Severed corticospinal axons recover electrophysiologic control of muscle activity after x-ray therapy in lesioned adult spinal cord
Mechanical injury to the adult mammalian spinal cord results in permanent loss of structural integrity at the lesion site and of the brain-controlled function distal to the lesion. Some of these consequences were permanently averted by altering the cellular constituents at the lesion site with x-irradiation delivered within a critical time window after injury. We have reported in a separate article that x-irradiation of sectioned adult rat spinal cord resulted in restitution of structural continuity and regrowth of severed corticospinal axons across and deep into the distal stump. Here, we report that after x-ray therapy of the lesion site severed corticospinal axons of transected adult rat spinal cord recover electrophysiologic control of activity of hindlimb muscles innervated by motoneurons distal to the lesion. The degree of recovery of control of muscle activity was directly related to the degree of restitution of structural integrity. This restitution of electrophysiologic function implies that the regenerating corticospinal axons reestablish connectivity with neurons within the target field in the distal stump. Our data suggest that recovery of structural continuity is a sufficient condition for the axotomized corticospinal neurons to regain some of their disrupted function in cord regions distal to the lesion site.