In recent years, it has become clear that repeated presentations of transient and mild hypoxia can elicit neuroplasticity, and boost the efficacy of standard therapeutic strategies in certain cases of neurologic dysfunction. An array of animal preparations have taught us a great deal about molecular cascades responsible for hypoxia-induced plasticity, and recent work in humans demonstrates the feasibility of translating this approach in individuals with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI).
In this study, we are investigating the efficacy of acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) to improve upper extremity function in persons with tetraplegia due to cervical SCI. Our hypothesis is that administration of AIH will improve arm and hand strength, as well as electromyogram activity in the upper limb. This study will help create a framework for the development of practical techniques to harness beneficial neuroplasticity in individuals with SCI.