Interlimb reflexes induced by electrical stimulation of cutaneous nerves after spinal cord injury

Jane E. Butler, Sharlene Godfrey, Christine K. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Whether interlimb reflexes emerge only after a severe insult to the human spinal cord is controversial. Here the aim was to examine interlimb reflexes at rest in participants with chronic (>1 year) spinal cord injury (SCI, n = 17) and able-bodied control participants (n = 5). Cutaneous reflexes were evoked by delivering up to 30 trains of stimuli to either the superficial peroneal nerve on the dorsum of the foot or the radial nerve at the wrist (5 pulses, 300 Hz, approximately every 30 s). Participants were instructed to relax the test muscles prior to the delivery of the stimuli. Electromyographic activity was recorded bilaterally in proximal and distal arm and leg muscles. Superficial peroneal nerve stimulation evoked interlimb reflexes in ipsilateral and contralateral arm and contralateral leg muscles of SCI and control participants. Radial nerve stimulation evoked interlimb reflexes in the ipsilateral leg and contralateral arm muscles of control and SCI participants but only contralateral leg muscles of control participants. Interlimb reflexes evoked by superficial peroneal nerve stimulation were longer in latency and duration, and larger in magnitude in SCI participants. Interlimb reflex properties were similar for both SCI and control groups for radial nerve stimulation. Ascending interlimb reflexes tended to occur with a higher incidence in participants with SCI, while descending interlimb reflexes occurred with a higher incidence in able-bodied participants. However, the overall incidence of interlimb reflexes in SCI and neurologically intact participants was similar which suggests that the neural circuitry underlying these reflexes does not necessarily develop after central nervous system injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0153063
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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