Special Issue "Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation"

A special issue of Journal of Clinical Medicine (ISSN 2077-0383). This special issue belongs to the section "Clinical Neurology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 November 2021) | Viewed by 22498

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Special Issue Editors

Dr. Ursula S. Hofstoetter
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Interests: human spinal locomotor circuits; multiple sclerosis; neural control of movement; neuromodulation; neurorehabilitation; spinal cord; spinal cord injury; spinal cord stimulation
Dr. Karen Minassian
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Interests: catecholaminergic system; central pattern generator; electrophysiology; epidural electrical stimulation; locomotion; neuromodulation; spinal cord physiology; spinal cord injury

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Recent research of epidural and transcutaneous electrical spinal cord stimulation has demonstrated unprecedented improvements in motor function thought to be irreversibly lost due to chronic, severe spinal cord injury. Studies in parallel assess these methods for spasticity management as an alternative to medications that are often accompanied by deleterious side effects. As a noninvasive intervention, transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation holds the great potential to find its way into wide clinical application. Its firm establishment and lasting acceptance as clinical practice in spinal cord injury will not only hinge on the demonstration of safety and efficacy, but also on the delineation of a conceptual framework of the underlying physiological mechanisms. This will also require advancing our understanding of immediate and temporary effects of transcutaneous spinal cord on neuronal circuits in the intact and injured spinal cord. The purpose of the present Special Issue is to bring together peers in the field to share—and eventually fuse—their pertinent research into current neurorehabilitation practice by providing a clinical perspective and novel insights into the underlying mechanisms.

Dr. Ursula S. Hofstoetter
Dr. Karen Minassian
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Human
  • Locomotion
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neurorehabilitation
  • Non-invasive
  • Spasticity
  • Spinal cord circuits
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Spinal reflexes
  • Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation

Published Papers (17 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation: Advances in an Emerging Non-Invasive Strategy for Neuromodulation
J. Clin. Med. 2022, 11(13), 3836; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm11133836 - 01 Jul 2022
Viewed by 542
Abstract
Recent studies of epidural electrical spinal cord stimulation have shown the enabling and, in some cases, the recovery of motor functions thought to be irreversibly lost due to severe spinal cord injury [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)

Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review

Article
Adapting Human-Based Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation to Develop a Clinically Relevant Animal Model
J. Clin. Med. 2022, 11(7), 2023; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm11072023 - 05 Apr 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 759
Abstract
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) as a neuromodulatory strategy has received great attention as a method to promote functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). However, due to the noninvasive nature of tSCS, investigations have primarily focused on human applications. This leaves a [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) as a neuromodulatory strategy has received great attention as a method to promote functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). However, due to the noninvasive nature of tSCS, investigations have primarily focused on human applications. This leaves a critical need for the development of a suitable animal model to further our understanding of this therapeutic intervention in terms of functional and neuroanatomical plasticity and to optimize stimulation protocols. The objective of this study is to establish a new animal model of thoracolumbar tSCS that (1) can accurately recapitulate studies in healthy humans and (2) can receive a repeated and stable tSCS treatment after SCI with minimal restraint, while the electrode remains consistently positioned. We show that our model displays bilateral evoked potentials in multisegmental leg muscles characteristically comparable to humans. Our data also suggest that tSCS mainly activates dorsal root structures like in humans, thereby accounting for the different electrode-to-body-size ratio between the two species. Finally, a repeated tSCS treatment protocol in the awake rat after a complete spinal cord transection is feasible, tolerable, and safe, even with minimal body restraint. Additionally, repeated tSCS was capable of modulating motor output after SCI, providing an avenue to further investigate stimulation-based neuroplasticity and optimize treatment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
Effect of Cervical Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation on Sensorimotor Cortical Activity during Upper-Limb Movements in Healthy Individuals
J. Clin. Med. 2022, 11(4), 1043; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm11041043 - 17 Feb 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 997
Abstract
