The Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor rating scale has proven a reliable tool to evaluate impairments of hindlimb locomotor skills after thoracic spinal cord injury (SCI). With the increasing use of cervical SCI rat models, there is a critical need to develop scoring scales designed to more precisely examine alteration and recovery of forelimb functions. The main goal of the present study was to elaborate and evaluate a new rating scale for open-field testing of the fore- and hindlimb locomotor functions after cervical SCI. We also assessed the effectiveness of this rating scale for discriminating the functional consequences of dorsolateral (Hdl group), lateral (Hl group), or complete C4 unilateral hemisections (Hc group). Our findings show that the new rating scale can be considered as a sensitive and reliable descriptor of the postoperative time course of deficits affecting differentially the fore- and hindlimb sensorimotor functions following injuries of various severities. This new method provides reproducible data and can be used reliably by non-expert examiners. The proposed rating scale appears to be a useful tool for the assessment of various treatments designed to promote functional recovery after SCI. See online Supplementary Material (scoring spreadsheet and videotape recordings) at www.liebertonline.com.
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