Neural Plastic Changes Improve Functional Recovery After Cervical Spinal Cord Injury!

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : July 23, 2022

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine are investigating fresh strategies to encourage functional recovery following a spinal cord injury. An investigation into a unilateral spinal cord injury is resembling Brown-Sequard Syndrome. 

Spinal Cord Injury: Causes

It is a rare neurological condition. It causes damage to the spinal cord causing weakness or paralysis on one side of the body and a loss of sensation on the other. Moreover, it was conducted by the research team using laboratory models in a paper that was recently published.

Neural Plastic Changes Improve Functional Recovery After Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

The spinal cord injury model impaired the linking among the left hemisphere of the brain besides the right side of the body. Moreover, it results in a significant functional deficit in the right forelimb. The above-mentioned statement is presented by Wei Wu, Ph.D. Wei Wu is the assistant research professor of neurological surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

“Skilled upper limb function is very significant for the quality of life in patients with cervical spinal cord injury. But, such functional recovery is very hard to attain in a simple injury,” said Wu. He is the paper’s first author and a member of the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute’s Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Group.

As per their statement, it’s revealed, “We discovered that the forelimb’s function might be improved by modulating the corticospinal system. To put it simply, it interacts on the opposite side of the brain and spinal cord to at least partially take over control of the forelimb that is injured by the spinal cord injury.”

According to Wu, each hemisphere of the brain governs the opposite side of the body. Also, the researchers found a spontaneous switch in the brain networks from the left to the right after the injury. However, there are relayed pathways that connect the right hemisphere of the brain to the right side of the body following injury. Besides, Wu claimed that these connections are insufficient to allow the recovery of motor function.

The scientists stimulated the motor cortex of the right hemisphere of the brain. It is with light using an optogenetic neuromodulation technique and this resulted in a significant increase. Also, the improvement in forelimb function by moving extra neural networks from the left side to the right side of the brain.

We explained that in order to control the right forelimb, “new circuits in the whisker, mouth, forelimb, and neck areas in the right hemisphere of the brain are recruited.” It’s interesting to note that, following optogenetic neuromodulation of the motor cortex, positive neural plastic changes occur in both the brain and the distal spinal cord.

However, Wu stated that the forelimb had significantly improved as a result of the study. Furthermore, there were still numerous obstacles to overcome because complete digital recovery had not been achieved.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center’s Report, neurological incomplete tetraplegia was the most serious Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) clinically, resulting in severe motor discrepancies. Notably, it has been demonstrated that tissues were preserved in injuries that were clinically categorized as complete or AIS-A.

In the adult mammalian central nervous system, it is highly challenging for axons to regenerate across a lesion gap and make functional connections to neurons caudal to the damage due to the restrictive environment following trauma and the absence of neuronal intrinsic potential to recover.

Therefore, it is thought that protecting and modifying the remaining neuronal pathways are viable strategies for enhancing functional recovery following SCI.

To further enhance the functional recovery following spinal cord damage, the research team will keep studying and mediating this transhemispheric neuronal reconfiguration, further said by Wu. He expects that the research’s findings will be used in a clinical therapy plan for those who have spinal cord injuries.

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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