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Author Notes:

Arthur W. English, Department of Cell Biology, Emory University School of Medicine, 615 Michael Street, Room 405P, Atlanta, GA 30322. art@cellbio.emory.edu


Research Funding:

United States Public Health Service (USPHS); Grant number: HD032571.


  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Neurosciences
  • Zoology
  • Neurosciences & Neurology
  • peripheral nerve
  • regeneration
  • electrical stimulation
  • neuromuscular specificity
  • electromyography
  • locomotion
  • CATS

Misdirection of Regenerating Axons and Functional Recovery Following Sciatic Nerve Injury in Rats

Journal Title:

Journal of Comparative Neurology


Volume 519, Number 1


, Pages 21-33

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Poor functional recovery found after peripheral nerve injury has been attributed to the misdirection of regenerating axons to reinnervate functionally inappropriate muscles. We applied brief electrical stimulation (ES) to the common fibular (CF) but not the tibial (Tib) nerve just prior to transection and repair of the entire rat sciatic nerve, to attempt to influence the misdirection of its regenerating axons. The specificity with which regenerating axons reinnervated appropriate targets was evaluated physiologically using compound muscle action potentials (M responses) evoked from stimulation of the two nerve branches above the injury site. Functional recovery was assayed using the timing of electromyography (EMG) activity recorded from the tibialis anterior (TA) and soleus (Sol) muscles during treadmill locomotion and kinematic analysis of hindlimb locomotor movements. Selective ES of the CF nerve resulted in restored M-responses at earlier times than in unstimulated controls in both TA and Sol muscles. Stimulated CF axons reinnervated inappropriate targets to a greater extent than unstimulated Tib axons. During locomotion, functional antagonist muscles, TA and Sol, were coactivated both in stimulated rats and in unstimulated but injured rats. Hindlimb kinematics in stimulated rats were comparable to untreated rats, but significantly different from intact controls. Selective ES promotes enhanced axon regeneration but does so with decreased fidelity of muscle reinnervation. Functional recovery is neither improved nor degraded, suggesting that compensatory changes in the outputs of the spinal circuits driving locomotion may occur irrespective of the extent of misdirection of regenerating axons in the periphery.

Copyright information:

© 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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