Send to

Choose Destination
Nat Neurosci. 2004 Mar;7(3):269-77. Epub 2004 Feb 15.

The injured spinal cord spontaneously forms a new intraspinal circuit in adult rats.

Author information

Department of Neuromorphology, Brain Research Institute, University of Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


In contrast to peripheral nerves, central axons do not regenerate. Partial injuries to the spinal cord, however, are followed by functional recovery. We investigated the anatomical basis of this recovery and found that after incomplete spinal cord injury in rats, transected hindlimb corticospinal tract (CST) axons sprouted into the cervical gray matter to contact short and long propriospinal neurons (PSNs). Over 12 weeks, contacts with long PSNs that bridged the lesion were maintained, whereas contacts with short PSNs that did not bridge the lesion were lost. In turn, long PSNs arborize on lumbar motor neurons, creating a new intraspinal circuit relaying cortical input to its original spinal targets. We confirmed the functionality of this circuit by electrophysiological and behavioral testing before and after CST re-lesion. Retrograde transynaptic tracing confirmed its integrity, and revealed changes of cortical representation. Hence, after incomplete spinal cord injury, spontaneous extensive remodeling occurs, based on axonal sprout formation and removal. Such remodeling may be crucial for rehabilitation in humans.

Comment in

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center