Effects of spinal cord injury on synaptic inputs to sympathetic preganglionic neurons

Ida J. Llewellyn-Smith, Lynne C. Weaver, Janet R. Keast

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    Spinal cord injuries often lead to disorders in the control of autonomic function, including problems with blood pressure regulation, voiding, defecation and reproduction. The root cause of all these problems is the destruction of brain pathways that control spinal autonomic neurons lying caudal to the lesion. Changes induced by spinal cord injuries have been most extensively studied in sympathetic preganglionic neurons, cholinergic autonomic neurons with cell bodies in the lateral horn of thoracic and upper lumbar spinal cord that are the sources of sympathetic outflow. After an injury, sympathetic preganglionic neurons in mid-thoracic cord show plastic changes in their morphology. There is also extensive loss of synaptic input from the brain, leaving these neurons profoundly denervated in the acute phase of injury. Our recent studies on sympathetic preganglionic neurons in lower thoracic and upper lumbar cord that regulate the pelvic viscera suggest that these neurons are not so severely affected by spinal cord injury. Spinal interneurons appear to contribute most of the synaptic input to these neurons so that injury does not result in extensive denervation. Since intraspinal circuitry remains intact after injury, drug treatments targeting these neurons should help to normalize sympathetically mediated pelvic visceral reflexes. Furthermore, sympathetic pelvic visceral control may be more easily restored after an injury because it is less dependent on the re-establishment of direct synaptic input from regrowing brain axons.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAutonomic Dysfunction After Spinal Cord Injury
    EditorsLynne C. Weaver, Canio Polosa
    PublisherElsevier B.V.
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - 2006

    Publication series

    NameProgress in Brain Research
    PublisherElsevier BV
    ISSN (Print)0079-6123


    Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of spinal cord injury on synaptic inputs to sympathetic preganglionic neurons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this