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) can improve upper-limb motor function after spinal cord injury. A number of studies have attempted to deduce the corticospinal mechanisms which are modulated following tSCS, with many relying on transcranial magnetic stimulation to provide measures of corticospinal excitability. [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) can improve upper-limb motor function after spinal cord injury. A number of studies have attempted to deduce the corticospinal mechanisms which are modulated following tSCS, with many relying on transcranial magnetic stimulation to provide measures of corticospinal excitability. Other metrics, such as cortical oscillations, may provide an alternative and complementary perspective on the physiological effect of tSCS. Hence, the present study recorded EEG from 30 healthy volunteers to investigate if and how cortical oscillatory dynamics are altered by 10 min of continuous cervical tSCS. Participants performed repetitive upper-limb movements and resting-state tasks while tSCS was delivered to the posterior side of the neck as EEG was recorded simultaneously. The intensity of tSCS was tailored to each participant based on their maximum tolerance (mean: 50 ± 20 mA). A control session was conducted without tSCS. Changes to sensorimotor cortical activity during movement were quantified in terms of event-related (de)synchronisation (ERD/ERS). Our analysis revealed that, on a group level, there was no consistency in terms of the direction of ERD modulation during tSCS, nor was there a dose-effect between tSCS and ERD/ERS. Resting-state oscillatory power was compared before and after tSCS but no statistically significant difference was found in terms of alpha peak frequency or alpha power. However, participants who received the highest stimulation intensities had significantly weakened ERD/ERS (10% ERS) compared to when tSCS was not applied (25% ERD; p = 0.016), suggestive of cortical inhibition. Overall, our results demonstrated that a single 10 min session of tSCS delivered to the cervical region of the spine was not sufficient to induce consistent changes in sensorimotor cortical activity among the entire cohort. However, under high intensities there may be an inhibitory effect at the cortical level. Future work should investigate, with a larger sample size, the effect of session duration and tSCS intensity on cortical oscillations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
Characterization of Spinal Sensorimotor Network Using Transcutaneous Spinal Stimulation during Voluntary Movement Preparation and Performance
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(24), 5958; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10245958 - 18 Dec 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1423
Abstract
Transcutaneous electrical spinal stimulation (TSS) can be used to selectively activate motor pools based on their anatomical arrangements in the lumbosacral enlargement. These spatial patterns of spinal motor activation may have important clinical implications, especially when there is a need to target specific [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous electrical spinal stimulation (TSS) can be used to selectively activate motor pools based on their anatomical arrangements in the lumbosacral enlargement. These spatial patterns of spinal motor activation may have important clinical implications, especially when there is a need to target specific muscle groups. However, our understanding of the net effects and interplay between the motor pools projecting to agonist and antagonist muscles during the preparation and performance of voluntary movements is still limited. The present study was designed to systematically investigate and differentiate the multi-segmental convergence of supraspinal inputs on the lumbosacral neural network before and during the execution of voluntary leg movements in neurologically intact participants. During the experiments, participants (N = 13) performed isometric (1) knee flexion and (2) extension, as well as (3) plantarflexion and (4) dorsiflexion. TSS consisting of a pair pulse with 50 ms interstimulus interval was delivered over the T12-L1 vertebrae during the muscle contractions, as well as within 50 to 250 ms following the auditory or tactile stimuli, to characterize the temporal profiles of net spinal motor output during movement preparation. Facilitation of evoked motor potentials in the ipsilateral agonists and contralateral antagonists emerged as early as 50 ms following the cue and increased prior to movement onset. These results suggest that the descending drive modulates the activity of the inter-neuronal circuitry within spinal sensorimotor networks in specific, functionally relevant spatiotemporal patterns, which has a direct implication for the characterization of the state of those networks in individuals with neurological conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
Influence of Spine Curvature on the Efficacy of Transcutaneous Lumbar Spinal Cord Stimulation
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(23), 5543; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10235543 - 26 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 811
Abstract
