Dual Cortical Plasticity After Spinal Cord Injury

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During cortical development, plasticity reflects the dynamic equilibrium between increasing and decreasing functional connectivity subserved by synaptic sprouting and pruning. After adult cortical deafferentation, plasticity seems to be dominated by increased functional connectivity, leading to the classical expansive reorganization from the intact to the deafferented cortex. In contrast, here we show a striking “decrease” in the fast cortical responses to high-intensity forepaw stimulation 1–3 months after complete thoracic spinal cord transection, as evident in both local field potentials and intracellular in vivo recordings. Importantly, this decrease in fast cortical responses co-exists with an “increase” in cortical activation over slower post-stimulus timescales, as measured by an increased forepaw-to-hindpaw propagation of stimulus-triggered cortical up-states, as well as by the enhanced slow sustained depolarization evoked by high-frequency forepaw stimuli in the deafferented hindpaw cortex. This coincidence of diminished fast cortical responses and enhanced slow cortical activation offers a dual perspective of adult cortical plasticity after spinal cord injury.

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