All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Candace L Floyd

Advisory Committee Members

C Scott Bickel

Amie B Jackson

Peter R Smith

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Science in Biomedical Science (MSBMS) School of Engineering


Spinal cord injury (SCI) can significantly alter a person's physical and psychological health over their lifetime. Depression in persons with SCI is often treated with antidepressants which alter serotonergic and adrenergic signaling, both regulators of plasticity. However, the effects of antidepressants functional recovery after SCI have never been evaluated. Therefore, we hypothesize that antidepressant therapy would alter functional recovery and neuropathic pain behaviors in a SCI rodent model. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of venlafaxine (VEN) administration on functional recovery in the rehabilitation setting using a SCI rodent model. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats received a moderate contusion T10 SCI. Therapeutic intervention began at day 31 post-SCI and continued for 30 days, after which the animals were euthanized and spinal tissue was harvested for histological evaluation. Animals were randomly to receive either VEN daily, weekly rehabilitation (REHAB), both (VEN/REHAB), or neither as a control (CTRL). Functional recovery was evaluated with the Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan open-field test, the CatWalk® kinematic analysis, and the Louisville swim scale. Neuropathic pain was assessed using both the tail-flick test and von Frey filament. Depression was evaluated with the Porsolt forced swim test prior to and after the therapeutic interventions. We found that the group receiving the REHAB intervention alone had significantly increased hind limb function and decreased pain when compared to CTRL, and the benefits of REHAB on motor function were not seen in the VEN/REHAB group. VEN alone had no effect on either pain or functional recovery. These data suggest that VEN treatment hinders the spinal plasticity and locomotor recovery gained from REHAB, while having no effects on pain. Another interesting finding seen in groups receiving VEN is a significant increase in the incidence of priapism. Finally, the Porsolt forced swim test showed no differences in depressive behaviors between groups, which brings into question the efficacy of VEN for alleviating depressive symptoms in a SCI patient. Therefore, our findings suggest that antidepressant therapy in an SCI model fails to alter depressive behaviors, while preventing functional gains from rehabilitation and causing the untoward side effect of priapism.

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