Modest spontaneous recovery of ventilation following chronic high cervical hemisection in rats

D. D. Fuller, N. J. Doperalski, B. J. Dougherty, M. S. Sandhu, D. C. Bolser, P. J. Reier

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107 Scopus citations


Following C2 spinal hemisection (C2HS) in adult rats, ipsilateral phrenic motoneuron (PhMN) recovery occurs through a time-dependent activation of latent, crossed-spinal collaterals (i.e., spontaneous crossed phrenic phenomenon; sCPP) from contralateral bulbospinal axons. Ventilation is maintained during quiet breathing after C2HS, but the ability to increase ventilation during a respiratory stimulation (e.g. hypercapnia) is impaired. We hypothesized that long-term expression of the sCPP would correspond to a progressive normalization in ventilatory patterns during respiratory challenge. Breathing was assessed via plethsymography in unanesthetized animals and phrenic motor output was measured in urethane-anesthetized, paralyzed and vagotomized rats. At 2-week post-C2HS, minute ventilation (VE) was maintained during baseline (room air) conditions as expected but was substantially blunted during hypercapnic challenge (68 ± 3% of VE in uninjured, weight-matched rats). However, by 12 weeks the spinal-lesioned rats achieved a hypercapnic VE response that was 85 ± 7% of control (p = 0.017 vs. 2 wks). These rats also exhibited augmented breaths (AB's) or "sighs" more frequently (p < 0.05) than controls; however, total AB volume was significantly less than control at 2- and 12-week post-injury (69 ± 4% and 80 ± 5%, p < 0.05, respectively). We also noted that phrenic neurograms demonstrated a consistent delay in onset of the ipsilateral vs. contralateral inspiratory phrenic burst at 2-12-week post-injury. Finally, the ipsilateral phrenic response to respiratory challenge (hypoxia) was greater, though not normalized, at 4-12- vs. 2-week post-injury. We conclude that recovery of ventilation deficits occurs over 2-12-week post-C2HS; however, intrinsic neuroplasticity remains insufficient to concurrently restore a normal level of ipsilateral phrenic output.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-106
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and the American Paraplegia Society (DDF) and NIH, NINDS, NS054025 (PJR). We thank Ms. Sandy Walker and Mr. Kevin Siegel for their technical assistance.


  • Crossed phrenic phenomenon
  • Motoneurons
  • Phrenic
  • Plasticity


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