Treadmill training and electroacupuncture (EA) improved behavioral recovery in rats with cerebral palsy (CP), finds a Korean study, “Comparative analysis of the beneficial effects of treadmill training and electroacupuncture in a rat model of neonatal hypoxia-ischemia, ” that appeared in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine.
In premature births, immature development of the lungs leads to hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen. This damages brain structure and function, often leading to later development of CP. Researchers aimed to find out whether treadmill training and EA would have autonomous or synergistic beneficial effects on deficits caused by neonatal hypoxia-ischemia in Sprague-Dawley rats.
The team subjected the rats to hypoxia; the rats then underwent treadmill training and EA stimulation from four to eight weeks of age. In EA, a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles as a means of stimulating the acupoints. Oriental medicine widely uses this method to treat many diseases, and it’s accepted as a complementary therapy for CP and post-stroke rehabilitation.
Treadmill training has been shown to improve gross motor function in patients with CP, and is often used in rehabilitation programs to improve motor and ambulatory skills.
To determine the potential benefits of treadmill training and EA, the team analyzed the rats’ behavior through several tests – sensorimotor recovery (cylinder test), locomotor activity (open-field test), gait analysis (CatWalk), motor coordination (rotarod and hanging wire grid test) and memory (passive avoidance test).
“In the behavioral examination, markedly improved performances in the rotarod test were observed in the rats that underwent treadmill exercise, and in the rats that underwent treadmill exercise and conventional electroacupuncture compared to the untreated rats subjected to hypoxia-ischemia,” researchers wrote.
The effects of treadmill training and EA led to an increase in myelin components and the proliferation and differentiation of neuronal progenitor cells.
Overall, the team wrote, “treadmill training and EA may contribute to each autonomous beneficial effect with some synergistic effects from functional deficits through the upregulation of myelin components and neurogenesis. Thus, treatment with EA stimulation, as well as treadmill training offers another treatment option for the functional recovery in CP, and can be applied to the treatment of patients with physical disability.”