Spinal Cord Lateral Hemisection and Asymmetric Behavioral Assessments in Adult Rats

This article has been accepted and is currently in production

Abstract

Incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) often leads to impairments of sensorimotor functions and is clinically the most frequent type of SCI. Human Brown-Séquard syndrome is a common type of incomplete SCI caused by a lesion to one half of the spinal cord which results in paralysis and loss of proprioception on the same (or ipsilesional) side as the injury, and loss of pain and temperature sensation on the opposite (or contralesional) side. Adequate methodologies for producing a spinal cord lateral hemisection (HX) and assessing neurological impairments are essential to establish a reliable animal model of Brown-Séquard syndrome. Although lateral hemisection model plays a pivotal role in basic and translational research, standardized protocols for creating such a hemisection and assessing unilateralized function are lacking. The goal of this study is to describe step-by-step procedures to produce a rat spinal lateral HX at the 9th thoracic (T9) vertebral level. We, then, describe a combined behavior scale for HX (CBS-HX) that provides a simple and sensitive assessment of asymmetric neurological performance for unilateral SCI. The CBS-HX, ranging from 0 to 18, is composed of 4 individual assessments which include unilateral hindlimb stepping (UHS), coupling, contact placing, and grid walking. For CBS-HX, the ipsilateral and contralateral hindlimbs are assessed separately. We found that, after a T9 HX, the ipsilateral hindlimb showed impaired behavior function whereas the contralateral hindlimb showed substantial recovery. The CBS-HX effectively discriminated behavioral functions between ipsilateral and contralateral hindlimbs and detected temporal progression of recovery of the ipsilateral hindlimb. The CBS-HX components can be analyzed separately or in combination with other measures when needed. Although we only provided visual descriptions of the surgical procedures and behavioral assessments of a thoracic HX, the principle may be applied to other incomplete SCIs and at other levels of the injury.