Identification of Neural Mechanisms of Muscle Cramps in Novel Animal Models

Project: Research project

Project Details


The laboratory of Professor C.J. Heckman (Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University) will develop and validate novel animal models that will test if muscle cramps are caused by a neural mechanism. Recent research has suggested that muscle cramping is caused by the uncontrolled repetitive firing of alpha-motor neurons in the spinal cord, resulting in maintained contraction of the muscle. Proof-of-concept studies performed by Flex Pharma in normal, healthy volunteers have demonstrated that a beverage containing combinations of pungent dietary supplements was able to lessen the severity and duration of electrically induced muscle cramps in the foot. While the precise mechanism of action of the beverage is unknown, the beverage is thought to exploit a general principle of neural circuits whereby strong excitatory sensory input from one source enhances overall inhibitory tone by increased recruitment of inhibitory neurons to reduce excitability in other parts of the circuit. This generalized inhibition is hypothesized to occur through the activation of TRP channels in the mouth or esophagus. Overall hypothesis: Hyperexcitable motoneurons are activated by a relatively normal sensory input. Activation of TRP channels in the mouth/esophagus mediates a generalized inhibition that reduces motoneuron excitability.
Effective start/end date4/30/154/30/17


  • Flex Pharma, Inc. (Agmt 06/23/15)


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