The interaction of a new motor skill and an old one: H-reflex conditioning and locomotion in rats.

TitleThe interaction of a new motor skill and an old one: H-reflex conditioning and locomotion in rats.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsChen, Y, Chen, XY, Jakeman, LB, Schalk, G, Stokes, BT, Wolpaw, J
JournalThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Date Published07/2005
KeywordsH-reflex conditioning, Learning, Locomotion, memory consolidation, Motor control, Rehabilitation, spinal cord plasticity

New and old motor skills can interfere with each other or interact in other ways. Because each skill entails a distributed pattern of activity-dependent plasticity, investigation of their interactions is facilitated by simple models. In a well characterized model of simple learning, rats and monkeys gradually change the size of the H-reflex, the electrical analog of the spinal stretch reflex. This study evaluates in normal rats the interactions of this new skill of H-reflex conditioning with the old well established skill of overground locomotion. In rats in which the soleus H-reflex elicited in the conditioning protocol (i.e., the conditioning H-reflex) had been decreased by down-conditioning, the H-reflexes elicited during the stance and swing phases of locomotion (i.e., the locomotor H-reflexes) were also smaller. Similarly, in rats in which the conditioning H-reflex had been increased by up-conditioning, the locomotor H-reflexes were also larger. Soleus H-reflex conditioning did not affect the duration, length, or right/left symmetry of the step cycle. However, the conditioned change in the stance H-reflex was positively correlated with change in the amplitude of the soleus locomotor burst, and the correlation was consistent with current estimates of the contribution of primary afferent input to the burst. Although H-reflex conditioning and locomotion did not interfere with each other, H-reflex conditioning did affect how locomotion was produced: it changed soleus burst amplitude and may have induced compensatory changes in the activity of other muscles. These results illustrate and clarify the subtlety and complexity of skill interactions. They also suggest that H-reflex conditioning might be used to improve the abnormal locomotion produced by spinal cord injury or other disorders of supraspinal control.


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