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Behav Brain Res. 2001 Sep 14;123(2):133-41.

Sensitivity of cortical movement representations to motor experience: evidence that skill learning but not strength training induces cortical reorganization.

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Dr., Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, T1K 3M4.


The topography of forelimb movement representations within the rat motor cortex was examined following forelimb strength training. Adult male rats were allocated to either a Power Reaching, Control Reaching or Non-Reaching Condition. Power Reaching rats were trained to grasp and break progressively larger bundles of dried pasta strands with their preferred forelimb. Control Reaching animals were trained to break a single pasta strand and Non-Reaching animals were not trained. Power Reaching animals exhibited a progressive increase in the maximal size of the pasta bundle that could be retrieved during a 30-day training period. Kinematic analyses showed that this improvement was not due to a change in reaching strategy. Intracortical microelectrode stimulation was used to derive maps of forelimb movement representations within the motor cortex of all animals following training. In comparison to Non-Reaching animals, both Power Reaching and Control Reaching animals exhibited a significant increase in the proportion of motor cortex occupied by distal forelimb movement representations (wrist/digit) and a decrease in the proportion of proximal representations (elbow/shoulder). These results demonstrate that the development of skilled forelimb movements, but not increased forelimb strength, was associated with a reorganization of forelimb movement representations within motor cortex.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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