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Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences


Cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by a variety of factors attributed to early brain damage, resulting in permanently impaired motor control, marked by weakness and muscle stiffness. To find out if altered physiology of spinal motoneurons (MNs) could contribute to movement deficits, we performed whole-cell patch-clamp in neonatal rabbit spinal cord slices after developmental injury at 79% gestation. After preterm hypoxia-ischemia (HI), rabbits are born with motor deficits consistent with a spastic phenotype including hypertonia and hyperreflexia. There is a range in severity, thus kits are classified as severely affected, mildly affected, or unaffected based on modified Ashworth scores and other behavioral tests. At postnatal day (P)0–5, we recorded electrophysiological parameters of 40 MNs in transverse spinal cord slices using whole-cell patch-clamp. We found significant differences between groups (severe, mild, unaffected and sham control MNs). Severe HI MNs showed more sustained firing patterns, depolarized resting membrane potential, and fired action potentials at a higher frequency. These properties could contribute to muscle stiffness, a hallmark of spastic CP. Interestingly altered persistent inward currents (PICs) and morphology in severe HI MNs would dampen excitability (depolarized PIC onset and increased dendritic length). In summary, changes we observed in spinal MN physiology likely contribute to the severity of the phenotype, and therapeutic strategies for CP could target the excitability of spinal MNs.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.