Working... Menu

Spinal Cord Plasticity

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT00073606
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : December 2, 2003
Last Update Posted : July 2, 2017
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)

Brief Summary:

This study will examine the role of the spinal cord in improving leg movements after physical training in healthy people. The results of this study may be helpful in developing new rehabilitation therapies for people with impaired leg function.

Healthy volunteers between 21 and 65 years of age may be eligible for this study. Candidates will be screened with a brief medical history and physical examination.

Participants will undergo EMG-H reflex measurement while pedaling on a stationary bicycle. For this test, the subject is given an electrical stimulation at the nerve at the back of the knee while pedaling on a stationary bicycle. The shock produces a jerky movement called the "H reflex." The muscular activity causing these reflexes is measured using electrodes (small metal disks) filled with a conductive gel and taped to the skin over the calf muscle. The nerve is stimulated at four different frequencies during the experiment. While cycling, pedal resistance changes, making it harder or easier to pedal.

On study day 1, participants have EMG-H reflex measurement to determine baseline performance, then a training session to prepare for the actual test, and then a post-training test to measure performance again. The test is repeated on days 2, then between days 5 and 8, and again between days 11 and 14. The screening and first visit last 2 hours; the remaining test visits are 1 hour each. The bicycling time is only 15 minutes during training and 5 minutes at each test session.

Condition or disease

Detailed Description:


We aim to determine whether the development of a motor memory in the human spinal cord circuitry (expressed as a down regulation of the monosynaptic soleus H reflex) after a brief period of learning of a locomotor skill, is intrinsically encoded at the spinal cord level or if it is determined by descending suprasegmental influences.

The results of this study would be useful for designing new rehabilitation strategies based upon manipulation of peripheral inputs aimed at activating spinal cord circuitry for motor recovery independent of the higher centers.

Study population

Seventy (70) healthy volunteers (median age 21-65) will participate in the study.


Subjects will complete one training session (using a recumbent cycle ergometer) and will be tested physiologically and behaviorally once before training and four times after training through 14 to 16 days.

Outcome measures

We will assess homosynaptic depression of the soleus H reflex (an expression of the excitability of the alpha-motorneuron pool), a phenomenon that is not susceptible to descending suprasegmental influences but depends on the history of information arriving to the alpha-motorneuron from the periphery. Amount of homosynaptic depression will be correlated with the behavioral learning assessed by improvement in control of stepping speed.

Layout table for study information
Study Type : Observational
Enrollment : 70 participants
Official Title: Intraspinal Plasticity Associated With Locomotor Learning
Study Start Date : December 1, 2003
Study Completion Date : May 20, 2008

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

Layout table for eligibility information
Ages Eligible for Study:   21 Years to 65 Years   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Healthy volunteers (age 21 to 65 years) who are willing to participate and who are considered able to cylce for 16 minutes based on neurological and physical exams will be eligible for the study. Reproductive age women with a negative pregnancy test.


Subjects with history of heart condition, unresponsive arterial hypertension, diabetes, chronic back pain, sciatica, peripheral neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, active joint deformity of arthritic origin, alcohol or drug abuse, psychiatric disorder requiring hospitalization or prolonged treatment, head injury with loss of consciousness, epilepsy. Subjects with history of hyperthyroidism or individuals receiving drugs acting primarily on the central nervous system or disorders of the blood coagulation system. Pregnant women.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT00073606

Layout table for location information
United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

Layout table for additonal information Identifier: NCT00073606     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 040054
First Posted: December 2, 2003    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: July 2, 2017
Last Verified: May 20, 2008

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Spinal Reflexes
Motor Practice
Healthy Volunteer