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J Neurophysiol. 2003 Jun;89(6):3205-14.

Reorganization of remote cortical regions after ischemic brain injury: a potential substrate for stroke recovery.

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Center On Aging, Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas 66160, USA.


Although recent neurological research has shed light on the brain's mechanisms of self-repair after stroke, the role that intact tissue plays in recovery is still obscure. To explore these mechanisms further, we used microelectrode stimulation techniques to examine functional remodeling in cerebral cortex after an ischemic infarct in the hand representation of primary motor cortex in five adult squirrel monkeys. Hand preference and the motor skill of both hands were assessed periodically on a pellet retrieval task for 3 mo postinfarct. Initial postinfarct motor impairment of the contralateral hand was evident in each animal, followed by a gradual improvement in performance over 1-3 mo. Intracortical microstimulation mapping at 12 wk after infarct revealed substantial enlargements of the hand representation in a remote cortical area, the ventral premotor cortex. Increases ranged from 7.2 to 53.8% relative to the preinfarct ventral premotor hand area, with a mean increase of 36.0 +/- 20.8%. This enlargement was proportional to the amount of hand representation destroyed in primary motor cortex. That is, greater sparing of the M1 hand area resulted in less expansion of the ventral premotor cortex hand area. These results suggest that neurophysiologic reorganization of remote cortical areas occurs in response to cortical injury and that the greater the damage to reciprocal intracortical pathways, the greater the plasticity in intact areas. Reorganization in intact tissue may provide a neural substrate for adaptive motor behavior and play a critical role in postinjury recovery of function.

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