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation is a non-invasive method for neuromodulation of sensorimotor function. Its main mechanism of action results from the activation of afferent fibers in the posterior roots—the same structures as targeted by epidural stimulation. Here, we investigated the influence of sagittal [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation is a non-invasive method for neuromodulation of sensorimotor function. Its main mechanism of action results from the activation of afferent fibers in the posterior roots—the same structures as targeted by epidural stimulation. Here, we investigated the influence of sagittal spine alignment on the capacity of the surface-electrode-based stimulation to activate these neural structures. We evaluated electromyographic responses evoked in the lower limbs of ten healthy individuals during extension, flexion, and neutral alignment of the thoracolumbar spine. To control for position-specific effects, stimulation in these spine alignment conditions was performed in four different body positions. In comparison to neutral and extended spine alignment, flexion of the spine resulted in a strong reduction of the response amplitudes. There was no such effect on tibial-nerve evoked H reflexes. Further, there was a reduction of post-activation depression of the responses to transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation evoked in spinal flexion. Thus, afferent fibers were reliably activated with neutral and extended spine alignment. Spinal flexion, however, reduced the capacity of the stimulation to activate afferent fibers and led to the co-activation of motor fibers in the anterior roots. This change of action was due to biophysical rather than neurophysiological influences. We recommend applying transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation in body positions that allow individuals to maintain a neutral or extended spine. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
Algorithms for Automated Calibration of Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation to Facilitate Clinical Applications
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(22), 5464; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10225464 - 22 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 919
Abstract
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) is a promising intervention that can benefit spasticity control and augment voluntary movement in spinal cord injury (SCI) and multiple sclerosis. Current applications require expert knowledge and rely on the thorough visual analysis of electromyographic (EMG) responses from [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) is a promising intervention that can benefit spasticity control and augment voluntary movement in spinal cord injury (SCI) and multiple sclerosis. Current applications require expert knowledge and rely on the thorough visual analysis of electromyographic (EMG) responses from lower-limb muscles to optimize attainable treatment effects. Here, we devised an automated tSCS setup by combining an electrode array placed over low-thoracic to mid-lumbar vertebrae, synchronized EMG recordings, and a self-operating stimulation protocol to systematically test various stimulation sites and amplitudes. A built-in calibration procedure classifies the evoked responses as reflexes or direct motor responses and identifies stimulation thresholds as recommendations for tSCS therapy. We tested our setup in 15 individuals (five neurologically intact, five SCI, and five Parkinson’s disease) and validated the results against blinded ratings from two clinical experts. Congruent results were obtained in 13 cases for electrode positions and in eight for tSCS amplitudes, with deviations of a maximum of one position and 5 to 10 mA in amplitude in the remaining cases. Despite these minor deviations, the calibration found clinically suitable tSCS settings in 13 individuals. In the remaining two cases, the automatic setup and both experts agreed that no reflex responses could be detected. The presented technological developments may facilitate the dissemination of tSCS into non-academic environments and broaden its use for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
Posteroanterior Cervical Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation: Interactions with Cortical and Peripheral Nerve Stimulation
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(22), 5304; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10225304 - 15 Nov 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 986
Abstract
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (TSCS) has demonstrated potential to beneficially modulate spinal cord motor and autonomic circuitry. We are interested in pairing cervical TSCS with other forms of nervous system stimulation to enhance synaptic plasticity in circuits serving hand function. We use a [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (TSCS) has demonstrated potential to beneficially modulate spinal cord motor and autonomic circuitry. We are interested in pairing cervical TSCS with other forms of nervous system stimulation to enhance synaptic plasticity in circuits serving hand function. We use a novel configuration for cervical TSCS in which the anode is placed anteriorly over ~C4–C5 and the cathode posteriorly over ~T2–T4. We measured the effects of single pulses of TSCS paired with single pulses of motor cortex or median nerve stimulation timed to arrive at the cervical spinal cord at varying intervals. In 13 participants with and 15 participants without chronic cervical spinal cord injury, we observed that subthreshold TSCS facilitates hand muscle responses to motor cortex stimulation, with a tendency toward greater facilitation when TSCS is timed to arrive at cervical synapses simultaneously or up to 10 milliseconds after cortical stimulus arrival. Single pulses of subthreshold TSCS had no effect on the amplitudes of median H-reflex responses or F-wave responses. These findings support a model in which TSCS paired with appropriately timed cortical stimulation has the potential to facilitate convergent transmission between descending motor circuits, segmental afferents, and spinal motor neurons serving the hand. Studies with larger numbers of participants and repetitively paired cortical and spinal stimulation are needed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
