Locomotor training alters the behavior of flexor reflexes during walking in human spinal cord injury

Andrew C. Smith, Chaithanya K. Mummidisetty, William Zev Rymer, Maria Knikou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


In humans, a chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) impairs the excitability of pathways mediating early flexor reflexes and increases the excitability of late, long-lasting flexor reflexes. We hypothesized that in individuals with SCI, locomotor training will alter the behavior of these spinally mediated reflexes. Nine individuals who had either chronic clinically motor complete or incomplete SCI received an average of 44 locomotor training sessions. Flexor reflexes, elicited via sural nerve stimulation of the right or left leg, were recorded from the ipsilateral tibialis anterior (TA) muscle before and after body weight support (BWS)-assisted treadmill training. The modulation pattern of the ipsilateral TA responses following innocuous stimulation of the right foot was also recorded in 10 healthy subjects while they stepped at 25% BWS to investigate whether body unloading during walking affects the behavior of these responses. Healthy subjects did not receive treadmill training. We observed a phase-dependent modulation of early TA flexor reflexes in healthy subjects with reduced body weight during walking. The early TA flexor reflexes were increased at heel contact, progressively decreased during the stance phase, and then increased throughout the swing phase. In individuals with SCI, locomotor training induced the reappearance of early TA flexor reflexes and changed the amplitude of late TA flexor reflexes during walking. Both early and late TA flexor reflexes were modulated in a phase-dependent pattern after training. These new findings support the adaptive capability of the injured nervous system to return to a prelesion excitability and integration state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2164-2175
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Locomotor training
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Reorganization
  • SCI
  • Spinal circuits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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