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Neural Plast. 2001;8(1-2):17-29.

Normal and abnormal development of motor behavior: lessons from experiments in rats.

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Medical Physiology, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.


In this essay a few relevant aspects of the neural and behavioral development of the brain in the human and in the rat are reviewed and related to the consequences of lesions in the central and peripheral nervous system at early and later age. Movements initially are generated by local circuits in the spinal cord and without the involvement of descending projections. After birth, both in humans and in rats it seems that the development of postural control is the limiting factor for several motor behaviors to mature. Strong indications exist that the cerebellum is significantly involved in this control. Lesions in the CNS at early stages interfere with fundamental processes of neural development, such as the establishment of fiber connections and cell death patterns. Consequently, the functional effects are strongly dependent on the stage of development. The young and undisturbed CNS, on the other hand, has a much greater capacity than the adult nervous system for compensating abnormal reinnervation in the peripheral nervous system. Animal experiments indicated that the cerebellar cortex might play an important part in this compensation. This possibility should be investigated further as it might offer important perspectives for treatment in the human.

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