Posture-dependent Changes in Corticomotor Excitability of the Biceps After Spinal Cord Injury and Tendon Transfer


Following tendon transfer of the biceps to triceps after cervical spinal cord injuries (SCI), individuals must learn to activate the transferred biceps muscle to extend the elbow. Corticomotor excitability of the transferred biceps may play a role in post-operative elbow extension strength. In this study, we evaluated whether corticomotor excitability of the transferred biceps is related to an individuals’ ability to extend the elbow, and whether posture and muscle length affects corticomotor excitability after SCI and tendon transfer similarly to the nonimpaired biceps. Corticomotor excitability was assessed in twelve nonimpaired arms and six arms of individuals with SCI and biceps-to-triceps transfer using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) delivered at rest. Maximum isometric elbow extensor moments were recorded in transferred arms and the fiber length of the transferred biceps was estimated using a musculoskeletal model. Across the SCI subjects, corticomotor excitability of the transferred biceps increased with elbow extension strength. Thus, rehabilitation to increase excitability may enhance strength. Excitability of the transferred biceps was not related to fiber length suggesting that similar to nonimpaired subjects, posture-dependent changes in biceps excitability are primarily centrally modulated after SCI. All nonimpaired biceps were most excitable in a posture in the horizontal plane with the forearm fully supinated. The proportion of transferred biceps in which excitability was highest in this posture differed from the nonimpaired group. Therefore, rehabilitation after tendon transfer may be most beneficial if training postures are tailored to account for changes in biceps excitability.

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