Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 6, pp 1493–1502 | Cite as

Dose of remote limb ischemic conditioning for enhancing learning in healthy young adults

  • Anna E. MattlageEmail author
  • Ellen N. Sutter
  • Marghuretta D. Bland
  • Swati M. Surkar
  • Jeffrey M. Gidday
  • Jin-Moo Lee
  • Tamara Hershey
  • Ling Chen
  • Catherine E. Lang
Research Article


Remote limb ischemic conditioning (RLIC) is a technique in which tissues distant from the target organ are exposed to brief, sub-lethal bouts of ischemia. The effects of remotely applied ischemic conditioning are systemically transferred to the target organ, and typically manifested as protection from subsequent ischemic injury. Previous studies in our lab have found and confirmed that RLIC enhances learning and retention during motor training on a balance task. The current study tested the effect of RLIC dose (number of cycles) on learning enhancement in young, healthy adults. Forty healthy participants age 18–40 years were randomized to receive 5 cycles of sham conditioning (n = 9), 3 cycles of RLIC (n = 11), 4 cycles of RLIC (n = 10), or 5 cycles of RLIC (n = 10) using a blood pressure cuff around the upper arm once a day for 7 consecutive weekdays (Days 1–7). Participants concurrently trained on a balance task, bimanual cup stacking task, and a discrete sequence production task on Days 3–7. Change in performance on each of the three tasks was compared across groups. Participants in all four groups improved their performance on each of the three tasks over time. However, RLIC at any dose did not enhance learning on any of the three tasks. While RLIC is safe, inexpensive, and clinically feasible, reproducibility may be challenged by unidentified factors, raising critical challenges to the straightforward translation of RLIC for improving rehabilitation outcomes in individuals recovering from neurological injury.


Ischemic conditioning Motor learning Psychomotor performance 



The authors would like to thank Nathan Baune, Allyson Getty, Gina Malito, Ali McGee, Allison Tsui, Kim Waddell, and Shelby Wilson for their assistance with data collection and the study participants for generously giving their time.


This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (Grant number: R01 HD085930).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All the procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

221_2019_5519_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 23 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program in Physical TherapyWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Program in Occupational TherapyWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  4. 4.Department of OphthalmologyLouisiana State University Health Sciences CenterNew OrleansUSA
  5. 5.Department of PhysiologyLouisiana State University Health Sciences CenterNew OrleansUSA
  6. 6.Department of NeuroscienceLouisiana State University Health Sciences CenterNew OrleansUSA
  7. 7.Department of PsychiatryWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  8. 8.Department of RadiologyWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  9. 9.Division of BiostatisticsWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA

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