Sensorimotor integration in the human spinal cord

  • Author / Creator
    Clair, Joanna
  • In this thesis sensorimotor integration in the human spinal cord was investigated in the intact (Chapters 2 and 3) and injured nervous systems (Chapter 4-stroke; Chapter 5-spinal cord injury (SCI)). In Chapter 2, I characterized a short-latency reflex pathway between sensory receptors of the lower leg and the erector spinae (ES) muscles of the lower back that may play a role in the maintenance of posture and balance. The ES reflexes were evoked bilaterally by taps applied to the Achilles’ tendon and were modulated by task. Furthermore, these reflexes involved a larger contribution from cutaneous receptors in the lower limb, rather than muscle spindles. In Chapter 3, I investigated changes in reflex transmission along the H-reflex pathway throughout 10 s trains of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) using physiologically relevant frequencies (5-20 Hz) and during functionally relevant tasks (sitting and standing) and background contraction amplitudes (up to 20% MVC). The results of this study revealed strong post-activation depression of reflex amplitudes, followed by significant recovery during the stimulation, both of which were influenced by stimulation frequency and background contraction amplitude, but not task. During 10 Hz stimulation, reflex amplitudes showed complete recovery (i.e. back to their initial values), and at times, complete recovery occurred by the third reflex in the train. These results demonstrate that transmission along the H-reflex pathway is modulated continuously during periods of repetitive input. In Chapters 4 and 5, I studied the extent to which a novel stimulation protocol that incorporated wide pulse widths (1 ms) and high frequencies (up to 100 Hz) (wide-pulse NMES; WP-NMES), could enhance electrically-evoked contractions through a “central contribution” in individuals with stroke or SCI. This central effect arises from the electrical activation of sensory axons, which in turn, reflexively recruit motoneurons in the spinal cord. After stroke, contractions evoked by WP-NMES were larger in the paretic arm than the non-paretic arm. After SCI, transmission along the H-reflex pathway was observed throughout trains of WP-NMES; direct evidence of a central contribution. These results suggest that maximizing the central contribution during WP-NMES may be useful for maintaining muscle quality after neurological injury.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Centre for Neuroscience
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Collins, David F. (Physical Education and Recreation/ Centre for Neuroscience)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Misiaszek, John (Occupational Therapy/ Centre for Neuroscience)
    • Shields, Richard (Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, University of Iowa)
    • Gordon, Tessa (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation/ Centre for Neuroscience)
    • Yang, Jaynie (Physical Therapy/ Centre for Neuroscience)