This study will examine the role of the spinal cord in improving leg movements after
physical training in healthy people. The results of this study may be helpful in developing
new rehabilitation therapies for people with impaired leg function.
Healthy volunteers between 21 and 65 years of age may be eligible for this study. Candidates
will be screened with a brief medical history and physical examination.
Participants will undergo EMG-H reflex measurement while pedaling on a stationary bicycle.
For this test, the subject is given an electrical stimulation at the nerve at the back of
the knee while pedaling on a stationary bicycle. The shock produces a jerky movement called
the "H reflex." The muscular activity causing these reflexes is measured using electrodes
(small metal disks) filled with a conductive gel and taped to the skin over the calf muscle.
The nerve is stimulated at four different frequencies during the experiment. While cycling,
pedal resistance changes, making it harder or easier to pedal.
On study day 1, participants have EMG-H reflex measurement to determine baseline
performance, then a training session to prepare for the actual test, and then a
post-training test to measure performance again. The test is repeated on days 2, then
between days 5 and 8, and again between days 11 and 14. The screening and first visit last 2
hours; the remaining test visits are 1 hour each. The bicycling time is only 15 minutes
during training and 5 minutes at each test session.
We aim to determine whether the development of a motor memory in the human spinal cord
circuitry (expressed as a down regulation of the monosynaptic soleus H reflex) after a brief
period of learning of a locomotor skill, is intrinsically encoded at the spinal cord level
or if it is determined by descending suprasegmental influences.
The results of this study would be useful for designing new rehabilitation strategies based
upon manipulation of peripheral inputs aimed at activating spinal cord circuitry for motor
recovery independent of the higher centers.
Seventy (70) healthy volunteers (median age 21-65) will participate in the study.
Subjects will complete one training session (using a recumbent cycle ergometer) and will be
tested physiologically and behaviorally once before training and four times after training
through 14 to 16 days.
We will assess homosynaptic depression of the soleus H reflex (an expression of the
excitability of the alpha-motorneuron pool), a phenomenon that is not susceptible to
descending suprasegmental influences but depends on the history of information arriving to
the alpha-motorneuron from the periphery. Amount of homosynaptic depression will be
correlated with the behavioral learning assessed by improvement in control of stepping
- INCLUSION CRITERIA:
Healthy volunteers (age 21 to 65 years) who are willing to participate and who are
considered able to cylce for 16 minutes based on neurological and physical exams will be
eligible for the study. Reproductive age women with a negative pregnancy test.
Subjects with history of heart condition, unresponsive arterial hypertension, diabetes,
chronic back pain, sciatica, peripheral neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, active joint
deformity of arthritic origin, alcohol or drug abuse, psychiatric disorder requiring
hospitalization or prolonged treatment, head injury with loss of consciousness, epilepsy.
Subjects with history of hyperthyroidism or individuals receiving drugs acting primarily
on the central nervous system or disorders of the blood coagulation system. Pregnant