Quantification of locomotor recovery following spinal cord contusion in adult rats

Melanie L. McEwen, Joe E. Springer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Injury to the spinal cord not only disrupts the functioning of spinal circuits at the site of the impact, but also limits sensorimotor function caudal to the level of the lesion. Ratings of gross locomotor skill are generally used to quantify locomotor recovery following spinal cord injury (SCI). The purpose of this study was to assess behavioral recovery following SCI with three tasks: (1) BBB ratings, (2) walking on a horizontal ladder, and (3) footprint analyses. Behavioral testing was conducted for 6 postoperative weeks, and then the spinal cords were processed for the amount of white matter spared. As expected, BBB ratings dramatically decreased and then improved during recovery. The number of hindlimb foot-faults on the horizontal ladder increased after injury and remained elevated during the recovery period. Footprint analyses revealed that sham-control rats used several different gaits to cross the runway. In contrast, the locomotor function of rats with a SCI was impaired throughout the postoperative period. Some locomotor parameters of the injured rats improved slightly (velocity, stride length, stride duration, stance duration), some did not change (interlimb coordination, swing duration, forelimb base of support, hindpaw angle), and others declined (hindlimb base of support) during the recovery period. Together, these results show that gross locomotor skill improved after SCI, while recovery of fine locomotor function was more limited. Multiple tests should be included in future experiments in order to assess gross and fine changes in sensorimotor function following SCI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1632-1653
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • BBB ratings
  • Behavior
  • Footprint analyses
  • Locomotion
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Trauma
  • White matter spared

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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