Plasticity of corticospinal tract (CST) activity likely plays a key role in motor function recovery after central nervous system (CNS) lesions. In non-injured adults, 30 min of repetitive common peroneal nerve stimulation (rCPnS) increases CST excitability by 40-50% and the effect persists for at least 30 min. The present study evaluated with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) the changes in CST excitability after 30 min of rCPnS in people with foot drop due to incomplete SCI. Suprathreshold rCPnS (25 Hz, alternating 1 s on 1 s off stimulation cycle) was given for two 15-min periods, while the subject sat at rest with ankle and knee joints fixed. Before, between, and after the periods of stimulation, the tibialis anterior (TA) motor evoked potentials (MEPs) to TMS were measured at a TMS intensity that originally produced a half-maximum MEP (typically 10-20% above threshold) while the sitting subject provided 25-30% maximum voluntary TA contraction. In 10 subjects with SCI, the peak-to-peak TA MEP increased by 14 ± 3% after rCPnS and the peak increase (+21 ± 7%) occurred 15 min after the cessation of rCPnS. The TA H-reflex, measured in separate experiments in 7 subjects, did not increase after rCPnS. The results indicate that rCPnS can increase CST excitability for the TA in people with incomplete SCI, although its effects appear smaller and shorter lasting than those found in non-injured control subjects. Such short-term plasticity in the CST excitability induced by rCPnS may contribute to long-term therapeutic effects of functional electrical stimulation previously reported in people with CNS lesions.
- Electrical stimulation
- Foot drop
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation