Electrical stimulation of the cervical spinal cord is gaining traction as a therapy following spinal cord injury; however, it is difficult to target the cervical motor region in a rodent using a non-penetrating stimulus compared with direct placement of intraspinal wire electrodes. Penetrating wire electrodes have been explored in rodent and pig models and, while they have proven beneficial in the injured spinal cord, the negative aspects of spinal parenchymal penetration (e.g., gliosis, neural tissue damage, and obdurate inflammation) are of concern when considering therapeutic potential. We therefore designed a novel approach for epidural stimulation of the rat spinal cord using a wireless stimulation system and ventral electrode array. Our approach allowed for preservation of mobility following surgery and was suitable for long term stimulation strategies in awake, freely functioning animals. Further, electrophysiology mapping of the ventral spinal cord revealed the ventral approach was suitable to target muscle groups of the rat forelimb and, at a single electrode lead position, different stimulation protocols could be applied to achieve unique activation patterns of the muscles of the forelimb.
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