NMDA antagonism during development extends sparing of hindlimb function to older spinally transected rats

Donna L. Maier, Robert G. Kalb, Dennis J. Stelzner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Hindlimb weight support and bipedal stepping occur after spinal cord transection in neonatal rats (birth to 12 days of age) while the same lesion in 15-day and older animals results in permanent loss of these responses. Some compensatory change in lumbar spinal circuitry must occur after spinal transection in young animals subserving these hindlimb behaviors. In contrast, animals just a few days older are incapable of such compensatory responses. We have examined the hypothesis that neural activity leads to the postnatal loss of plasticity in spinal circuitry. We find that antagonism of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) subtype of glutamate receptor with MK-801 in young animals extends the sparing of hindlimb function after spinal transection to older animals. This effect is not due to a non-specific depression of all exciatory drive to motor neurons since Ia to motor neuron synaptic transmission through non-NMDA receptors is preserved during MK-801 treatment. Acute administration of MK-801 at the time of spinal transection or chronic administration of MK-801 after postnatal day 17 has no effect on recovery of hindlimb function after spinal transection. These results highlight the importance of NMDA receptor activation in spinal circuit maturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-144
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 14 1995


  • Critical period
  • Developmental plasticity
  • MK-801
  • NMDA receptor
  • Recovery of function
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


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