The monosynaptic motoneuron response to stimulation of Ia afferents is known to be altered by spinal cord injury (SCI). Although the Hoffman (H)-reflex is a tool that is often used to measure this reflex in patients, there has not been a systematic study investigating the effect of SCI severity and time on the H-reflex. We used a clinically relevant model of spinal cord contusion (Mild and Moderate) as well as complete surgical transection to measure the H-reflex at 1, 4 and 8 weeks after injury. The H-reflex was recorded from rat hindpaw plantar muscles in order to measure the baseline reflex amplitude and its response to increased stimulus frequency, i.e. rate depression. We correlated the reflex amplitude at each frequency to spared white matter at the injury epicenter, hindlimb function and serotonin immunoreactivity associated with retrogradely labeled plantar muscle motoneurons. The three injury groups displayed different behavioral deficits and amount of spared white matter at all three times tested. H-reflex rate depression was abnormal in all three injury groups at all three time points. At 8 weeks, transected animals displayed more H-reflex rate depression than those with a mild contusion. Baseline H-reflex amplitude was increased in both contusion groups at 4 weeks and showed a positive linear correlation with serotonin immunoreactivity. This baseline amplitude was not increased after transection. Furthermore, in the contusion group, there was a U-shaped relationship between behavioral scores and H-reflex rate depression, suggesting that an intermediate sensitivity of the motoneuronal pool to afferent input is associated with better recovery of hindlimb function.
- Monosynaptic Ia afferent reflex
- Motoneuron recruitment
- Spontaneous recovery
- White matter
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