Content » Vol 47, Issue 2

Original report

Assessment of abdominal muscle function in individuals with motor-complete spinal cord injury above T6 in response to transcranial magnetic stimulation

Anna Bjerkefors, Jordan W. Squair, Romeo Chua , Tania Lam, Zhen Chen, Mark G. Carpenter
Biomechanics and Motor Control Laboratory, The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences (GIH), Box 5626, SE-114 86 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-1901


Objective: To use transcranial magnetic stimulation and electromyography to assess the potential for preserved function in the abdominal muscles in individuals classified with motor-complete spinal cord injury above T6.
Subjects: Five individuals with spinal cord injury (C5–T3) and 5 able-bodied individuals.
Methods: Transcranial magnetic stimulation was delivered over the abdominal region of primary motor cortex during resting and sub-maximal (or attempted) contractions. Surface electromyography was used to record motor-evoked potentials as well as maximal voluntary (or attempted) contractions in the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm.
Results: Responses to transcranial magnetic stimulation in the abdominal muscles occurred in all spinal cord injury subjects. Latencies of muscle response onsets were similar in both groups; however, peak-to-peak amplitudes were smaller in the spinal cord injury group. During maximal voluntary (or attempted) contractions all spinal cord injury subjects were able to elicit electromyography activity above resting levels in more than one abdominal muscle across tasks.
Conclusion: Individuals with motor-complete spinal cord injury above T6 were able to activate abdominal muscles in response to transcranial magnetic stimulation and during maximal voluntary (or attempted) contractions. The activation was induced directly through corticospinal pathways, and not indirectly by stretch reflex activations of the diaphragm. Transcranial magnetic stimulation and electromyography measurements provide a useful method to assess motor preservation of abdominal muscles in persons with spinal cord injury.

Lay Abstract


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