Voluntary Modulation of Evoked Responses Generated by Epidural and Transcutaneous Spinal Stimulation in Humans with Spinal Cord Injury
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(21), 4898; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10214898 - 24 Oct 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1174
Abstract
Transcutaneous (TSS) and epidural spinal stimulation (ESS) are electrophysiological techniques that have been used to investigate the interactions between exogenous electrical stimuli and spinal sensorimotor networks that integrate descending motor signals with afferent inputs from the periphery during motor tasks such as standing [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous (TSS) and epidural spinal stimulation (ESS) are electrophysiological techniques that have been used to investigate the interactions between exogenous electrical stimuli and spinal sensorimotor networks that integrate descending motor signals with afferent inputs from the periphery during motor tasks such as standing and stepping. Recently, pilot-phase clinical trials using ESS and TSS have demonstrated restoration of motor functions that were previously lost due to spinal cord injury (SCI). However, the spinal network interactions that occur in response to TSS or ESS pulses with spared descending connections across the site of SCI have yet to be characterized. Therefore, we examined the effects of delivering TSS or ESS pulses to the lumbosacral spinal cord in nine individuals with chronic SCI. During low-frequency stimulation, participants were instructed to relax or attempt maximum voluntary contraction to perform full leg flexion while supine. We observed similar lower-extremity neuromusculature activation during TSS and ESS when performed in the same participants while instructed to relax. Interestingly, when participants were instructed to attempt lower-extremity muscle contractions, both TSS- and ESS-evoked motor responses were significantly inhibited across all muscles. Participants with clinically complete SCI tested with ESS and participants with clinically incomplete SCI tested with TSS demonstrated greater ability to modulate evoked responses than participants with motor complete SCI tested with TSS, although this was not statistically significant due to a low number of subjects in each subgroup. These results suggest that descending commands combined with spinal stimulation may increase activity of inhibitory interneuronal circuitry within spinal sensorimotor networks in individuals with SCI, which may be relevant in the context of regaining functional motor outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
Low-Intensity and Short-Duration Continuous Cervical Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation Intervention Does Not Prime the Corticospinal and Spinal Reflex Pathways in Able-Bodied Subjects
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(16), 3633; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10163633 - 17 Aug 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1517
Abstract
Cervical transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) has been utilized in applications for improving upper-limb sensory and motor function in patients with spinal cord injury. Although therapeutic effects of continuous cervical tSCS interventions have been reported, neurophysiological mechanisms remain largely unexplored. Specifically, it is [...] Read more.
Cervical transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) has been utilized in applications for improving upper-limb sensory and motor function in patients with spinal cord injury. Although therapeutic effects of continuous cervical tSCS interventions have been reported, neurophysiological mechanisms remain largely unexplored. Specifically, it is not clear whether sub-threshold intensity and 10-min duration continuous cervical tSCS intervention can affect the central nervous system excitability. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate effects of sub-motor-threshold 10-min continuous cervical tSCS applied at rest on the corticospinal and spinal reflex circuit in ten able-bodied individuals. Neurophysiological assessments were conducted to investigate (1) corticospinal excitability via transcranial magnetic stimulation applied on the primary motor cortex to evoke motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) and (2) spinal reflex excitability via single-pulse tSCS applied at the cervical level to evoke posterior root muscle (PRM) reflexes. Measurements were recorded from multiple upper-limb muscles before, during, and after the intervention. Our results showed that low-intensity and short-duration continuous cervical tSCS intervention applied at rest did not significantly affect corticospinal and spinal reflex excitability. The stimulation duration and/or intensity, as well as other stimulating parameters selection, may therefore be critical for inducing neuromodulatory effects during cervical tSCS. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
Transcutaneous Electrical Neuromodulation of the Cervical Spinal Cord Depends Both on the Stimulation Intensity and the Degree of Voluntary Activity for Training. A Pilot Study
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(15), 3278; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10153278 - 25 Jul 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1102
Abstract
Electrical enabling motor control (eEmc) through transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation offers promise in improving hand function. However, it is still unknown which stimulus intensity or which muscle force level could be better for this improvement. Nine healthy individuals received the following interventions: (i) [...] Read more.
