Vibration attenuates spasm-like activity in humans with spinal cord injury

Bradley A. DeForest, Jorge Bohorquez, Monica A. Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Key points: Cutaneous reflexes were tested to examine the neuronal mechanisms contributing to muscle spasms in humans with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI). Specifically, we tested the effect of Achilles and tibialis anterior tendon vibration on the early and late components of the cutaneous reflex and reciprocal Ia inhibition in the soleus and tibialis anterior muscles in humans with chronic SCI. We found that tendon vibration reduced the amplitude of later but not earlier cutaneous reflex in the antagonist but not in the agonist muscle relative to the location of the vibration. In addition, reciprocal Ia inhibition between antagonist ankle muscles increased with tendon vibration and participants with a larger suppression of the later component of the cutaneous reflex had stronger reciprocal Ia inhibition from the antagonistic muscle. Our study is the first to provide evidence that tendon vibration attenuates late cutaneous spasm-like reflex activity, likely via reciprocal inhibitory mechanisms, and may represent a method, when properly targeted, for controlling spasms in humans with SCI. Abstract: The neuronal mechanisms contributing to the generation of involuntary muscle contractions (spasms) in humans with spinal cord injury (SCI) remain poorly understood. To address this question, we examined the effect of Achilles and tibialis anterior tendon vibration at 20, 40, 80 and 120 Hz on the amplitude of the long-polysynaptic (LPR, from reflex onset to 500 ms) and long-lasting (LLR, from 500 ms to reflex offset) cutaneous reflex evoked by medial plantar nerve stimulation in the soleus and tibialis anterior, and reciprocal Ia inhibition between these muscles, in 25 individuals with chronic SCI. We found that Achilles tendon vibration at 40 and 80 Hz, but not other frequencies, reduced the amplitude of the LLR in the tibialis anterior, but not the soleus muscle, without affecting the amplitude of the LPR. Vibratory effects were stronger at 80 than 40 Hz. Similar results were found in the soleus muscle when the tibialis anterior tendon was vibrated. Notably, tendon vibration at 80 Hz increased reciprocal Ia inhibition between antagonistic ankle muscles and vibratory-induced increases in reciprocal Ia inhibition were correlated with decreases in the LLR, suggesting that participants with a larger suppression of later cutaneous reflex activity had stronger reciprocal Ia inhibition from the antagonistic muscle. Our study is the first to provide evidence that tendon vibration suppresses late spasm-like activity in antagonist but not agonist muscles, likely via reciprocal inhibitory mechanisms, in humans with chronic SCI. We argue that targeted vibration of antagonistic tendons might help to control spasms after SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2703-2717
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physiology
Volume598
Issue number13
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

Keywords

  • afferent input
  • muscle spasms
  • neuroplasticity
  • sensory
  • spasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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