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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 4307694, 12 pages
Research Article

Training-Induced Functional Gains following SCI

1Department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
2Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
3Frazier Rehab Institute, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
4Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40202, USA

Received 15 February 2016; Accepted 27 April 2016

Academic Editor: Malgorzata Kossut

Copyright © 2016 P. J. Ward et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We previously demonstrated that daily, hour-long training sessions significantly improved both locomotor (limb kinematics, gait, and hindlimb flexor-extensor bursting patterns) and nonlocomotor (bladder function and at-level mechanical allodynia) functions following a moderate contusive spinal cord injury. The amount of training needed to achieve this recovery is unknown. Furthermore, whether this recovery is induced primarily by neuronal activity below the lesion or other aspects related to general exercise is unclear. Therefore, the current study objectives were to (1) test the efficacy of 30 minutes of step training for recovery following a clinically relevant contusion injury in male Wistar rats and (2) test the efficacy of training without hindlimb engagement. The results indicate that as little as 30 minutes of step training six days per week enhances overground locomotion in male rats with contusive spinal cord injury but does not alter allodynia or bladder function. Thirty minutes of forelimb-only exercise did not alter locomotion, allodynia, or bladder function, and neither training protocol altered the amount of in-cage activity. Taken together, locomotor improvements were facilitated by hindlimb step training for 30 minutes, but longer durations of training are required to affect nonlocomotor systems.