Electrical enabling motor control (eEmc) through transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation offers promise in improving hand function. However, it is still unknown which stimulus intensity or which muscle force level could be better for this improvement. Nine healthy individuals received the following interventions: (i) eEmc intensities at 80%, 90% and 110% of abductor pollicis brevis motor threshold combined with hand training consisting in 100% handgrip strength; (ii) hand training consisting in 100% and 50% of maximal handgrip strength combined with 90% eEmc intensity. The evaluations included box and blocks test (BBT), maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), F wave persistency, F/M ratio, spinal and cortical motor evoked potentials (MEP), recruitment curves of spinal MEP and cortical MEP and short-interval intracortical inhibition. The results showed that: (i) 90% eEmc intensity increased BBT, MVC, F wave persistency, F/M ratio and cortical MEP recruitment curve; 110% eEmc intensity increased BBT, F wave persistency and cortical MEP and recruitment curve of cortical MEP; (ii) 100% handgrip strength training significantly modulated MVC, F wave persistency, F/M wave and cortical MEP recruitment curve in comparison to 50% handgrip strength. In conclusion, eEmc intensity and muscle strength during training both influence the results for neuromodulation at the cervical level. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
Efficacy of Transcutaneous Spinal Stimulation versus Whole Body Vibration for Spasticity Reduction in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(15), 3267; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10153267 - 24 Jul 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1350
Abstract
Transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS) and whole-body vibration (WBV) each have a robust ability to activate spinal afferents. Both forms of stimulation have been shown to influence spasticity in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI), and may be viable non-pharmacological approaches to spasticity management. [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS) and whole-body vibration (WBV) each have a robust ability to activate spinal afferents. Both forms of stimulation have been shown to influence spasticity in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI), and may be viable non-pharmacological approaches to spasticity management. In thirty-two individuals with motor-incomplete SCI, we used a randomized crossover design to compare single-session effects of TSS versus WBV on quadriceps spasticity, as measured by the pendulum test. TSS (50 Hz, 400 μs, 15 min) was delivered in supine through a cathode placed over the thoracic spine (T11-T12) and an anode over the abdomen. WBV (50 Hz; eight 45-s bouts) was delivered with the participants standing on a vibration platform. Pendulum test first swing excursion (FSE) was measured at baseline, immediately post-intervention, and 15 and 45 min post-intervention. In the whole-group analysis, there were no between- or within-group differences of TSS and WBV in the change from baseline FSE to any post-intervention timepoints. Significant correlations between baseline FSE and change in FSE were associated with TSS at all timepoints. In the subgroup analysis, participants with more pronounced spasticity showed significant decreases in spasticity immediately post-TSS and 45 min post-TSS. TSS and WBV are feasible physical therapeutic interventions for the reduction of spasticity, with persistent effects. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Combined Transcutaneous Spinal Stimulation and Locomotor Training to Improve Walking Function and Reduce Spasticity in Subacute Spinal Cord Injury: A Randomized Study of Clinical Feasibility and Efficacy
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(6), 1167; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10061167 - 11 Mar 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 1602
Abstract
Locomotor training (LT) is intended to improve walking function and can also reduce spasticity in motor-incomplete spinal cord injury (MISCI). Transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS) also influences these outcomes. We assessed feasibility and preliminary efficacy of combined LT + TSS during inpatient rehabilitation in [...] Read more.
Locomotor training (LT) is intended to improve walking function and can also reduce spasticity in motor-incomplete spinal cord injury (MISCI). Transcutaneous spinal stimulation (TSS) also influences these outcomes. We assessed feasibility and preliminary efficacy of combined LT + TSS during inpatient rehabilitation in a randomized, sham-controlled, pragmatic study. Eighteen individuals with subacute MISCI (2–6 months post-SCI) were enrolled and randomly assigned to the LT + TSS or the LT + TSSsham intervention group. Participants completed a 4-week program consisting of a 2-week wash-in period (LT only) then a 2-week intervention period (LT + TSS or LT + TSSsham). Before and after each 2-week period, walking (10 m walk test, 2-min walk test, step length asymmetry) and spasticity (pendulum test, clonus drop test, modified spinal cord injury—spasticity evaluation tool) were assessed. Sixteen participants completed the study. Both groups improved in walking speed and distance. While there were no significant between-groups differences, the LT + TSS group had significant improvements in walking outcomes following the intervention period; conversely, improvements in the LT + TSSsham group were not significant. Neither group had significant changes in spasticity, and the large amount of variability in spasticity may have obscured ability to observe change in these measures. TSS is a feasible adjunct to LT in the subacute stage of SCI and may have potential to augment training-related improvements in walking outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Cervical Electrical Neuromodulation Effectively Enhances Hand Motor Output in Healthy Subjects by Engaging a Use-Dependent Intervention
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(2), 195; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10020195 - 07 Jan 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1490
Abstract
Electrical enabling motor control (eEmc) through transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation is a non-invasive method that can modify the functional state of the sensory-motor system. We hypothesize that eEmc delivery, together with hand training, improves hand function in healthy subjects more than either intervention [...] Read more.
