This study will determine whether stimulating the nerves or the brain can modify the spinal reflex that controls the muscles that flex and extend the ankle. Training spinal nerve networks with sensory input may provide a way of re-establishing movements, such as walking, in patients with spinal injury.
Healthy normal volunteers with no history of peripheral neuropathy or radiculopathy, ankle contractures or tendon surgery may be eligible for this study. Participants will undergo three stimulation procedures, each in a different session, to measure leg muscle reflexes. The procedures are:
- Reflex testing - Metal electrodes are taped to the skin over the leg muscles. A small electrical pulse is delivered through the electrodes to stimulate two nerves to the muscles. This evokes a reflex between the ankle flexor and extensor muscles. The responses to several dozen stimuli are averaged.
- Nerve stimulation - The nerve to the muscle that flexes the leg is electrically stimulated near the knee through electrodes taped to the skin. The strength of the stimulus is adjusted to produce little or no muscle movement. The stimulation is repeated every few seconds for 45 minutes.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation - An insulated wire coil is placed on the subject's scalp. A brief electrical current passes through the coil, creating a magnetic pulse that travels through the scalp and skull and causes small electrical currents in the outer part of the brain. There may be twitching in the muscles of the arm or leg. During the stimulation, the subject may be asked to tense certain muscles slightly or perform other simple actions to help determine the best position for the coil over the part of the brain that controls the leg. The leg is then stimulated once every 10 seconds, combined with nerve stimulation every 1 to 2 seconds.