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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Apr 15;90(8):3593-7.

Somatosensory cortical plasticity in adult humans revealed by magnetoencephalography.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, New York University Medical Center, NY 10016.


Microelectrode recordings in adult mammals have clearly demonstrated that somatosensory cortical maps reorganize following peripheral nerve injuries and functional modifications; however, such reorganization has never been directly demonstrated in humans. Using magnetoencephalography, we have been able to demonstrate the somatotopic organization of the hand area in normal humans with high spatial precision. Somatosensory cortical plasticity was detected in two adults who were studied before and after surgical separation of webbed fingers (syndactyly). The presurgical maps displayed shrunken and nonsomatotopic hand representations. Within weeks following surgery, cortical reorganization occurring over distances of 3-9 mm was evident, correlating with the new functional status of their separated digits. In contrast, no modification of the somatosensory map was observed months following transfer of a neurovascular skin island flap for sensory reconstruction of the thumb in two subjects in whom sensory transfer failed to occur.

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