Interlimb conditioning of lumbosacral spinally evoked motor responses after spinal cord injury

D. A. Atkinson, D. G. Sayenko, J. M. D'Amico, A. Mink, D. J. Lorenz, Y. P. Gerasimenko, S. Harkema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: The importance of subcortical pathways to functional motor recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI) has been demonstrated in multiple animal models. The current study evaluated descending interlimb influence on lumbosacral motor excitability after chronic SCI in humans. Methods: Ulnar nerve stimulation and transcutaneous electrical spinal stimulation were used in a condition-test paradigm to evaluate the presence of interlimb connections linking the cervical and lumbosacral spinal segments in non-injured (n=15) and spinal cord injured (SCI) (n=18) participants. Results: Potentiation of spinally evoked motor responses (sEMRs) by ulnar nerve conditioning was observed in 7/7 SCI participants with volitional leg muscle activation, and in 6/11 SCI participants with no volitional activation. Of these six, conditioning of sEMRs was present only when the neurological level of injury was rostral to the ulnar innervation entry zones. Conclusions: Descending modulation of lumbosacral motor pools via interlimb projections may exist in SCI participants despite the absence of volitional leg muscle activation. Significance: Evaluation of sub-clinical, spared pathways within the spinal cord after SCI may provide an improved understanding of both the contributions of different pathways to residual function, and the mechanisms of plasticity and functional motor recovery following rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1519-1532
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Human spinal cord injury
  • Interlimb pathways
  • Motor assessment
  • Neurophysiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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