Chronic In Vivo Imaging Shows No Evidence of Dendritic Plasticity or Functional Remapping in the Contralesional Cortex after Stroke

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Most stroke survivors exhibit a partial recovery from their deficits. This presumably occurs because of remapping of lost capabilities to functionally related brain areas. Functional brain imaging studies suggest that remapping in the contralateral uninjured cortex might represent a transient stage of compensatory plasticity. Some postmortem studies have also shown that cortical lesions, including stroke, can trigger dendritic plasticity in the contralateral hemisphere, but the data are controversial. We used longitudinal in vivo two-photon microscopy in the contralateral homotopic cortex to record changes in dendritic spines of layer 5 pyramidal neurons in green fluorescent protein mice. We could not detect de novo growth of dendrites or changes in the density or turnover of spines for up to 4 weeks after stroke. We also used intrinsic optical signal imaging to investigate whether the forepaw (FP) sensory representation is remapped to the spared homotopic cortex after stroke. Stimulation of the contralateral FP reliably produced strong intrinsic signals in the spared hemisphere, but we could never detect a signal with ipsilateral FP stimulation after stroke. This lack of contralateral plasticity at the level of apical dendrites of layer 5 pyramidal neurons and FP sensory maps suggests that the contralesional cortex may not contribute to functional recovery after stroke and that, at least in mice, the peri-infarct cortex plays the dominant role in postischemic plasticity.

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