Aim: To assess the neural and non-neural contributions to spasticity in the impaired ankle of children with cerebral palsy (CP). Method: Instrumented tapping of the Achilles tendon was done isometrically to minimize non-neural contributions and elicit neural contributions. Robot-controlled ankle stretching was done at various velocities, including slow stretching, with minimized neural contributions. Spasticity was assessed as having neural (phasic and tonic stretch reflex torque, tendon reflex gain, contraction rate, and half relaxation rate) and non-neural origin (elastic stiffness and viscous damping) in 17 children with CP (six females and 11 males; mean age [SD] 10y 8mo [3y 11mo], range 4y–18y) and 17 typically developing children (six females and 11 males; mean age [SD] 12y 7mo [2y 9mo], range 7y–18y). All torques were normalized to weight×height. Results: Children with CP showed increased phasic and tonic stretch reflex torque (p=0.004 and p=0.001 respectively), tendon reflex gain (p=0.02), contraction rate (p=0.038), half relaxation rate (p=0.02), elastic stiffness (p=0.01), and viscous damping (p=0.01) compared to typically developing children. Interpretation: Controlled stretching and instrumented tendon tapping allow the systematic quantification of various neural and non-neural changes in CP, which can be used to guide impairment-specific treatment. What this paper adds: Ankle spasticity is associated with increased phasic and tonic stretch reflexes, tendon reflex gain, and contraction and half relaxation rates. Ankle spasticity is also associated with increased elastic stiffness and viscous damping.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Clinical Neurology