Spinal stimulation for motor rehabilitation immediately modulates nociceptive transmission

Maria F. Bandres, Jefferson L. Gomes, Jacob G. McPherson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective. Spinal cord injury (SCI) often results in debilitating movement impairments and neuropathic pain. Electrical stimulation of spinal neurons holds considerable promise both for enhancing neural transmission in weakened motor pathways and for reducing neural transmission in overactive nociceptive pathways. However, spinal stimulation paradigms currently under development for individuals living with SCI continue overwhelmingly to be developed in the context of motor rehabilitation alone. The objective of this study is to test the hypothesis that motor-targeted spinal stimulation simultaneously modulates spinal nociceptive transmission. Approach. We characterized the neuromodulatory actions of motor-targeted intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS) on the firing dynamics of large populations of discrete nociceptive specific and wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons. Neurons were accessed via dense microelectrode arrays implanted in vivo into lumbar enlargement of rats. Nociceptive and non-nociceptive cutaneous transmission was induced before, during, and after ISMS by mechanically probing the L5 dermatome. Main results. Our primary findings are that (a) sub-motor threshold ISMS delivered to spinal motor pools immediately modulates concurrent nociceptive transmission; (b) the magnitude of anti-nociceptive effects increases with longer durations of ISMS, including robust carryover effects; (c) the majority of all identified nociceptive-specific and WDR neurons exhibit firing rate reductions after only 10 min of ISMS; and (d) ISMS does not increase spinal responsiveness to non-nociceptive cutaneous transmission. These results lead to the conclusion that ISMS parameterized to enhance motor output results in an overall net decrease n spinal nociceptive transmission. Significance. These results suggest that ISMS may hold translational potential for neuropathic pain-related applications and that it may be uniquely suited to delivering multi-modal therapeutic benefits for individuals living with SCI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number056046
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • motor control
  • neural plasticity
  • neuromodulation
  • neuropathic pain
  • rehabilitation
  • spinal cord injury
  • spinal stimulation


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