Crossed facilitatory interactions in the corticospinal pathway are impaired in humans with chronic incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI). The extent to which crossed facilitation is affected in muscles above and below the injury remains unknown. To address this question we tested 51 patients with neurological injuries between C2-T12 and 17 age-matched healthy controls. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation we elicited motor evoked potentials (MEPs) in the resting first dorsal interosseous, biceps brachii, and tibialis anterior muscles when the contralateral side remained at rest or performed 70% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) into index finger abduction, elbow flexion, and ankle dorsiflexion, respectively. By testing MEPs in muscles with motoneurons located at different spinal cord segments we were able to relate the neurological level of injury to be above, at, or below the location of the motoneurons of the muscle tested. We demonstrate that in patients the size of MEPs was increased to a similar extent as in controls in muscles above the injury during 70% of MVC compared to rest. MEPs remained unchanged in muscles at and within 5 segments below the injury during 70% of MVC compared to rest. However, in muscles beyond 5 segments below the injury the size of MEPs increased similar to controls and was aberrantly high, 2-fold above controls, in muscles distant (>15 segments) from the injury. These aberrantly large MEPs were accompanied by larger F-wave amplitudes compared to controls. Thus, our findings support the view that corticospinal degeneration does not spread rostral to the lesion, and highlights the potential of caudal regions distant from an injury to facilitate residual corticospinal output after SCI.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)