Vestibulospinal tract function was monitored in experimental contusion of the spinal cord in cats, and compared with somatosensory cortical evoked potentials. Both white and gray matter portions of the vestibular and somatosensory pathways were evaluated in cord injuries at T-7 and L-4. Severe contusions of 20 gm-20 cm force impact resulted in a rapid (less than 1 second) abolition of thoracic white matter conductivity, but a somewhat slower (4 to 5 minutes) loss of lumbar gray matter responses. A paradoxical transient recovery of white matter conductivity occurred 1 to 2 hours after injury, despite eventual progression to central hemorrhagic necrosis at the contusion site. In contrast, mild contusions (20 gm-10 cm force impact) produced only a temporary loss of neuronal activity: white matter for 1 to 2 hours, and gray matter for 30 to 40 minutes. In general, vestibular and somatosensory potentials showed similar sensitivity to contusion, although the former tended to recover earlier. We conclude that contusion injury causes two types of neuronal dysfunction in spinal cord: A low-threshold concussion-related loss of activity lasting 30 to 120 minutes; and a higher threshold necrotic process, requiring 1 to 2 hours to develop, which apparently spreads from gray to white matter.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology