Recovery of inspiratory intercostal muscle activity following high cervical hemisection

B. J. Dougherty, K. Z. Lee, E. J. Gonzalez-Rothi, M. A. Lane, P. J. Reier, D. D. Fuller

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32 Scopus citations


Anatomical and neurophysiological evidence indicates that thoracic interneurons can serve a commissural function and activate contralateral motoneurons. Accordingly, we hypothesized that respiratory-related intercostal (IC) muscle electromyogram (EMG) activity would be only modestly impaired by a unilateral cervical spinal cord injury. Inspiratory tidal volume (VT) was recorded using pneumotachography and EMG activity was recorded bilaterally from the 1st to 2nd intercostal space in anesthetized, spontaneously breathing rats. Studies were conducted at 1-3 days, 2 wks or 8 wks following C2 spinal cord hemisection (C2HS). Data were collected during baseline breathing and a brief respiratory challenge (7% CO2). A substantial reduction in inspiratory intercostal EMG bursting ipsilateral to the lesion was observed at 1-3 days post-C2HS. However, a time-dependent return of activity occurred such that by 2 wks post-injury inspiratory intercostal EMG bursts ipsilateral to the lesion were similar to age-matched, uninjured controls. The increases in ipsilateral intercostal EMG activity occurred in parallel with increases in VT following the injury (R=0.55; P<0.001). We conclude that plasticity occurring within a "crossed-intercostal" circuitry enables a robust, spontaneous recovery of ipsilateral intercostal activity following C2HS in rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-192
Number of pages7
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 30 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
B.J. Dougherty was supported by an NIH NRSA pre-doctoral Fellowship 1F31NS063659-01A2. Additional support was provided by NIH grants 1R21-HL104294-01 (DDF) and 1R01-NS-054025 (PJR). EGR was supported by an NIH training grant ( T-32 HD043730 ).


  • Intercostal
  • Plasticity
  • Spinal cord injury


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