Objective: After spinal cord injury (SCI) reorganization of spinal cord circuits occur both above and below the spinal lesion. These functional changes can be determined by assessing electrophysiological recording. We aimed at investigating the trigemino-cervical reflex (TCR) and trigemino-spinal reflex (TSR) responses after traumatic SCI. Methods: TCR and TSR were registered after stimulation of the infraorbital nerve from the sternocleidomastoid, splenius, deltoid, biceps and first dorsal interosseous muscles in 10 healthy subjects and 10 subjects with incomplete cervical SCI. Results: In the control subjects reflex responses were registered from the sternocleidomastoid, and splenium muscles, while no responses were obtained from upper limb muscles. In contrast, smaller but clear short latency EMG potentials were recorded from deltoid and biceps muscles in about half of the SCI patients. Moreover, the amplitudes of the EMG responses in the neck muscles were significantly higher in patients than in control subjects. Conclusion: The reflex responses are likely to propagate up the brainstem and down the spinal cord along the reticulospinal tracts and the propriospinal system. Despite the loss of corticospinal axons, synaptic plasticity in pre-existing pathways and/or formation of new circuits through sprouting processes above the injury site may contribute to the findings of this preliminary study and may be involved in the functional recovery. Significance: Trigemino-cervical-spinal reflexes can be used to demonstrate and quantify plastic changes at brainstem and cervical level following SCI. (C) 2014 International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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