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The role of serotonin receptors in spasticity after spinal cord injury Open Access


Other title
Constitutive activity
Spinal cord injury
sensory afferent transmission
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Murray, Katherine
Supervisor and department
Bennett, David (Rehabilitation Medicine)
Examining committee member and department
Centre for Neuroscience

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Brainstem derived serotonin (5-HT) normally facilitates spinal motoneuron excitability and inhibits sensory afferent transmission and associated spinal reflexes. Because the 5-HT innervation of the spinal cord is almost exclusively derived from brainstem neurons, spinal cord injury leads to an immediate and dramatic loss of 5-HT and this in turn leads to the simultaneous loss of motoneuron excitability and increase (disinhibition) of sensory afferent transmission. This thesis examined how spinal cord 5-HT receptors adapt over the months after SCI (chronic injury) to compensate for the loss of 5-HT. We showed that after SCI 5-HT2B and 5-HT2C receptors become constitutively active (active in the absence of 5-HT) with chronic injury, and this leads to a recovery of motoneuron excitability and contributes to the recovery of locomotor function. Unfortunately, this also contributes to the development of muscle spasms when combined with the disinhibition of sensory afferent transmission. In contrast, 5-HT1 receptors that modulate sensory afferent transmission do not become constitutively active after chronic SCI, and this contributes to the continued disinhibition of sensory afferent transmission and associated hyperreflexia and muscle spasms after chronic SCI. However, exogenous application of 5-HT1B and 5-HT1F receptor agonists can restore inhibition over sensory afferent transmission and ultimately reduce muscle spasms. In summary, 5-HT2 receptors exhibit a remarkable adaptation to the loss of 5-HT with SCI, whereas 5-HT1 receptors do not. Understanding and promoting this natural plasticity may help in the development of better therapeutic interventions for treating SCI.
License granted by Katherine Murray ( on 2010-06-24T20:47:27Z (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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