Rehabilitation Science Doctoral program (RSD) Director Dr. David Fuller and RSD collaborators Drs. Gordon Mitchell and Elisa Gonzalez-Rothi were recently awarded a 5-year NIH R01 grant award to study a new pharmacologic approach to induce neuroplasticity and motor recovery after spinal cord injury.
Respiratory impairments after spinal injury largely reflect impaired glutamatergic synaptic transmission to spinal respiratory motoneurons. Ampakines are allosteric modulators of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor channel kinetics that enhance glutamatergic synaptic transmission. Since glutamatergic bulbospinal excitation of spinal respiratory motoneurons is driven in part by motoneuron AMPA receptor activation, enhancing spinal AMPA-mediated synaptic currents could increase motoneuron output. The new grant award addresses the hypothesis that ampakines are an effective pharmacologic approach to improve breathing function after incomplete cervical SCI.