Author(s): Thompson AK, Wolpaw JR
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Abstract An operant-conditioning protocol that bases reward on the electromyographic response produced by a specific CNS pathway can change that pathway. For example, in both animals and people, an operant-conditioning protocol can increase or decrease the spinal stretch reflex or its electrical analog, the H-reflex. Reflex change is associated with plasticity in the pathway of the reflex as well as elsewhere in the spinal cord and brain. Because these pathways serve many different behaviors, the plasticity produced by this conditioning can change other behaviors. Thus, in animals or people with partial spinal cord injuries, appropriate reflex conditioning can improve locomotion. Furthermore, in people with spinal cord injuries, appropriate reflex conditioning can trigger widespread beneficial plasticity. This wider plasticity appears to reflect an iterative process through which the multiple behaviors in the individual's repertoire negotiate the properties of the spinal neurons and synapses that they all use. Operant-conditioning protocols are a promising new therapeutic method that could complement other rehabilitation methods and enhance functional recovery. Their successful use requires strict adherence to appropriately designed procedures, as well as close attention to accommodating and engaging the individual subject in the conditioning process. © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Prog Brain Res
and referenced in Journal of Veterinary Science & Technology