Fixed spaced stimulation restores adaptive plasticity within the spinal cord: Identifying the eliciting conditions. Academic Article uri icon


  • Prior work has shown that neurons within the spinal cord are sensitive to temporal relations and that stimulus regularity impacts nociceptive processing and adaptive plasticity. Application of brief (80ms) shocks (180-900) in a variable manner induces a form of maladaptive plasticity that inhibits spinally-mediated learning and enhances nociceptive reactivity. In contrast, an extended exposure (720-900) to stimuli given at regular (fixed spaced) intervals has a restorative effect that counters nociceptive sensitization and enables learning. The present paper explores the stimulus parameters under which this therapeutic effect of fixed spaced stimulation emerges. Spinally transected rats received variably spaced stimulation (180 shocks) to the sciatic nerve at an intensity (40-V) that recruits pain (C) fibers, producing a form of maladaptive plasticity that impairs spinal learning. As previously shown, exposure to 720 fixed spaced shocks had a therapeutic effect that restored adaptive learning. This therapeutic effect was most robust at a lower shock intensity (20V) and was equally strong irrespective of pulse duration (20-80ms). A restorative effect was observed when stimuli were given at a frequency between 0.5 and 5Hz, but not at a higher (50Hz) or lower (0.05Hz) rate. The results are consistent with prior work implicating neural systems related to the central pattern generator that drives stepping behavior. Clinical implications are discussed.

published proceedings

  • Physiol Behav

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Baumbauer, K. M., Turtle, J. D., & Grau, J. W.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Baumbauer, Kyle M||Turtle, Joel D||Grau, James W

publication date

  • May 2017