Locomotor recovery after spinal cord hemisection/contusion injures in bonnet monkeys: Footprint testing—a minireview



Spinal cord injuries usually produce loss or impairment of sensory, motor and reflex function below the level of damage. In the absence of functional regeneration or manipulations that promote regeneration, spontaneous improvements in motor functions occur due to the activation of multiple compensatory mechanisms in animals and humans following the partial spinal cord injury. Many studies were performed on quantitative evaluation of locomotor recovery after induced spinal cord injury in animals using behavioral tests and scoring techniques. Although few studies on rodents have led to clinical trials, it would appear imperative to use nonhuman primates such as macaque monkeys in order to relate the research outcomes to recovery of functions in humans. In this review, we will discuss some of our research evidences concerning the degree of spontaneous recovery in bipedal locomotor functions of bonnet monkeys that underwent spinal cord hemisection/contusion lesions. To our knowledge, this is the first report to discuss on the extent of spontaneous recovery in bipedal locomotion of macaque monkeys through the application of footprint analyzing technique. In addition, the results obtained were compared with the published data on recovery of quadrupedal locomotion of spinally injured rodents. We propose that the mechanisms underlying spontaneous recovery of functions in spinal cord lesioned monkeys may be correlated to the mature function of spinal pattern generator for locomotion under the impact of residual descending and afferent connections. Moreover, based on analysis of motor functions observed in locomotion in these subjected monkeys, we understand that spinal automatism and development of responses by afferent stimuli from outside the cord could possibly contribute to recovery of paralyzed hindlimbs. This report also emphasizes the functional contribution of progressive strengthening of undamaged nerve fibers through a collateral sprouts/synaptic plasticity formed in partially lesioned cord of monkeys. Synapse 67:427–453, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.