Combination of defined catwalk gait parameters for predictive locomotion recovery in experimental spinal cord injury rat models.
- Digital Medicine
In many preclinical spinal cord injury (SCI) studies, assessment of locomotion recovery is key to understanding the effectiveness of the experimental intervention. In such rat SCI studies, the most basic locomotor recovery scoring system is a subjective observation of animals freely roaming in an open field, the Basso Beattie Bresnahan (BBB) score. In comparison, CatWalk is an automated gait analysis system, providing further parameter specifications. Although together the CatWalk parameters encompass gait, studies consistently report single parameters, which differ in significance from other behavioral assessments. Therefore, we believe no single parameter produced by the CatWalk can represent the fully-coordinated motion of gait. Typically, other locomotor assessments, such as the BBB score, combine several locomotor characteristics into a representative score. For this reason, we ranked the most distinctive CatWalk parameters between uninjured and SC injured rats. Subsequently, we combined nine of the topmost parameters into an SCI gait index score based on linear discriminant analysis (LDA). The resulting combination was applied to assess gait recovery in SCI experiments comprising of three thoracic contusions, a thoracic dorsal hemisection, and a cervical dorsal column lesion model. For thoracic lesions, our unbiased machine learning model revealed gait differences in lesion type and severity. In some instances, our LDA was found to be more sensitive in differentiating recovery than the BBB score alone. We believe the newly developed gait parameter combination presented here should be used in CatWalk gait recovery work with preclinical thoracic rat SCI models.