Rehabilitation modality and onset differentially influence whisker sensory hypersensitivity after diffuse traumatic brain injury in the rat

Theresa Currier Thomas, Ellen Magee Stockhausen, L. Matthew Law, Aida Khodadad, Jonathan Lifshitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: As rehabilitation strategies advance as therapeutic interventions, the modality and onset of rehabilitation after traumatic brain injury (TBI) are critical to optimize treatment. Our laboratory has detected and characterized a late-onset, long-lasting sensory hypersensitivity to whisker stimulation in diffuse brain-injured rats; a deficit that is comparable to visual or auditory sensory hypersensitivity in humans with an acquired brain injury. Objective: We hypothesize that the modality and onset of rehabilitation therapies will differentially influence sensory hypersensitivity in response to the Whisker Nuisance Task (WNT) as well as WNT-induced corticosterone (CORT) stress response in diffuse brain-injured rats and shams. Methods: After midline fluid percussion brain injury (FPI) or sham surgery, rats were assigned to one of four rehabilitative interventions: (1) whisker sensory deprivation during week one or (2) week two or (3) whisker stimulation during week one or (4) week two. At 28 days following FPI and sham procedures, sensory hypersensitivity was assessed using the WNT. Plasma CORT was evaluated immediately following the WNT (aggravated levels) and prior to the pre-determined endpoint 24 hours later (non-aggravated levels). Results: Deprivation therapy during week two elicited significantly greater sensory hypersensitivity to the WNT compared to week one (p < 0.05), and aggravated CORT levels in FPI rats were significantly lower than sham levels. Stimulation therapy during week one resulted in low levels of sensory hypersensitivity to the WNT, similar to deprivation therapy and naïve controls, however, non-aggravated CORT levels in FPI rats were significantly higher than sham. Conclusion: These data indicate that modality and onset of sensory rehabilitation can differentially influence FPI and sham rats, having a lasting impact on behavioral and stress responses to the WNT, emphasizing the necessity for continued evaluation of modality and onset of rehabilitation after TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-629
Number of pages19
JournalRestorative Neurology and Neuroscience
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017



  • diffuse traumatic brain injury
  • physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • sensory sensitivity
  • whisker barrel circuit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology

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