Patterned sensory stimulation induces plasticity in reciprocal Ia inhibition in humans

Monica A Perez, Edelle C. Field-Fote, Mary Kay Floeter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Training of spinal cord circuits using sensorimotor stimulation has been proposed as a strategy to improve movement after spinal injury. How sensory stimulation may lead to long-lasting changes is not well understood. We studied whether sensory stimulation might induce changes in the strength of a specific spinal interneuronal circuit: spinally mediated reciprocal Ia inhibition. In healthy humans, the strength of reciprocal inhibition between ankle flexor and extensor muscles was assessed before and after 30 min of peroneal nerve stimulation at motor threshold intensity. Three stimulation protocols were assessed: patterned nerve stimulation (10 pulses at 100 Hz every 1.5 sec), uniform nerve stimulation (one pulse every 150 msec), and combined stimulation of the peroneal nerve and the motor cortex with transcranial magnetic stimulation. Short-latency reciprocal inhibition from ankle flexor to extensor muscles was measured by conditioning the soleus H-reflex with stimulation of the common peroneal nerve. The strength of the reciprocal inhibition was measured at baseline and for 20 min after each stimulation session. Patterned stimulation, with or without motor cortex stimulation, enhanced reciprocal inhibition for at least 5 min afterward. The uniform pattern of stimulation was ineffective. These results demonstrate the presence of short-term plasticity within spinal inhibitory circuits. We conclude that the pattern of sensory input is a crucial factor for inducing changes in the spinal circuit for reciprocal inhibition in humans. These findings may have implications for the use of repetitive patterned sensory stimulation in rehabilitative efforts to improve walking ability in patients with spinal injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2014-2018
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2003


  • H-reflex
  • Interneurons
  • Locomotion
  • Presynaptic inhibition
  • Spinal cord
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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