Electrical enabling motor control (eEmc) through transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation is a non-invasive method that can modify the functional state of the sensory-motor system. We hypothesize that eEmc delivery, together with hand training, improves hand function in healthy subjects more than either intervention alone by inducing plastic changes at spinal and cortical levels. Ten voluntary participants were included in the following three interventions: (i) hand grip training, (ii) eEmc, and (iii) eEmc with hand training. Functional evaluation included the box and blocks test (BBT) and hand grip maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), spinal and cortical motor evoked potential (sMEP and cMEP), and resting motor thresholds (RMT), short interval intracortical inhibition (SICI), and F wave in the abductor pollicis brevis muscle. eEmc combined with hand training retained MVC and increased F wave amplitude and persistency, reduced cortical RMT and facilitated cMEP amplitude. In contrast, eEmc alone only increased F wave amplitude, whereas hand training alone reduced MVC and increased cortical RMT and SICI. In conclusion, eEmc combined with hand grip training enhanced hand motor output and induced plastic changes at spinal and cortical level in healthy subjects when compared to either intervention alone. These data suggest that electrical neuromodulation changes spinal and, perhaps, supraspinal networks to a more malleable state, while a concomitant use-dependent mechanism drives these networks to a higher functional state. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Immediate Effects of Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation on Motor Function in Chronic, Sensorimotor Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury
J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9(11), 3541; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9113541 - 02 Nov 2020
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 1435
Abstract
Deficient ankle control after incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI) often accentuates walking impairments. Transcutaneous electrical spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) has been shown to augment locomotor activity after iSCI, presumably due to modulation of spinal excitability. However, the effects of possible excitability modulations induced [...] Read more.
Deficient ankle control after incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI) often accentuates walking impairments. Transcutaneous electrical spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) has been shown to augment locomotor activity after iSCI, presumably due to modulation of spinal excitability. However, the effects of possible excitability modulations induced by tSCS on ankle control have not yet been assessed. This study investigated the immediate (i.e., without training) effects during single-sessions of tonic tSCS on ankle control, spinal excitability, and locomotion in ten individuals with chronic, sensorimotor iSCI (American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale D). Participants performed rhythmic ankle movements (dorsi- and plantar flexion) at a given rate, and irregular ankle movements following a predetermined trajectory with and without tonic tSCS at 15 Hz, 30 Hz, and 50 Hz. In a subgroup of eight participants, the effects of tSCS on assisted over-ground walking were studied. Furthermore, the activity of a polysynaptic spinal reflex, associated with spinal locomotor networks, was investigated to study the effect of the stimulation on the dedicated spinal circuitry associated with locomotor function. Tonic tSCS at 30 Hz immediately improved maximum dorsiflexion by +4.6° ± 0.9° in the more affected lower limb during the rhythmic ankle movement task, resulting in an increase of +2.9° ± 0.9° in active range of motion. Coordination of ankle movements, assessed by the ability to perform rhythmic ankle movements at a given target rate and to perform irregular movements according to a trajectory, was unchanged during stimulation. tSCS at 30 Hz modulated spinal reflex activity, reflected by a significant suppression of pathological activity specific to SCI in the assessed polysynaptic spinal reflex. During walking, there was no statistical group effect of tSCS. In the subgroup of eight assessed participants, the three with the lowest as well as the one with the highest walking function scores showed positive stimulation effects, including increased maximum walking speed, or more continuous and faster stepping at a self-selected speed. Future studies need to investigate if multiple applications and individual optimization of the stimulation parameters can increase the effects of tSCS, and if the technique can improve the outcome of locomotor rehabilitation after iSCI. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation Enhances Quadriceps Motor Evoked Potential in Healthy Participants: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Study
J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9(10), 3275; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9103275 - 13 Oct 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1206
Abstract
