✓ Although the assessment of spinal cord function by electrophysiological techniques has become important in both clinical and research environments, current monitoring methods do not completely evaluate all tracts in the spinal cord. Somatosensory and motor evoked potentials primarily reflect dorsal column and pyramidal tract integrity, respectively, but do not directly assess the status of the ventral funiculus. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the use of evoked potentials, elicited by direct cerebellar stimulation, in monitoring the ventral component of the rodent spinal cord. Twenty-nine rats underwent epidural anodal stimulation directly over the cerebellar cortex, with recording of evoked responses from the lower thoracic spinal cord, both sciatic nerves, and/or both gastrocnemius muscles. Stimulation parameters were varied to establish normative characteristics. The pathways conducting these “posterior fossa evoked potentials” were determined after creation of various lesions of the cervical spinal cord.
The evoked potential recorded from the thoracic spinal cord consisted of five positive (P1 to P5) and five negative (N1 to N5) peaks. The average conduction velocity (± standard deviation) of the earliest wave (P1) was 53 ± 4 m/sec, with a latency of 1.24 ± 0.10 msec. The other components followed within 4 msec from stimulus onset. Unilateral cerebellar stimulation resulted in bilateral sciatic nerve and gastrocnemius muscle responses; there were no significant differences (p > 0.05) in the thresholds, amplitudes, or latencies of these responses elicited by right- versus left-sided stimulation. Recordings performed following creation of selective lesions of the cervical cord indicated that the thoracic response was carried primarily in the ventral funiculus while the sciatic and gastrocnemius responses were mediated through the dorsal half of the spinal cord. It is concluded that the posterior fossa evoked potential has research value as a method of monitoring pathways within the ventral spinal cord of the rat, and should be useful in the study of spinal cord injury.