A computational model coupling mechanics and electrophysiology in spinal cord injury

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Traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury have recently been put under the spotlight as major causes of death and disability in the developed world. Despite the important ongoing experimental and modeling campaigns aimed at understanding the mechanics of tissue and cell damage typically observed in such events, the differentiated roles of strain, stress and their corresponding loading rates on the damage level itself remain unclear. More specifically, the direct relations between brain and spinal cord tissue or cell damage, and electrophysiological functions are still to be unraveled. Whereas mechanical modeling efforts are focusing mainly on stress distribution and mechanistic-based damage criteria, simulated function-based damage criteria are still missing. Here, we propose a new multiscale model of myelinated axon associating electrophysiological impairment to structural damage as a function of strain and strain rate. This multiscale approach provides a new framework for damage evaluation directly relating neuron mechanics and electrophysiological properties, thus providing a link between mechanical trauma and subsequent functional deficits.

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  1. 1.

    Axonal blebbing—or beading—consists of a series of undulating swellings at the NRs (Ochs et al. 1994; Markvin et al. 1999) leading to a loss of adhesion of the lipid bilayer to the underlying cortical axoplasm (Boucher et al. 2012).

  2. 2.

    In the Lagrangian framework followed by Neurite, \(\Delta x=\Delta x_0 (1+\varepsilon _\mathrm{m,a} )\) where \(\Delta x_0 \) is the spatial discretization step for \(\varepsilon _\mathrm{m,a} =0\); \(\Delta x\) is then automatically refined by Neurite when needed, to ensure spatial convergence.


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The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement No. 306587, from the Spanish Ministry of Science (TIN2010-21289-C02-02), and the Cajal Blue Brain Project, the Spanish partner of the Blue Brain Project. The authors gratefully acknowledge the computer resources, technical expertise and assistance provided by the Supercomputing and Visualization Center of Madrid (CeSViMa).

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Correspondence to Antoine Jérusalem.

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Jérusalem, A., García-Grajales, J.A., Merchán-Pérez, A. et al. A computational model coupling mechanics and electrophysiology in spinal cord injury. Biomech Model Mechanobiol 13, 883–896 (2014) doi:10.1007/s10237-013-0543-7

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  • Computational model
  • Axon
  • Electrophysiology
  • Mechanics
  • Spinal cord injury