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Sensorimotor adjustments after unilateral spinal cord injury in adult rats



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A variety of behavioural tests were used to examine both sensory and motor function of freely behaving unilaterally spinal cord-injured and uninjured rats. The first experiment was designed to determine whether sensory and motor differences existed between uninjured Fischer, Lewis, Long-Evans, Sprague-Dawley and Wistar rats using endpoint, quantitative kinematic, and kinetic measurements. The second experiment examined differences in sensorimotor responses to cervical spinal cord hemisection in Lewis, Long-Evans and Wistar rats. For the third experiment, reflex and locomotor abilities of unilateral cervical or thoracic spinal cord hemisected Long-Evans rats were determined using endpoint, semi-quantitative kinematic, and kinetic measurements. The fourth experiment was designed to investigate the importance of the rubrospinal tract and ascending dorsal column pathways to overground locomotion. This experiment was conducted to help explain the behavioural observations made following cervical spinal cord hemisection. Furthermore, this experiment examined the effects of combined unilateral rubrospinal and dorsal column injury on overground locomotion using endpoint and kinetic measurements. Finally, the fifth experiment set out to investigate the contribution of tracts running in the ventrolateral spinal cord on overground locomotion in freely behaving Long-Evans rats. These animals were assessed using endpoint and kinetic measurements. The results of these studies revealed that motor and sensory functions are not similar for all uninjured strains of rats. Specifically, Fischer rats tend to have considerable differences in their morphological features and sensorimotor abilities compared to the other strains examined. Results from the other experiments indicate that adult freely behaving female rats develop a characteristic gait when pathways important for locomotion are injured unilaterally, regardless of strain. The rubrospinal tract and ascending dorsal column pathways appear to be important for both skilled and flat-ground locomotion as well as forelimb use while rearing. Pathways traveling within the ventrolateral pathway, however, are not necessary or sufficient for locomotion or limb useage while rearing when injured by themselves. Animals with ventrolateral spinal funiculus injuries regain normal forelimb use and skilled locomotor abilities. Injury to the ventrolateral spinal funiculus, however, results in mild (compared to rubrospinal and dorsal column injured animals) yet long-lasting locomotor changes based on ground reaction force determination. These findings are in agreement with the current opinion that there is a substantial amount of functional redundancy of pathways traveling in the ventral and ventrolateral funiculi.



Locomotion, Behaviour, Ground Reaction Forces, Kinematics



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Veterinary Biomedical Sciences


Veterinary Biomedical Sciences


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