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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Mar 13;98(6):3513-8.

Spontaneous corticospinal axonal plasticity and functional recovery after adult central nervous system injury.

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Department of Neurosciences, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Although it is believed that little recovery occurs after adult mammalian spinal cord injury, in fact significant spontaneous functional improvement commonly occurs after spinal cord injury in humans. To investigate potential mechanisms underlying spontaneous recovery, lesions of defined components of the corticospinal motor pathway were made in adult rats in the rostral cervical spinal cord or caudal medulla. Following complete lesions of the dorsal corticospinal motor pathway, which contains more than 95% of all corticospinal axons, spontaneous sprouting from the ventral corticospinal tract occurred onto medial motoneuron pools in the cervical spinal cord; this sprouting was paralleled by functional recovery. Combined lesions of both dorsal and ventral corticospinal tract components eliminated sprouting and functional recovery. In addition, functional recovery was also abolished if dorsal corticospinal tract lesions were followed 5 weeks later by ventral corticospinal tract lesions. We found extensive spontaneous structural plasticity as a mechanism correlating with functional recovery in motor systems in the adult central nervous system. Experimental enhancement of spontaneous plasticity may be useful to promote further recovery after adult central nervous system injury.

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