Forelimb locomotor assessment scale (FLAS): Novel assessment of forelimb dysfunction after cervical spinal cord injury

Kim D. Anderson, Kelli G. Sharp, Maura Hofstadter, Karen Amanda Irvine, Marion Murray, Oswald Steward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We describe here a novel forelimb locomotor assessment scale (FLAS) that assesses forelimb use during locomotion in rats injured at the cervical level. A quantitative scale was developed that measures movements of shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints, forepaw position and digit placement, forelimb-hindlimb coordination, compensatory behaviors adopted while walking, and balance. Female Sprague-Dawley rats received graded cervical contusions ranging from 200 to 230 ("mild," n = 11) and 250-290 kdyn ("moderate," n = 13) between C5 and C8. Rats were videotaped post-injury as they walked along an alley to determine deficits and recovery of forelimb function. Recovery of shoulder and elbow joint movement occurred rapidly (within 1-7 days post-injury), whereas recovery of wrist joint movement was slower and more variable. Most rats in all groups displayed persistent deficits in forepaw and digit movement, but developed compensatory behaviors to allow functional forward locomotion within 1-2 weeks post-injury. Recovery of forelimb function as measured by the FLAS reached a plateau by 3 weeks post-injury in all groups. Rats with mild contusions displayed greater locomotor recovery than rats with moderate contusions, but exhibited persistent deficits compared to sham controls. Reliability was tested by having seven raters (three internal, four external) from different laboratories, independently and blindly score videos of all rats. The multivariate correlation between all raters, all animals, and all time points ranged from r2 = 0.88-0.96 (p < 0.0001), indicating a high inter-rater reliability. Thus, the FLAS is a simple, inexpensive, sensitive, and reliable measure of forelimb function during locomotion following cervical SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-33
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavior
  • Cervical injury
  • Contusion
  • FLAS
  • Forelimb
  • Locomotion
  • Rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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