Horizontal ladder task-specific re-training in adult rats with contusive thoracic spinal cord injury

Stephen M. Onifer, Oliver Zhang, Laura K. Whitnel-Smith, Kashif Raza, Christopher R. O'Dell, Travis S. Lyttle, Alexander G. Rabchevsky, Patrick H. Kitzman, Darlene A. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose: Using the horizontal ladder task, we examined some issues that need to be resolved before task-specific rehabilitative training can be employed clinically for the frequent contusive spinal cord injury (SCI). We hypothesized that improving recovery in task performance after contusive thoracic SCI requires frequent re-training and initiating the re-training early during spontaneous recovery. Methods: Contusive SCI was produced at the adult female Sprague Dawley rat T10 vertebra. Task re-training was initiated one week later when occasional weight-supported plantar steps were taken overground (n = 8). It consisted of 2 repetitions each day, 5 days each week, for 3 weeks. Task performance and overground locomotion were assessed weekly. Neurotransmission through the SCI ventrolateral funiculus was examined. SCI morphometry was determined. Results: Re-training did not improve task performance recovery compared to untrained Controls (n = 7). Untrained overground locomotion and neurotransmission through the SCI did not change. Lesion area at the injury epicenter as a percentage of the total spinal cord area as well as total tissue, lesion, and spared tissue, white matter, or gray matter volumes did not differ. Conclusions: For the horizontal ladder task after contusive thoracic SCI, earlier re-training sessions with more repetitions and critical neural circuitry may be necessary to engender a rehabilitation effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-286
Number of pages12
JournalRestorative Neurology and Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011


  • Spinal cord injury
  • horizontal ladder
  • locomotion
  • re-training
  • rehabilitation
  • transcranial magnetic motor evoked potentials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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