Locomotor Recovery After Complete Spinal Cord Injury does not Require Task-specific Training

A Physiology Brownbag Seminar

Alain Frigon, Ph.D.
Department of Pharmacology-Physiology
Université de Sherbrooke

After complete spinal cord injury (SCI), adult cats recover hindlimb locomotion after a few weeks of treadmill training. This recovery is due to the presence of a spinal locomotor central pattern generator (CPG), which is thought to be reactivated by sensory feedback from the moving legs. One of the central tenets of motor rehabilitation is that training must be task specific. However, as the locomotor CPG is present at birth, we hypothesized that task-specific training is not required to restore locomotion after complete SCI. To test this hypothesis, we investigated whether providing non-task-specific training in the form of rhythmic manual stimulation of the triceps surae muscles restored hindlimb locomotion after complete SCI in cats. Twelve adult cats (>10 months) were divided into three groups and implanted with electrodes to chronically record muscle activity (EMG, electromyography). After collecting data in the intact state, we transected the spinal cord at low thoracic levels. Group 1 received rhythmic manual stimulation of the triceps surae muscles, Group 2 received traditional treadmill training while Group 3 received no treatment. Cats in all three groups recovered full body weight support during standing one week after SCI. Six weeks after SCI, cats in all groups performed full weight bearing hindlimb locomotion from 0.1 to 0.8 m/s. The results indicate that the recovery of hindlimb locomotion after complete SCI does not require task-specific training and is partly spontaneous, consistent with the hypothesis that the spinal cord produces locomotion as its default pattern.

More about the Speaker
Dr. Alain Frigon has a broad background in neuroscience and kinesiology, with specific expertise in spinal cord neurophysiology and locomotor control. For the past 15 years, his research has focused on the neural control of rhythmic movements (arm cycling, locomotion and scratching) and on neurophysiological changes that take place after spinal cord or peripheral nerve injury. He received experimental training in motor control in humans (E. Paul Zehr) and with the cat model in three different laboratories that use complementary preparations, including in vivo recordings in awake behaving cats (Serge Rossignol), intracellular/extracellular recordings in curarized decerebrate cats (Jean-Pierre Gossard) and electromyography and force recordings in immobilized decerebrate cats (Charles J. Heckman). His lab currently uses a range of experimental techniques to study the control of movement in the cat and is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Physiology Brownbag Seminars
The Physiology Group in the School of Biological Sciences hosts Brownbag Lunchtime Seminars twice a month on Wednesdays at noon in room 1253 of the Applied Physiology Building located at 555 14th Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30318. You are welcome to bring a lunch and join us as we ruminate with us on topics in Physiology! A full listing of seminars can be found at http://pwp.gatech.edu/bmmc/physiology-brownbag-seminars-spring-2019/.

Event Details


  • Wednesday, March 27, 2019 - 12:00pm

Room 1253, 555 14th Street NW