Translation of the rat thoracic contusion model; part 1-supraspinally versus spinally mediated pain-like responses and spasticity

S. van Gorp*, R. Deumens, M. Leerink, S. Nguyen, E. A. Joosten, M. Marsala

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Web of Science)


Study design: Experimental animal study. Objectives: Stimulus-evoked below-level paw withdrawals in animal models of spinal cord injury (SCI) can be mediated solely by below-level spinal cord reflexes. Interpreting lowered thresholds for such responses as a model for chronic below-level pain after (thoracic contusion) SCI appears not appropriate, which requires reinterpretation of many prior results. However, how to reinterpret the changes in withdrawal thresholds and what can be a better alternative for pain/sensory assessments remains unclear. Setting: University of California, San Diego. Methods: We introduce a method using supraspinally mediated escape responses to assess pain-like sensitivity thresholds on a continuous/linear scale. To further understand the decrease in hindpaw withdrawal thresholds, we investigated whether they may be interpreted as spasticity. Results: The escape response test can be used to assess SCI-induced changes in below-level sensory thresholds. These thresholds were found to increase soon after moderate or severe SCI, while, in parallel, hindpaw withdrawal thresholds decreased. However, the latter did not co-occur with spasticity, suggesting that SCI-induced increased withdrawal responses are probably best interpreted as a form of hyperreflexia with pathophysiological analogies of spasms and/or clonus, or a species-specific phenomenon. Conclusion: Decreased below-level withdrawal thresholds do not reflect pain-like hypersensitivity in rodent models of (thoracic contusion) SCI. A large body of previous preclinical SCI pain research needs reinterpretation. We actually found below-level thermal and mechanical hypoesthesia and we also excluded a relation between withdrawal hyperreflexia and spasticity. Withdrawal hyperreflexia might still prove useful to model spasms or clonus, which are, like hypoesthesia, also significant clinical problems after SCI.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-528
JournalSpinal Cord
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

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