Physical Therapy Publications

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Physical Therapy





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Background and purpose: For rehabilitation strategies to be effective, training should be based on principles of motor learning, such as feedback-error learning, that facilitate adaptive processes in the nervous system by inducing errors and recalibration of sensory and motor systems. This case report suggests that locomotor resistance training can enhance somatosensory and corticospinal excitability and modulate resting-state brain functional connectivity in a patient with motor-incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI).

Case description: The short-term cortical plasticity of a 31-year-old man who had sustained an incomplete SCI 9.5 years previously was explored in response to body-weight-supported treadmill training with velocity-dependent resistance applied with a robotic gait orthosis. The following neurophysiological and neuroimaging measures were recorded before and after training. Sensory evoked potentials were elicited by electrical stimulation of the tibial nerve and recorded from the somatosensory cortex. Motor evoked potentials were generated with transcranial magnetic stimulation applied over the tibialis anterior muscle representation in the primary motor cortex. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed to evaluate short-term changes in patterns of brain activity associated with locomotor training.

Outcomes: Somatosensory excitability and corticospinal excitability were observed to increase after locomotor resistance training. Motor evoked potentials increased (particularly at higher stimulation intensities), and seed-based resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging analyses revealed increased functional connectivity strength in the motor cortex associated with the less affected side after training.

Discussion: The observations suggest evidence of short-term cortical plasticity in 3 complementary neurophysiological measures after one session of locomotor resistance training. Future investigation in a sample of people with incomplete SCI will enhance the understanding of potential neural mechanisms underlying the behavioral response to locomotor resistance training.