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The Capital Region of Denmark - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital
E-pub ahead of print

Cortical and Subcortical Effects of Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation in Humans with Tetraplegia

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  • Francisco D Benavides
  • Hang Jin Jo
  • Henrik Lundell
  • V Reggie Edgerton
  • Yuri Gerasimenko
  • Monica A Perez
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An increasing number of studies support the view that transcutaneous electrical stimulation of the spinal cord (TESS) promotes functional recovery in humans with spinal cord injury (SCI). However, the neural mechanisms contributing to these effects remain poorly understood. Here we examined motor evoked potentials in arm muscles elicited by cortical and subcortical stimulation of corticospinal axons before and after 20 min of TESS (30Hz pulses with a 5kHz carrier frequency) and sham-TESS applied between C5-C6 spinous processes in males and females with and without chronic incomplete cervical SCI. The amplitude of subcortical but not cortical motor evoked responses increased in proximal and distal arm muscles for 75 min after TESS, but not sham-TESS, in controls and SCI participants, suggesting a subcortical origin for these effects. Intracortical inhibition, elicited by paired stimuli, increased after TESS in both groups. When TESS was applied without the 5kHz carrier frequency both subcortical and cortical motor evoked responses were facilitated without changing intracortical inhibition, suggesting that the 5kHz carrier frequency contributed to the cortical inhibitory effects. Hand and arm function improved largely when TESS was used with, compared to without the 5kHz carrier frequency. These novel observations demonstrate that TESS influence cortical and spinal networks, having an excitatory effect at the spinal level and an inhibitory effect at the cortical level. We hypothesized that these parallel effects contribute to further the recovery of limb function following SCI.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTAccumulating evidence supports the view that transcutaneous electrical stimulation of the spinal cord (TESS) promotes recovery of function in humans with spinal cord injury (SCI). Here, we show that a single session of TESS over the cervical spinal cord in individuals with incomplete chronic cervical SCI influenced in parallel the excitability cortical and spinal networks, having an excitatory effect at the spinal level and an inhibitory effect at the cortical level. Importantly, these parallel physiological effects had an impact of the magnitude of improvements in voluntary motor output.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
ISSN2314-4262
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jan 2020

ID: 59200389