Spinal plasticity following intermittent hypoxia: implications for spinal injury
Plasticity is a fundamental property of the neural system controlling breathing. One frequently studied model of respiratory plasticity is long-term facilitation of phrenic motor output (pLTF) following acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH). pLTF arises fromspinal plasticity, increasing respiratorymotor output through a mechanism that requires new synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, activation of its high-affinity receptor, tropomyosin-related kinase B, and extracellular-related kinase mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling in or near phrenic motor neurons. Because intermittent hypoxia induces spinal plasticity, we are exploring the potential to harness repetitive AIH as a means of inducing functional recovery in conditions causing respiratory insufficiency, such as cervical spinal injury. Because repetitive AIH induces phenotypic plasticity in respiratorymotor neurons, it may restore respiratorymotor
function in patients with incomplete spinal injury.