leading to enduring motor deficits. When lesions are incomplete, promoting spinal cord plasticity might be a useful strategy to elicit functional recovery. Here we investigated whether long-term fluoxetine administration in the drinking water, a treatment recently demonstrated to optimize brain plasticity in several pathological conditions, promotes motor recovery in rats that received a C4 dorsal funiculus crush. We show that fluoxetine administration markedly improved motor functions compared to controls in several behavioral paradigms. The improved functional effects correlated positively with significant sprouting of intact corticospinal fibers and a modulation of the excitation/inhibition balance. Our results suggest a potential application of fluoxetine treatment as a non invasive therapeutic strategy for SCI-associated neuropathologies.