Injuries to spinal ventral roots may induce plastic changes in adjacent segmental reflex pathways. Earlier studies in the cat have demonstrated that a partial loss of target motoneurons, following a ventral root avulsion injury, induces a compensatory enhancement of monosynaptic reflexes in adjacent segments. Here, we studied electrophysiologically the effects of a primarily non-lethal motoneuron injury of lumbosacral ventral roots on monosynaptic reflexes in adjacent intact motoneurons in the adult cat. A unilateral L7 or a combined L7 and S1 ventral root transection was first performed. We next recorded bilaterally monosynaptic reflexes from the L6 and S1 ventral roots while stimulating the bilateral L6, L7 and S1 dorsal roots at 6 and 12 weeks postoperatively. We demonstrated a prominent strengthening of monosynaptic reflexes in the immediately adjacent spinal cord segments. The reflexes had almost doubled in size at 6 and 12 weeks postoperatively. Possible mechanisms and factors contributing to the reflex enhancement are discussed.
- Spinal cord