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Motor unit recruitment by intraspinal microstimulation and long-term neuromuscular adaptations Open Access


Other title
tissue inflammation
intraspinal microstimulation
neuromuscular plasticity
spinal cord injury
motor unit recruitment
functional electrical stimulation
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Bamford, Jeremy, Andrew
Supervisor and department
Mushahwar, Vivian K. (Centre for neuroscience)
Putman, Charles T. (Centre for neuroscience)
Examining committee member and department
Gordon, Tessa (Centre for neuroscience)
Edgerton, Reggie (Department of physiological sciences, University of California at Los Angeles)
Todd, Kathryn (Centre for neuroscience)
Centre for Neuroscience

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Spinal cord injury is a devastating neurological disorder partially characterized by a loss of motor function below the lesion. The dramatic loss of activity results in muscle atrophy and slow-to-fast transformation of contractile elements, producing smaller, weaker and more fatiguable muscles. Functional electrical stimulation (FES), has been proposed in order to induce muscular activity and reverse these changes. FES has primarily been applied in the periphery, either at the surface or implanted in or around a nerve or muscle. Although this can excite nervous tissue and produce muscular contractions, these systems often produce reversed recruitment of motor units leading to inappropriate force generation and increased fatigue. We applied intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) through fine microwires implanted into the spinal cord of rats. Electrical stimulation through these microwires caused contractions of the quadriceps muscles in both acute and chronically spinalized animals. We showed that muscle recruitment is significantly more gradual with ISMS in intact rats compared to that produced by a standard nerve cuff. Our results further showed that this was due to preferential activation of fatigue resistant muscle fibers. Given this more orderly recruitment of motor units by ISMS, we tested the muscle phenotypes produced by ISMS or nerve cuffs after chronic stimulation. Surprisingly, over a 30 day stimulation period the quadriceps muscles chronically activated by either daily ISMS or nerve cuff stimulation underwent similar fast-to-slow transformations in fiber type and functional properties. This indicates that the recruitment order of motor units does not play the only role in determining the muscle phenotype. Other factors such as the total daily time of activity may be critically important to the phenotypic outcome of skeletal muscle. Finally, we demonstrated that quadriceps force recruitment by ISMS was unchanged following the 30 day stimulation period. In addition, 30 days of chronic ISMS did not cause observable damage in the spinal cord beyond that incurred by the implantation of sham microwires. These studies advance our understanding of the force recruitment properties, neuromuscular plasticity and damage incurred by ISMS and move us closer to developing a clinically viable ISMS procedure.
License granted by Jeremy Bamford ( on 2009-09-23T21:01:20Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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File title: 2009 Dissertation
File author: Jeremy Bamford
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