Characteristics of lower extremity clonus after human cervical spinal cord injury

Douglas M. Wallace, Bruce H. Ross, Christine K. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Clonus can interfere with self-care and rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injury. Our aim was to characterize clonus and to evaluate factors that influence clonus duration in muscles paralyzed chronically by spinal cord injury. Electromyographic activity was recorded from soleus and 7 other limb muscles (5 ipsilateral, 2 contralateral) during clonus. In 14 subjects, clonus frequency in soleus averaged 5.4±0.9 Hz and was slower when the reflex path was longer. Contraction frequency slowed at the beginning and end of clonus (sometimes by 2 Hz). The magnitude of one cycle changed the timing and magnitude of the next cycle. These data suggest that afferent input influences the frequency and maintenance of clonus. Recording from many muscles revealed that clonus was prolonged (>40 sec) when only ipsilateral triceps surae or triceps surae and tibialis anterior were involved. Therefore, localized inputs to spinal circuits were important to sustain clonus. Clonus was intermediate (median: 21 sec) with activation of three or four ipsilateral muscles and these contractions were associated with greater activation of ipsilateral flexors. Clonus was short (<5 sec) when ipsilateral and contralateral muscles were activated (five or six muscles). Activation of extraneous afferent input, particularly contralateral muscles, may provide a way to shorten clonus after spinal cord injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-924
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 20 2012


  • muscle spasms
  • spasticity
  • stretch reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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