Timing Parameters of Intermittent Hypoxia-induced Plasticity in Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury
Milap Sandhu, PhD
The majority of spinal cord injuries (SCI) result in incomplete injuries to sensory and motor pathways, indicative of spared function below the level of injury. Dependent on the level of injury, subsequent therapy is focused on task specific, high repetition upper extremity and lower extremity training. However, recovery of neural pathways often plateaus by six to twelve months post injury. Functional recovery is also influenced by a variety of factors, including: extent of neural injury, time since onset, insurance limitations, and levels of spasticity. This demonstrates a need to develop novel treatments to facilitate recovery in individuals with spinal cord injuries, in order to minimize subsequent functional deficits and maximize independence.
The use of acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH), has been demonstrated, through human and animal studies, to be an effective way of increasing spinal motor excitability and strengthening residual synaptic connectivity. AIH utilizes short duration (<2 min) exposures to reduced oxygen levels (~10% inspired oxygen), with alternating exposures to air with normal oxygen levels (~21% inspired oxygen).
This project will investigate the effects of short intervals of moderately low oxygen levels (acute intermittent hypoxia) on arm and hand function. Specifically, this study will quantify how long the effect of intermittent hypoxia treatment lasts, i.e. the time-course of outcome improvement and decay following a single session of acute intermittent hypoxia therapy.