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An Automated Test of Rat Forelimb Supination Quantifies Motor Function Loss and Recovery After Corticospinal Injury.

Journal Article
Sindhurakar A, Butensky SD, Meyers E, Santos J, Bethea T, Khalili A, Sloan AP, Rennaker RL 3rd, Carmel JB.
Year Published: 
Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2017 Feb;31(2):122-132. doi: 10.1177/1545968316662528. Epub 2016 Aug 20.
Abstract on PubMed



Rodents are the primary animal model of corticospinal injury and repair, yet current behavioral tests do not show the large deficits after injury observed in humans. Forearm supination is critical for hand function and is highly impaired by corticospinal injury in both humans and rats. Current tests of rodent forelimb function do not measure this movement.


To determine if quantification of forelimb supination in rats reveals large-scale functional loss and partial recovery after corticospinal injury.


We developed a knob supination device that quantifies supination using automated and objective methods. Rats in a reaching box have to grasp and turn a knob in supination in order to receive a food reward. Performance on this task and the single pellet reaching task were measured before and after 2 manipulations of the pyramidal tract: a cut lesion of 1 pyramid and inactivation of motor cortex using 2 different drug doses.


A cut lesion of the corticospinal tract produced a large deficit in supination. In contrast, there was no change in pellet retrieval success. Supination function recovered partially over 6 weeks after injury, and a large deficit remained. Motor cortex inactivation produced a dose-dependent loss of knob supination; the effect on pellet reaching was more subtle.


The knob supination task reveals in rodents 3 signature hand function changes observed in humans with corticospinal injury: (1) large-scale loss with injury, (2) partial recovery in the weeks after injury, and (3) loss proportional to degree of dysfunction.

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