Spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts motor commands to modular structures of the spinal cord, limiting the ability to walk. Evidence suggests that these modules are conserved across species from rodent to human and subserve adaptive walking by controlling coordinated joint movements (kinematic synergies). Since SCI causes uncoordinated joint movements of the lower limbs during walking, there may be a disorder of the modular structures that control them. To gain insights into this complex process, we recorded the kinematics of intact and SCI mice when walking on a treadmill and applied principal component analysis to extract kinematic synergies. Most SCI mice walked stably on the treadmill, but their kinematic synergies were generally different from those of intact mice. We classified the kinematic synergies of SCI mice into three groups based on the similarity of the extracted first three synergy components. We found that these three groups had different degrees of spinal cord damage. This suggests that differences in kinematic synergies reflect underlying SCI neuropathology. These results may help guide the development of different rehabilitation approaches and future physiological experiments to understand the mechanisms of motor control and recovery.
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