Transcutaneous electrical spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) is a non-invasive technique for neuromodulation and has therapeutic potential for motor rehabilitation following spinal cord injury. The main aim of the present study is to quantify the effect of a single session of tSCS on lower [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous electrical spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) is a non-invasive technique for neuromodulation and has therapeutic potential for motor rehabilitation following spinal cord injury. The main aim of the present study is to quantify the effect of a single session of tSCS on lower limb motor evoked potentials (MEPs) in healthy participants. A double-blind, sham-controlled, randomized, crossover, clinical trial was carried out in 15 participants. Two 10-min sessions of tSCS (active-tSCS and sham-tSCS) were applied at the T11-T12 vertebral level. Quadriceps (Q) and tibialis anterior (TA) muscle MEPs were recorded at baseline, during and after tSCS. Q and TA isometric maximal voluntary contraction was also recorded. A significant increase of the Q-MEP amplitude was observed during active-tSCS (1.96 ± 0.3 mV) when compared from baseline (1.40 ± 0.2 mV; p = 0.01) and when compared to sham-tSCS at the same time-point (1.13 ± 0.3 mV; p = 0.03). No significant modulation was identified for TA-MEP amplitude or for Q and TA isometric maximal voluntary isometric strength. In conclusion, tSCS applied over the T11-T12 vertebral level increased Q-MEP but not TA-MEP compared to sham stimulation. The specific neuromodulatory effect of tSCS on Q-MEP may reflect optimal excitation of this motor response at the interneuronal or motoneuronal level. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Article
The Effects of Adding Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation (tSCS) to Sit-To-Stand Training in People with Spinal Cord Injury: A Pilot Study
J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9(9), 2765; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9092765 - 26 Aug 2020
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1773
Abstract
Spinal cord stimulation may enable recovery of volitional motor control in people with chronic Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). In this study we explored the effects of adding SCS, applied transcutaneously (tSCS) at vertebral levels T10/11, to a sit-to-stand training intervention in people with [...] Read more.
Spinal cord stimulation may enable recovery of volitional motor control in people with chronic Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). In this study we explored the effects of adding SCS, applied transcutaneously (tSCS) at vertebral levels T10/11, to a sit-to-stand training intervention in people with motor complete and incomplete SCI. Nine people with chronic SCI (six motor complete; three motor incomplete) participated in an 8-week intervention, incorporating three training sessions per week. Participants received either tSCS combined with sit-to-stand training (STIM) or sit-to-stand training alone (NON-STIM). Outcome measures were carried out before and after the intervention. Seven participants completed the intervention (STIM N = 5; NON-STIM N = 2). Post training, improvements in International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury (ISNCSCI) motor scores were noted in three STIM participants (range 1.0–7.0), with no change in NON-STIM participants. Recovery of volitional lower limb muscle activity and/or movement (with tSCS off) was noted in three STIM participants. Unassisted standing was not achieved in any participant, although standing with minimal assistance was achieved in one STIM participant. This pilot study has shown that the recruitment of participants, intervention and outcome measures were all feasible in this study design. However, some modifications are recommended for a larger trial. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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Review

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Review
Neural Substrates of Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation: Neuromodulation across Multiple Segments of the Spinal Cord
J. Clin. Med. 2022, 11(3), 639; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm11030639 - 27 Jan 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1520
Abstract
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) has the potential to promote improved sensorimotor rehabilitation by modulating the circuitry of the spinal cord non-invasively. Little is currently known about how cervical or lumbar tSCS influences the excitability of spinal and corticospinal networks, or whether the [...] Read more.
Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) has the potential to promote improved sensorimotor rehabilitation by modulating the circuitry of the spinal cord non-invasively. Little is currently known about how cervical or lumbar tSCS influences the excitability of spinal and corticospinal networks, or whether the synergistic effects of multi-segmental tSCS occur between remote segments of the spinal cord. The aim of this review is to describe the emergence and development of tSCS as a novel method to modulate the spinal cord, while highlighting the effectiveness of tSCS in improving sensorimotor recovery after spinal cord injury. This review underscores the ability of single-site tSCS to alter excitability across multiple segments of the spinal cord, while multiple sites of tSCS converge to facilitate spinal reflex and corticospinal networks. Finally, the potential and current limitations for engaging cervical and lumbar spinal cord networks through tSCS to enhance the effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions are discussed. Further mechanistic work is needed in order to optimize targeted rehabilitation strategies and improve clinical outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spinal Cord Injury and Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Stimulation)
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