In this review we describe clinical and neurophysiological features of motor control in human spinal cord injury based on two models. First, motor control is considered in subjects with injury-induced complete division of the spinal cord from brain and brainstem structures, and second, in those in which the division is partial. We describe motor control in terms of segmental and plurisegmental reflex activity that dominates motor unit output to the muscles following complete separation from the brain motor structures by accidental injury. With incomplete separation of the spinal cord from brain structures, motor control is defined as the voluntary manipulation of reflex and automatic activity integrated with internal and external feedback signals. We review here motor control found after complete spinal cord injury with paradigm of single and regular-repeating stimuli applied to elicit cutaneous and muscle stretch reflex responses. We argue, that isolated spinal cord neural circuitry is capable of organizing characteristic reflex events that depend on the characteristics of the stimulus. Also, the profile of residual brain and brainstem, modified by the reduction in descending long spinal tract fibers arriving at their targets in the spinal gray matter, produces characteristic changes in motor output to the muscles that leads to the development of new neural strategies for control of segmental and plurisegmental neural circuitry. In the second part of this review, we discuss available treatment modalities for impaired cord function and briefly outline neurobiological interventions under development for repair of spinal cord injury.
Keywords: spinal cord injury, motor control, reflex, surface electromyography, neurorehabilitation, neuroplasticity
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport